Oct 29, 2019

An Improvement of the Heart

Boris Johnson Quotes Churchill
On a Key Aspect of Social Progress

Carlos Cardoso Aveline

W. Churchill (1874-1965)



In one of his books, Boris Johnson describes a special moment in the life of Winston Churchill.

In July 1945, “on the eve of his electoral humiliation” and having been booed about housing and food production in a public event, Churchill tried to rescue the occasion by saying this about the multiple arguments circulating against him:

“All these plans will be nullified by foolish faction fights about idiotic ideologies and philosophical dreams about absurd Utopian worlds which will never be seen except by great improvements of the human heart and the human head.”

To this the multitude reacted with a roar of laughter. And Churchill said: “I am sorry if that hurts.” [1]

According to Churchill, therefore, an improvement in human hearts and thoughts must precede and prepare social improvements. Russian thinker Helena P. Blavatsky thought the same, as she wrote in an article:

“The ‘happiness’ (…) will not come as long as moral progress slumbers in inactivity, paralyzed by the ferocious egotism of everybody, the rich as well as the poor.”

Blavatsky added that theosophists aim at an ethical revolution, which will come about “when the disinherited masses understand that happiness is in their own hands, that wealth brings nothing but worries (…) and when the rich realize that their felicity depends upon that of their brothers - whatever their race or religion”. [2]

In “The Key to Theosophy”, HPB said:

“To seek to achieve political reforms before we have effected a reform in human nature, is like putting new wine in old bottles. (…) No lasting political reform can be ever achieved with the same selfish men at the head of affairs as of old.” [3]

With regard to politics in the 21st century, we must also remember that personal anger cannot help us to obtain valuable goals, as History has shown and the Dhammapada clarifies: 

“… Hate is not conquered by hate: hate is conquered by love. This is a law eternal.” [4]

Former vice-president of the U.S. and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore writes that politics, broadly defined, is “the means by which we make collective decisions and choices”.[5] There is no doubt, he says, that with sufficient agreement on our goals, we can achieve the victory we are seeking.

The axiom formulated by Al Gore applies to every social group or nation - provided that the objectives are noble and enough good will and discernment exist. In other words, a Churchillian improvement of the heart and mind is unavoidable if we aim at a better future.

Chapters 18 and 19 of Genesis, in the Jewish Tanakh, examine the direct relation between the purity of human hearts and the destiny of societies. The degree of honesty (or its absence) in the minds of people determines the quality of social structures.  The amount of sincerity in the interaction among citizens establishes the level of quality of governments and causes the harmonious or disastrous relation between humans and the natural environment.

The LORD of the Tanakh and the Bible is a humanized expression of the divine Law of Justice, the impersonal principle of equilibrium between Cause and Effect.

When the Lord announced that the outrage and the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah were too great and would have consequences (Gn. 18: 17-21), Abraham came forward and said:

“Will you sweep away the innocent along with the guilty? What if there should be fifty innocent within the city; will You then wipe out the place and not forgive it for the sake of the fifty innocent who are in it?” (Gn. 18: 23-25)

Then the Lord who personifies Law pronounced these words:

“If I find within the city of Sodom fifty innocent ones [6], I will forgive the whole place for their sake.” (Gn. 18: 26)

Thus a negotiation started between the Lord of the Law and Abraham, the defender of nations. How many decent people were necessary to avoid collective disaster? 

In the descending cycles of human evolution, a decisive improvement of the heart is necessary to prevent catastrophic transitions. However, a numerically small amount of Just Men are enough to make History change its course.

According to a legend of the mystic Jewish tradition, there are on Earth 36 unknown, anonymous wise men on whose piety the destiny of the whole world depends. Perhaps they are 72.  Both numbers are symbolic. The essence of this idea is theosophical and can be found in several traditions.

Each citizen is potentially an Abraham, or one of the 36 Just Men.

Every person of good will can look for honesty within his own soul, and expand it to regenerate society. The Book of Proverbs says that honesty and trustworthiness give one a tremendous power regarding Karma:

The lips of the righteous sustain many,
But fools die for lack of sense.
It is the blessing of the LORD that enriches,
And no toil can increase it.
As mischief is sport for the dullard,
So is wisdom for the man of understanding.
What the wicked man plots overtakes him;
What the righteous desired is granted.
When the storm passes the wicked man is gone,
But the righteous is an everlasting foundation. [7]

In every critical situation in the life of a community, an honest individual can rise to the occasion, see his own responsibility regarding the future, and provoke the beginning of a new cycle of regeneration as long as it depends on him.  

The change in Karma or Destiny can be done by silently becoming a Just Man himself, according to his possibilities. He will do that by adopting as his own the Ideal of the Wise, and by carefully using his most valuable tools - among them common sense, modesty, moderation and good will. Yet merely looking like a reasonable person is not the priority, for George Bernard Shaw warned us all in “Man and Superman”:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” [8]

Indeed, wise people are often called fool, and the other way around.

Public opinion is like the changing wind. Blind routine must be constantly challenged, if a progress in the heart is to take place.

NOTES:

[1] “Johnson’s Life of London”, Boris Johnson, Riverhead Books, New York, 2012, 387 pp., see p. 335.

[2] “Collected Writings”, H. P. Blavatsky, Vol. VIII, TPH, USA, 507 pp., article “Misconceptions”, pp. 86-87.

[3] “The Key to Theosophy”, Helena P. Blavatsky, 1889 edition, Theosophical Publishing Co., Ltd., London, Section XII, 307 pages, p. 231. Click to see the book.

[4] “The Dhammapada”, Penguin Classics, Penguin Books, 1973, translated from the Pali with an introduction by Juan Mascaró, 93 pages, see chapter one, p. 35, item 5.

[5] “Earth in the Balance”, Senator Al Gore, A Plume Book, Penguin Group, USA, copyright 1993, 408 pp., see p. 270.

[6] Fifty righteous, honest humans.

[7] Proverbs, 10: 21-25. “Tanakh, The Holy Scriptures”, The Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, Jerusalem, copyright 1985, 1624 pp., see page 1301.

[8] “Man and Superman”, George Bernard Shaw, Penguin Books, 1977, UK, 265 pp., see p. 260.

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An Improvement of the Heart” was published as an independent article in our associated websites on 29 October 2019. It can be read at our blog in “The Times of Israel” and is part of the September 2019 edition of “The Aquarian Theosophist”, pp. 1-2.

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