The Long Arc of the Moral Universe

To view human evolution requires special glasses—ones that have the power to see across vast distances of time, to pierce through mountains of error and across caverns of apparent inertia. The human sense of time generates impatience and, for some, hopelessness that humanity is ever going to accomplish its destined role in the divine Plan: to be the Mediator between the higher kingdoms of being and the lower—the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms. The spiritual Hierarchy, the Masters of the Wisdom, think in much different terms and thus view evolution in far larger cycles of time. The tiny, temporary cycles that seem so important to the human short-range perspective do not engage the attention of the Masters, the Ageless Wisdom tells us.

As an example, the growth of groups, which is intended to be such a significant aspect of the coming age governed by Aquarius, actually began to take form in about the year 1500, according to esoteric teaching. The developments of interrelations and communications, of philanthropic endeavours, and of the division of humanity into the stark differences characterized by conservative and progressive leanings in many fields of experience, all began more than 500 years ago, we’re told, and are still “in process”, so to speak. The ongoing struggle for human rights for all human beings began even earlier, tracing back to the drafting of the Magna Carta in 1215 to make peace between King John and his people. Only after more than 700 years was the universality of the rights of all human beings recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights drafted in 1948 and now ratified, at least in part, by all 193 member states of the United Nations.

People of goodwill might well wonder, why is the moral arc of the universe so long, and does it really bend towards justice, as claimed? Why does evolutionary progress take so long, at least by human standards? The Ageless Wisdom gives us a number of points to consider. One is that all concepts of truth and belief are necessarily partial and temporary, for they are and inevitably must be suited to the conditions of the time and the consciousness of the human beings in that age. Humanity is subject to the impact of ideas, we’re told, but responsiveness to new ideas is governed by the evolutionary Law of Cycles. One short life counts for very little in the long cycle of the soul, according to the Ageless Wisdom. Perhaps this helps us understand why repetition plays such an important part in developing consciousness and responsiveness, and why the theme of relationship provides the basic pattern for the evolutionary process of unfoldment.

We might find ourselves wishing for some kind of “divine intervention” to hasten the progress of evolution, but this would deprive human beings of the opportunity to learn, through choice and by trial and error, that good is indeed best. This is a beneficent aspect of the great Law of Karma. The capacity for spiritual discernment gained through the freedom of choices and the observation of their resultant effects is the gift of the soul. When we learn to hear its inner voice and to see from its perspective, the propulsive evolutionary force of the soul is our most reliable guide. In learning to think in abstract terms and to envision abstract ideals, the past 2000 years governed by the sixth Ray of Idealism and Devotion have greatly hastened the evolutionary process, we’re assured.

Perhaps nothing so challenges one’s faith in humanity’s capacity to evolve as the shocking cruelties that human beings have periodically committed towards one another over the aeons. A recent documentary film titled “Watchers of the Sky” offers a clear-eyed yet hopeful perspective on the apparently slow pace of the unfoldment of human consciousness, particularly in regard to the documentation of mass atrocities which have been committed by human beings towards specific groups over the ages—acts so horrific that they required the creation of a new word in the English language: genocide. One of the film’s narrators, Benjamin Ferencz, tells of his service as chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials after the Second World War, in which a few of the people responsible for the atrocities committed by the Nazis were brought to justice. In looking back on this arduous task, Ferencz finds meaning in the example of Tycho Brahe, a Danish astronomer who lived in the sixteenth century and who wanted to find out, as Ferencz puts it, the meaning of the universe. Somehow Brahe persuaded the king to build him an astronomical laboratory where he could establish his observatory. As Ferencz tells it, every night Tycho Brahe went out to view the stars and recorded their placements in a chart. After about 25 years, a new king came on the throne, so the treasury people came out and said the king wants to know what you’ve been doing here these last 25 years. All Tycho Brahe said was, I’ve been watching the skies. Watching the skies? What for? Tycho replied, I wanted to make a chart and I’ve made 97 volumes, exact. Each one I have measured myself. And I can tell you the movement of every one of those stars. What’s the use of 97 volumes of measurements?, the new king asked. And Tycho replied, I admit that I was trying to find out the meaning of the universe, and I haven’t found it yet. But I believe that some day somebody will, and I will have saved that person 25 years of labor. And Ferencz ends the story saying that when the American astronauts landed on the moon more than 500 years later, they had with them the tables of Tycho Brahe. The charts had remained supremely accurate.

Benjamin Ferencz found inspiration in Tycho Brahe’s life by applying its lessons to his own work in the attempt to render justice to the six million lives lost in the Holocaust. At the time of his interview in “Watchers of the Sky” Ferencz was 101 years old and poignantly aware that human beings are still capable of committing unspeakable cruelties towards their fellow human beings. He understood all too well that human evolution progresses in some cases by almost undetectable gradations. Perthaps that’s why Ferencz summed up his life’s efforts by saying, “So there it is. I am watching the sky. That’s it.” Perhaps ultimate justice can never be dispensed through human laws, but Ferencz could see that Tycho Brahe’s persistent efforts to document what he had observed and to bequeath its usefulness to future generations extended far beyond Brahe’s life four centuries ago. Brahe’s example fosters the conviction that what we do, now, in one brief life, might seem incredibly insignificant or futile, but it flows into a stream of livingness beyond our comprehension, and is therefore worthy of our fullest effort.

We can watch the skies for signs of “the aeonial life cycle of the soul”, as esoteric teaching expresses it. While we might not feel ready to serve on the level of the particular and deeply esoteric group called the Trained Observers who monitor human progress, we can begin to develop their attributes of detachment and discernment, not by retreating into the safety of an “ivory tower” but by maintaining loving, compassionate identification with the one Humanity. In the firm conviction that human beings are capable of learning, planetary redemption is furthered and the long arc of the moral universe is extended a bit further.



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