Men and Systems ( Audio Book )
James, James Allen ( Audio Book ), Men and Systems
Men and Systems – James Allen / Chapter One
|Book contains 8 chapters plus an introduction, Total book length 1hr 39min
Men and systems. By James Allen
THE unceasing change, the insecurity, and the misery of life make it necessary to find some basis of certainty on which to rest if happiness and peace of mind are to be maintained. All science, philosophy, and religion are some many efforts in search of this permanent basis; all interpretations on the universe, whether from the material or spiritual side, are so many attempts to formulate some unifying principle or principles by which to reconcile the fluctuations and contradictions of life.
it has been said that mathematics is the only exact science; that is, the only science that eternally works out true without a single exception. Yet mathematics is but the body of which ethics is the spirit. There is not a mathematical problem but has its ethical counterpart, and the spirit of ethics is as eternally exact as the form of mathematics.
It is being discovered that all natural sciences are fundamentally mathematical. Even music popularly considered to be as far removed from mathematics as possible-is now known to be strictly mathematical. The science of harmony revealed certain fixed tones which never vary in their relative proportions, and all of which can be numerically resolved. These tones, like the numbers which represent them, are eternally fixed; and though their combinations- also like the combinations of numbers- are infinite, a given combination will always produce the same result.
This mathematical foundation in all things is the keystone in the temple of science; and this mathematical certainty constitutes the “rock of ages,” and the “great peace,” on which and in which the saints and sages have ever found rest from the stress and turmoil of life.
Human life and evolution at present is the learning of those preliminary lessons which are leading the race towards the mastery and understanding of this basic or divine knowledge; for without such a permanent, exact mathematical basis no lesson could be learnt. When human beings are spoken of as learning the lessons of God or of life, two things are inferred, namely; (1) A state of ignorance on the part of the learner, and (2) that there is some definite knowledge which he has to acquire. This is seen plainly in a child at school. Its lessons imply that there is a permanent principle of knowledge towards which it is progressing. Without such knowledge there could be no lessons.
Thus, when one speaks of erring men as learning the lessons of life, he infers, whether he realizes it or not, the existence of a permanent basis of knowledge towards the possession of which all men are moving.
This basic principle, a knowledge of which the whole race will ultimately acquire, is best represented by the term Divine Justice. Human justice differs with every man according to this own light or darkness, but there can be no variation in that Divine Justice by which the universe is eternally sustained. Divine Justice is spiritual mathematics. As with figures and objects, whether simple or complex, there is a right and unvarying result, and no amount of ignorance or deliberate falsification can ever make it otherwise, so with every combination of thoughts or deeds, whether good or bad, there is an unvarying and inevitable consequence which nothing can avert.
If this were not so, if we could have effect without cause, or consequence unrelated to act, experience could never lead to knowledge, there would be no foundation of security, and no lessons could be learnt.
Thus every effect has a cause, and cause and effect are in such intimate relationship as to leave no room for injustice to creep in. Nevertheless, there is ignorance, and, through ignorance, the doing of life’s lessons wrongly; and this doing of life’s sums wrongly is that error, or sin, which is the source of man’s sufferings. How often the child at school weeps because it cannot do its sums correctly! And older children in the school of life do the same thing when the sum of their actions has worked out in the form of suffering instead of happiness.
The ground of certainty, then, on which we can securely rest amid all the incidents of life is the mathematical exactitude of the moral law. The moral order of the universe is not, cannot, be disproportionate, for if it were the universe would fall to pieces. If a brick house cannot stand unless it be built in accordance with certain geometrical proportions, how could a vast universe, with all its infinite complexities of form and motion, proceed in unbroken majesty from age to age unless guided by unerring and infallible justice?
All the physical laws with which men are acquainted never vary in their operations. Given the same cause, there will always be the same effect. All the spiritual laws with which men are acquainted have, and must have, the same infallibility in their operations. Given the same thought or deed in a life circumstance, and the result will always be the same. Without this fundamental ethical justice there could be no human society, for its is the just reactions of the deeds of individuals which prevents society from tottering to its fall.
It thus follows that the inequalities of life, as regards the distribution of happiness and suffering, are the outworking of moral forces operating along lines of flawless accuracy, this perfect law, is the one great fundamental certainty in life, the finding of which ensures a man’s perfection, makes him wise and enlightened, and fills him with rejoicing and peace.
Take away a belief in this certainty from a man’s consciousness, and he is adrift on a self created ocean of chance, without rudder, chart, or compass. He has no ground on which to build a character or life, no incentive for noble deeds, no center for moral action; he has no island of peace and no harbor of refuge. Even the crudest idea of God as of a great man whose mind is perfect, who cannot err, and who has “no, variables nor shadow of turning,” is a popular expression of a belief in this basic principle of Divine Justice.
According to this principle there is neither favor nor change, but unerring and unchangeable right. Thus all the sufferings of men are right as effects, their causes being the mistakes of ignorance; but as effects they will pass away. Man cannot suffer for something which he has never done, or never left undone for this would be an effect without a cause.
Man suffers through and himself. Where the effect is there is the cause. Its seat is within, not without. The things which men are reaping to-day are of the same kind which they formerly sowed. The good man of to-day may be reaping the results of past evil; the bad man of to-day may be reaping the results of past good. Seen thus, this divine principle throws an illuminating light on those cases (common enough) where the good suffer and fail, and the bad enjoy and prosper. Things as they are did not spring into existence without a cause. They have behind them a long train of causes and effects, and another such train will follow them in the future. In viewing the objects in a landscape we allow for perspective; we must do the same in viewing events.
This principle of Divine Justice is not distinct from Divine Law. It is the same. Partial men separate justice from love, and even regard them as antagonistic, but in the divine life they blend into one.
Nothing can transcend right. Nothing can be more loving than that we should experience the sequences of ignorance and error, and so become “perfected through suffering.” In this Divine Love, which never alters, never errs, never passes over a single deed, we have a sure rock of salvation, for that which could shift and change could afford no foothold. Only in the unchangeable, the eternally true, is there permanent peace and safety. Resorting to this divine principle, abandoning all evil, and cling to good, we come to a knowledge and realization of that basis of certainty on which we can firmly stand through all life’s changes; we have found the rock of ages and the refuge of the saints.
THERE is to-day a widespread revolt against those modes of human activity designated “Systems,” and these systems are almost invariably referred to as something distinct from, and yet directing, controlling, or tyrannizing over, humanity itself. Thus the leaders in the revolt referred to speak of the “commercial system”, the “social system”, the “competitive system,” the “political system,” and so on; and the particular system condemned is made responsible for-made the cause of -certain widespread evils, such as poverty, vice, &c., as though “systems” were some sort of discarnate and gigantic despots, enslaving and crushing an innocent and unwilling humanity.
Such an arbitrary and external form of system has no existence; it is a delusion. Human systems cannot be separated from human desires and needs; they are, indeed, the visible outworking of those desires and needs. A system is none other than the combined and concerted mode of action of the community; it signifies a tacit agreement on the part of all, or nearly all, that things should be so and so; it is a method in which human kind agree to act. And as men act, so systems appear; as they cease to act, so they disappear.
And let it be understood that such agreement to act has no reference to, or bearing upon, a man’s attitude towards a system-whether for or against- but depends upon his actions. A man may violently condemn a system with his lips, yet show that he is in agreement with it in his heart by the fact that he continues to act in accordance with it, to follow it out in his daily life. We are all aware of that form of religious hypocrisy (nearly always unconscious) that continues to commit the sin which it violently denounces; thus showing, in practice, a fundamental agreement with that which, superficially and ion theory, is opposed. And this form of unconscious inconsistency is not confined to religion; it is a pronounced factor in all moral activities, and is nowhere more strongly in evidence than in those directions where the reform of “existing systems” is, theoretically at any rate, the primary aim. Thus, when i have asked some socialists, who condemn the present capitalist system as a system of getting rich on the labor of the poor, why they themselves life on dividends- that is, on the fruits of other men’s labor, thus propagating every day that which they denounce as an evil-the reply almost invariably has been, “You should blame the system, not me.” This reply shows that such people regard themselves as the helpless victims of a tyrannical something which exists external to, and independent of , themselves and their actions, and which they call a “system.” But a little reflection will show that which they denounce as the “system” is none other than the viewing as evil certain actions in others which they regard as good in themselves.
Human systems are human modes of action which are dependent for their continuance on a fundamental tacit agreement among men to continue to act in the same way; and such agreement implies that those who continue to enact any particular system must be prepared to meet and to accept its disadvantages as well as its advantages; for in the struggle for advantage there must always be the corresponding disadvantage; in the battle of human interests there must always be both victory and defeat.
Viewed in this light, the term “innocent victims of the system,” so much in vogue, is seen to be shallow and delusive. There are no innocent victims of a system in which all engage either in the letter or the spirit; if guilt there be, then all are guilty, and the innocence is superficial and apparent, not fundamental and real. In reality, however, there is neither innocence nor guild attached to a human system which has evolved through long processes of struggle and time. There is merely the victory and happiness on the one hand, and the defeat and misery on the other; and the defeated are not the innocent, nor the victorious the guilty, for both these conditions in social life are the just effects of men’s actions, as victory and defeat attach to a battle or a race.
To make this more plain, let us take a simple illustration. Here are ten men who mutually agree to engage, among themselves, in certain forms of gambling. Now, the object of each of these men is to win, and so increase his wealth, yet they all know that there is also the possibility of losing; know, indeed, that some must lose, for such is the unavoidable hazard of the game. Immediately these men commence to act, by laying down their stakes, they have created a system which might be called “the gambling system,” and the advantages and disadvantages of such a system soon become apparent. There is ceaseless fluctuation of their combined wealth-some winning and becoming rich, and then again losing and becoming poor; but ultimately some lose all they possess and have to retire defeated, while others acquire the losers’ part and become rich on their gains.
Now, it cannot be said of the winners that they are guilty of exploiting and crushing down the losers; nor can it be said of the losers that they are the innocent victims of the system of gambling in which they are engaged. In the mental attitude and actions of these ten men there is neither innocence nor guilt, but a mutual engagement in a method, with its inevitable results, namely, the reaping of its advantages on the one hand, the suffering from its disadvantages on the other.
In like manner, of the various systems in which men have involved themselves, there are no innocent victims, no guilty tyrants. Victims there are, if men choose to apply that term to the defeated, or to those who, for the time being, are suffering loss; but they are the victims of their own deeds, and not of an overruling and compelling injustice outside themselves. Of the ten men who engage in gambling, none are victimized, none can possibly be victimized, but themselves. Those outside the system- that is, those who do not encourage and propagate it by their acts- remain untouched, uninjured by it. So if our present commercial system should be a “system of greed,” as many social reformers style it, then not by any possibility whatever could any but the greedy be injured by it.
Doubtless there is much greed in the world, for in its present stage of evolution humanity is learning its lessons largely along selfish paths; but greed can never have any existence in external “system,” it can only exist in human hearts; nor can greed injure any but the greedy. Commercialism is free from greed in the hands of those who have destroyed greed in themselves. But they who are greedily will taint everything-even religion-with their own impure condition.
Industrialism, the outworking of a nation’s energies and abilities, is wholesome and noble; it is covetousness which produces woe, and the sole sufferers from covetousness are the covetous themselves.
I will here anticipate the common query, “What of the innocent victims of the rapacious company promoter?” by replying (and this reply will be found adaptable to all human conditions and systems) they are not innocent, but have the same attitude of mind as the unscrupulous company promoter, namely, the desire to obtain money, and as much of its as possible, without laboring for it. The company promoter is the instrument through whom they reap the results of their own greed, and fall victims to their own covetousness.
Social reformers may denounce the system of “capitalism” or “commercialism”, but so long as they themselves continue to enact that side of commercialism which is most akin to covetousness, namely, its speculative as distinguished from its industrial side, by keeping a keen eye to “good investments,” and following up increased “dividends” with avidity, just so ling will that which they call “a system of greed” (and indeed to them it is such) continue.
Those who are striving to life by speculation, on the fruits of another’s labors or who have the spirit to do should the opportunity arise (and the number of those who are anxious to acquire money without giving its equivalent is very large), should not bemoan the existence of want and poverty, but should perceive and receive such conditions as the inevitable disadvantages of the method which they are acting out, as luxury and riches are its advantages.
The hope of one day becoming suddenly rich without working for it, and living ever after a life of unbroken ease, is a common chimera among the poor. While covetousness continues to sway the human mind, want and poverty will continue.
Men desire, and then they act, and they combined acts constitute what men call “systems”. The ten gamblers desired to increase their wealth without laboring for it, and at each other’s loss, and they acted accordingly. Their combined actions constituted the system with its combination of results. Systems are, therefore, deeds- combined and reciprocal of a number of individuals; and the so-called evils in the world which men attribute to systems as distinguished from men are the reactions upon individuals of their own deeds.
A system cannot be “unjust,” because men inevitably reap the just effects of their own deeds. The evils which prevail in the world are indications of justice, not injustice. Poverty and want are the natural disadvantages of the present social life, or system- that is, of the way in which men agree to act. There is suffering, but there is not injustice. It could not be said of those among the ten gamblers who were reduced to poverty that they were treated unjustly by the winners, or that they were the innocent victims of the system of gambling. Their lot was just; their poverty being the, inevitable result of their own actions.
Recently a socialist friend of mine was somewhat violently condemning landlords and landlords, and i pulled him up by saying,” But why do you condemn landlords, seeing that you are one yourself? Have you not, only a few weeks ago, added another piece of land to that which you already possessed?” He replied, “It’s the system, not me. So long as the present system lasts I shall have to work with it; but when it is altered, i shall be willing to give up my land.”
If a gambler of were continually condemning the “system” of gambling as a bad one, and yet continued to gamble, we should justly say that he was confused both in his morals and perceptions; and he is equally confused who, while condemning any other system, social, political, or whatsoever, yet continues to act it out. Such a man does not, in his heart, regard the system as bad, but as good and just; this is evidenced by the fact that he continues to propagate it by his actions.
Systems are to men as light to the sun, rain to the clouds, or thoughts to the mind. They are both men and the deeds of men. To regard them as separate from men is confusion of thought and principle. Nor can there possibly be any injustice in their outworking, for the reaction of ignorant deeds is certain; the recompense of enlightened deeds is sure.
I see no evil in systems; i see evil in ignorance and wrong-doing. All systems are legitimate, for men have liberty to act in their own way. The ten gamblers who mutually agree to enrich and impoverish each other have nobody to blame but themselves; and if the winners are satisfied with their gains, the losers should be equally satisfied with their losses; if they are not, then they should look to themselves and remedy their deeds. Their poverty is good discipline, in that it is driving them to seek a better way of action.
If a man regards a system as bad, he should withdraw from it in practice, and should bend his actions in another direction; for immediately two men act in concert a system is formed, and the good and the bad which lurk in their actions will soon be manifested in the system which they have launched forth.
In the life of humanity, in systems, in what are called good and bad, are visible the outworking of the combined results of men’s deeds; and in all, through all, and over all, justice reigns eternally triumphant.
James, James Allen ( Audio Book ), Men and Systems