Equality: A Work in Progress

Some of us may wonder why, in a time when the demand for equality is rising throughout the world, there seems to be a parallel surge of dictatorships and of the concentration of money and power in fewer and fewer hands.

Equality is an ideal, an aspiration that is so deeply anchored in human consciousness that it can only be concluded that it’s an aspect of the essential human condition—an inevitable manifestation of the incarnated human soul.  “We are all made in the image of God”, Genesis, the first book of the Bible, confirms.  For reasons unknown, the divine Plan, as it works out on Earth through the human kingdom, manifests through individuality, expressing through self-will, and fostering a desire for personal autonomy.  Wars and conflict in general have been generated over the millennia because tribes, clans, families, and—in today’s age—individuals have demanded the fulfillment of their rights and needs.  The Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights issued in America’s War of Independence, and the French Revolution’s motto of liberty, equality, fraternity are three examples of humanity’s conviction of the fundamental dignity of the human being.

In addition to these historic achievements, the more recent drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, which has now been translated into more than 500 languages, affirms that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood” (Article 1).  This document represents a major landmark in the affirmation of most of the world’s nations that the fundamental rights of every individual should be universally protected. 

Yet, paralleling this declaration is the awareness—supported by the reasoning gained through the human experience—that we humans are not all equal in terms of accomplishment, character, or social privilege.  Vast differences are undeniable, some traceable to the lack of fairness in society and others due to conditions of birth and inherited circumstance.  Great minds have long struggled to understand the significance of these differences, and it seems that the questions surrounding equality are reaching a point of urgency.  Perhaps it is inspired by the growing inequality of the distribution of wealth and power in many societies, and by the increasing literacy and educational levels now possible to more and more of the world’s population.  Differences of race, gender, culture and history are being re-examined in the growing light cast by the demand for equality, with progress becoming attained on some fronts.  From a spiritual perspective, however, the question remains:  is it reasonable to hope that inequality can ever be fully overcome? 

John Adams, one of the American Founding Fathers, wrote “The doctrine of human equality is founded entirely in the Christian doctrine that we are all children of the same Father, all accountable to Him for our conduct to one another, all equally bound to respect each other’s self love.”  Self love—this may provide a key to understanding the universal desire for equality.  All human beings, even if they aren’t all equal in intelligence or talents or opportunities, possess a regard for themselves, a sense of self-worth.  This can foster serious problems for the personal ego but this personal self-respect—self-esteem—is highly significant for spiritual development.  Psychology recognises that if one can’t care for oneself, can’t love oneself, one is incapable of loving or caring for others, for spiritually we are one Humanity. 

This fundamental, deeply seated belief that all human beings are interrelated members of the one Humanity is perhaps the most indisputable confirmation of the inherent equality of the human species.  As Alice Bailey put it, “The equality of all men is an equality founded on a universal and basic divinity.”  It is anchored as the Christ principle or buddhi in every human heart.  No matter how hidden from recognition this spark of divinity might be, it is the guarantor of every individual’s redemption and final liberation. 

“Equality is that peculiar understanding which the Coming One will reveal, and which is based on a right sense of proportion and correct Self respect, and understanding of the spiritual, yet natural, laws of Rebirth and of Cause and Effect,” Alice Bailey wrote.  She foresaw that In the centuries to come, equality would be based on the recognition of the soul’s experience and gained development, and not at all on the loud emphatic affirmation that “all men are equal”.  In the coming age, the recognition of equality will be accompanied by an appreciation for the spiritual gift of humility, which, she pointed out, never fosters self-denigration but, rather, “must always accompany a spiritual self-respect which forbids a disciple to stand anywhere upon the Path, except in his rightful place”.  This true humility is an “adjusted sense of right proportion which equips its possessor with a balanced point of view as to himself, his responsibilities and his life work. This, when present, will enable him to view himself dispassionately and his presented opportunities with equal dispassion.”  Every human being, at every stage of growth, has something to contribute to the larger whole and the greater good.



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