The Universal Movement Towards Unity
Practical Suggestions for its Attainment.
By Representative Men and Women at Home and Abroad.
It is fitting that at this season of the year we should make some attempt to understand the forces that are working, consciously or unconsciously, for a united Humanity. This is an age in which countless people of all nations are striving to realise the ideal of Brotherhood. Never was this spirit more apparent than to-day and in no age, not even in that crusade waged to capture the sacred wood of the Cross, was the reality, of which the Cross was but a symbol, more devoutly wished or fought for. It is as though one saw flashing on the mental sky a cross within a circle, symbolising the crucifixion of self, on the part of individuals, for the service of the whole.
Apart from the Churches, Established and Free, in our own land, who, preaching Christ and him crucified, are preaching, or should be, the Brotherhood of man, there are great world-movements beneath whose varied expressions, creeds, and dogmas is to be seen the basic ideal of all — Unity. This, the base of metaphysics and religion, is underneath all revelations of the Christ, whether manifested in the East or in the West, in the persons of Confucius, Zoroaster, Buddha, or the man Jesus of Nazareth.
This underlying unity of religion, of peoples and their ideals, is meeting with world-wide recognition. It is now no new commandment, but an application of the old, “That ye love one another,” which is serving as the ideal of those who to-day desire with all the ardency of their being “Peace on earth, goodwill to men.” The desire for Unity is not one for uniformity of individuals or of nations in religious or national questions — man’s diversity being recognised equally with his oneness — but that all men of all nations, of all religions, shall live out their faith to the highest in unity with their fellows — the believer seeing in all expressions of creeds but one religion, one God; the unbeliever seeing that beneath all national characteristics and external difference there is but one common humanity. In domestic matters this diversity of function but unity of aim must be recognised, and it must follow that every human being shall be given opportunity for full development along normal lines, so that his life may be of benefit to himself and to the community.
This is the desire at the back of the Woman’s Movement, this the cause, too, of the industrial unrest. All inequalities of opportunity must go. The community must give opportunity for all service to be rendered by the individual to the highest and best of his ability. The first signpost on the high road of development is Freedom, for every chain impedes the forward way; the second is Enlightenment or Education; and the third, marking the goal, is Unity.
And so, whether in domestic matters or international affairs, we see that we are slowly moving forward along that high road, with the light of the great ideal shining as a star afar, and in our ears the spirits of all ages calling: —
Help us to guide the movement of Man’s mind,
Now issuing slowly on the upward arc,
That we may teach his spirit’s lingering bark
To catch the stir of every prosperous wind,
Till all are joined in Thy dear Unity,
Where Thou alone perform’st the holiest rite
To the Unutterable Infinite
Whom none can e’er approach except thro’ Thee.
Aspects of this great ideal have been presented by various sections of the community from time to time. That of maintaining peace has been advocated for generations by the Quakers; and to us at this day it is interesting to know that they, as a body, realising first that there was no such thing as sex in spirit, gave women almost equal place with men in their churches; secondly, that all men were brothers, therefore war was unnecessary, nay, unlawful, for a Christian, whether undertaken for means of defence or otherwise. To what extent that uncompromising spirit has enriched humanity, it is impossible to say, but that the Quakers have contributed more than their quota to all progressive movements none will gainsay.
The Salvation Army.
Another factor undoubtedly making for unity amongst peoples is the work of the Salvation Army, established as it now is in fifty-six countries and colonies with a staff of over 21,000 officers and employees. Mr. Harold Begbie pays tribute to the Army’s success in India, where, under Fakir Singh, the native Eastern mind is reached by the simplicity and beauty of those lives consecrated to the service of Christianity through the Salvation Army.
The movement for liberal religion and free Christianity, by enlightening men’s minds, freeing them from prejudice, and widening their sympathies, inevitably promotes international unity. The congress held at Berlin last year brought together people of many countries, and strengthened their consciousness of brotherhood. An organised expression of the world-wide progressive movement for which THE CHRISTIAN COMMONWEALTH stands is the Liberal Christian League, of which Rev. R. J. Campbell is President.
The Theosophical Movement.
The saying of Kipling, —
East is East and West is West,
And never the twain shall meet,
is disproved by the growth and success of the Theosophical movement in Eastern and Western countries. The Theosophical Society’s main text is: “To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or colour.” The society is associated in the minds of Western peoples with the name of the late Madame Blavatsky and in recent times with that of Mrs. Annie Besant.
The Bahá’í Movement.
From the East likewise comes the beautiful Bahá’í movement of Persia. Bahá’u’lláh, the teacher who attracted multitudes throughout his country, in his teaching and writings ever put forward unity as the ideal, and gave this to his followers: “Be examples to guide all mankind towards its regeneration and toward the peace of the whole world! … Let not a man glory so in this, that he loves his country. Let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind! These ruinous wars, these fruitless strifes must cease; and the Most Great Peace shall come.” His eldest son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Abbas, is the present teacher, and in a very beautiful letter to “The First Universal Races Congress” wrote: “Consider thoughtfully the continual integration and disintegration of the phenomenal universe … Unification and constructive combination is the cause of life. Disunion of particles brings about loss, weakness, dispersion, and decay. To-day nothing but the power of the Divine World, which embraces the Reality of all things, can draw together the minds, hearts and spirits of the world under the shadow of the Heavenly Tree of Unity.”
Similar in its teaching is Christian Science, a movement which, founded in America by Mary Baker Eddy, is spreading throughout the civilised world. Like the Bahá’í movement, its teacher and followers have known persecution; not bloody martyrdom at the hands of orthodox Moslems, but mental persecution at the hands of the orthodoxy of Church and State. In the councils for peace Mrs. Eddy took a prominent part, being made a Fondateur of the Association for International Conciliation. Her message from “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” is: —
“One infinite God — good unifies men and nations, constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scriptures, ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself,’ annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry and whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalises the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished, or destroyed.”
Movement for Prayer.
A committee composed of a hundred persons has been appointed by the Mayor of New York to prepare plans for the celebration of the centennial of the peace of English peoples. The celebration will commence on February 17, 1915. It has been suggested by Senator Root that for five minutes of that day all human activities shall cease, and that 150,000,000 English-speaking people throughout the world should engage in silent prayer.
International Demonstration Against War.
A manifesto has been issued by the International Socialist Bureau, Brussels, “To the Working Men of All Countries,” asking them to unite in a protestation against war. It sets forth the recent action of Italy towards Tripoli, not confusing the Italian people with the Italian Government, and says: “In the presence of such a misdeed, the Labour International could but have one opinion. Our comrades of Italy are agreed with our Ottoman comrades to protest in the name of the common interests of the proletariat against an undertaking as criminal as it is mad, which will be so disastrous, more disastrous perhaps for the victors than for the vanquished, which threatens to let loose the evil of a general war, to dig an abyss between Europe and the new Islam people, and which is bound to have as a last consequence to furnish new pretexts to the Powers still further to increase the armaments.” The manifesto concludes with a call to arms: “Working men of all countries, unite in protesting against war! Demonstrate for peace! for the disarmament and for the solidarity of the peoples!”
The ideal in the mind of Dr. L. L. Zamenhof, when he originated the international language Esperanto, was the ultimate coming together of humanity by means of a common understanding of speech. This is borne out in his paper contributed to the International Races Congress, in which he states: “While preserving their national language and religion in their internal life of their linguistic or religious groups, men shall, in their relation with other peoples, use a language that is neutral to all men, and live according to the rules of a moral code which dictates actions and customs that are similarly neutral.
Universal Races Congress.
Held in London in July of this year, the First Universal Races Congress was convened with this object: — “To discuss in the light of science and the modern conscience the general relations subsisting between so-called white and so-called coloured peoples, with a view to encouraging between them a fuller understanding, the most friendly feelings, and a heartier co-operation.
The Awakening of Women.
Last, but not least, is the awakening of women. The movement, which is stirring the hearts and minds of women throughout the world to-day, is but an expression, a most pregnant one, of the gradual coming together of the “two halves of one dissevered world.” It is no strange chance that women’s souls are being captured with the ideal of freedom, that being free their service shall ultimately be given not to individual men as heretofore, but allied with them in service to their Creator.