Every society produces at least some members who are personally ambitious men who are more highly motivated than their fellows. A personally ambitious person is seldom, however, one who makes a creative contribution to the development of society. Ordinarily he accepts things as they are and simply endeavors in socially conventional ways to improve his position within the existing social context. He may do this by working harder than most, by being more ruthless, or by trickery and deceit.
The more successful of such men have from time to time won great wealth and power; and many are remembered as historically important princes, kings, generals, popes, conquerors, dictators. It is men of this sort who in the modern world are acclaimed in the headlines and are reputed to be the shapers of human destiny. They do stand out above their fellows; but they seldom contribute to the making of enduring and significant social changes.
So be not deceived by history, biography, present-day newspapers, events and loose talk. The man who makes some change, however slight, in his society, does so through endeavor of an original, rather than conventional sort. He is not simply more industrious, more determined, more ruthless, or more skilled in some traditional art or craft than the majority of men; he is more active — mentally or physically — and this man is distinctive in that he has both high motivation and initiative; and this latter attribute would seem to be the result of socially produced detachment from, or discontent with, some aspect of society plus a socially atypical faith in his own acumen. For unless a person
believes that he is in his own right superior to the authority of custom, convention, tradition, and the people who embody that authority — father, king, or priest — he will be unlikely to apply himself to improve upon what they represent.
For this very reason you will be unhappy with the times, people and the world in which you are living, once all the knowledge of the occult or spiritual has started flowing your way. Already you are showing attitude without knowing, nor of your own conscious volition, that you are fitting into the above statement. Look now, the real changers of history are those whom we admired greatly: Jesus, Buddha, St. Paul, Mohammed, and others. St. Paul is a good example of a man who couldn’t abide the society of the Greeks in his day and therefore he completely changed a society which was foreign to him. So did Bodhidharma, the Buddhist who went to China, from India, in about the 6th century. You see the power of an idea, propagated by mouth or pen, is far stronger than the sword. Napoleon was a great conqueror, remembered historically. But what did he do for society? — nothing. About all you can say about him is — he was a landlord who got his property by the sword.
The man of mental activity is generally one who will go along with social customs, and accept things as they are, and try to improve his position in the existing social order. But a man of spiritual activity is induced by the social circumstances, the distrust of social authority, to greater individual confidence in himself and to undertake to work a change in his society. It is evident that by doing this the man of spiritual activity sets himself apart from ordinary men, and his faith in his endeavor is amazing. He must have this abundance of faith for hardly will society accept his idea until it has proven itself. Ideas are therefore the most
powerful weapons of all.
Therefore any man who sets out to make his idea accepted in a society must have both great and enduring faith in his own judgement and skills and a large amount of contempt for the opinion of his fellows. This is proven throughout the whole time track of man, in discoverers, inventors, developers. They all struggled long and suffered many failures, and they have been ignored, persecuted before they achieved their self-set goals. Nevertheless it has been just rare and atypical men — Columbus, Karl Marx, Fubbi Quantz, Martin Luther, Jacob Boehme, St. Peter, and hundreds of others — who worked the changes that made our society today more fruitful than that of the past centuries.
This makes for the fact that 99.999% of people you meet are ordinary. Hardly anybody has an ambition for improving his position in society. The Protestant Ethic says that man earns his way into heaven by being energetic, accumulating materials, and by being enterprising. The slothful, unambitious and the ignorant will not make it, and nobody within the Protestant success framework wants any part of them. You find this true among the Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, and the Baptists. The Catholics reverse the doctrine by pointing out that this earthly life is hard, suffering, etc., and that man will be rewarded in heaven for partaking in it. But those individuals who believe in neither of these points are on the outside of pale as far as the society in America goes. Generally an individual must have his own social life, his economic life among the ethical group with which he belongs. America was formed by those who proclaimed such freedom but it doesn’t work out that way.
Briefly, the Protestant Ethic creed in this country is an
offshoot of the old New England Puritan Founders. Hard work, ambition, orthodoxy and enterprise are the basic points infused into their religious creed which was for the times under which they lived, but which are still today the basic postulates in our social, business and economic life.
It is a part of the education drilled into the children in grade school, and through all grades including college. This comes back to the point that ideas are weapons. And before I forget, the Capitalistic system was built upon the Protestant Ethic creed, which was long in use before it reached the shores of this country, but in the U.S. it has reached its zenith.
What has this got to do with the subject of spirituality?
It is a yardstick by which you measure the lower against the higher. The Protestant Creed, the Catholic Creed, and Buddhist Creed — all under the present interpretation are materialistic and have no place in the spiritual life. This goes for Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s doctrine also. But they are ideas which in the war between religious groups have gained converts. It is amazing how ideas stick in the minds of the audience. But what I am saying is when a man of spiritual activity starts out to preach his idea to the world he tends to change the social structure of the society in which he lives. He is what you might call an earth-mover!
Confucius can certainly be called an earth-mover, for he changed the face of China for centuries. Valmiki, author of Ramayana, India’s sacred poem of 48,000 verses is also an earth-mover; Lai Tsi, Mary Baker Eddy, Zoroaster, Nietzsche, Florence Nightingale, Jalal-din-Rumi, Shamus-i-Tabriz, Thomas Aquinas, Levasseur, Lenin, John Wesley, and others.
An earth-mover hardly meets with approval of society for he is changing the customs and ways of that society.
Society doesn’t want to be changed, the individual wants to stay as he is. He is safe, secure in his little niche in life. But as you go along in your study you will find the comparison I’ve made coming true with what you discover.