MIRRORING THE MACROCOSM
Spanning the centuries and continents, from the myths of hoary antiquity to the cogitations of modern man, certain primeval ideas and intuitions may be dimly discerned. These underlie the views held among different civilizations regarding hierarchies of beings and levels of evolution, the laws of nature and the central harmony of the cosmos, and human obligations which are rooted in a recognition of moral responsibility and are realized in a variety of relationships. There have been numerous theories concerning the citizen's political and social obligations; there have been innumerable formulations of the norms of individual excellence and collective progress. These provide the philosophical and ethical foundations of culture and society.
In our century man has to re-learn the ancient, archetypal truth that he is a microcosm, a world in himself, the mirror of an invisible universe that is around and beyond him. An educated person who does not recognize the value of reverence for Nature, for Nature's laws and for one's fellow men, cannot be regarded as a cultured individual. Intuitive thinkers of our time, like Dr. Albert Schweitzer, have realized that the collapse of civilizations came about in the past when men and women had lost their reverence for life, their sense of joy in adventure, their spirit of wonder and humility.
The nature of this interpenetration cannot be fully grasped unless we regard man, as did Pythagoras and Pico della Mirandola, as "the measure of all things". Man is the centre of a series of concentric circles, of little worlds extending from the "here and now" to the infinite expanse of Space and Time. Man is a microcosm in many senses and in different dimensions of his complete individuality. His family is a small macrocosm, the range and heritage and hereditary character of which he reflects in his own being. Each day in his life is like a miniature aeon during which he emanates and absorbs fresh currents of thought and energy. As a citizen, man reproduces the attitudes and characteristics of his neighbourhood, his locality, his village or city, his province and his country. As a member of present-day humanity and of the contemporary world, man embodies the trends and forces that constitute the matrix of this great macrocosm. Man's life in a particular personality reveals the spirit of the age to which he belongs.
This manifold microcosmic nature of man gives rise to the complex of interactions between local and global, ephemeral and enduring cultures. A truly and fully cultured man is able to absorb the beneficial currents that flow from all directions and at all times; he perceives the beauty of the great macrocosm within the boundaries of the small; he enjoys the grandeur of lasting realities amidst the flux of fleeting illusions and shadows. He takes the whole universe for his province, regards the world as a city, considers humanity as his family. Like Goethe's Faust, he apostrophizes the passing moment: "Stay! How wonderful thou art!" In appreciating art, music and literature he compares the unfamiliar with the familiar and proceeds from the known to the unknown, showing an awareness, however slight, of the patterns and rhythms of Nature, the cosmic dance of the elements, the changing positions of the stars, the strange music of the spheres, the mighty magic of prakriti (matter). Recognizing that in every speck in space and in every form of matter is to be found the motion of invisible intelligences, of devas (gods) and devatas (nature spirits), he pays honour first to the Immortal Gods of whom Pythagoras spoke, of whom Plotinus wrote in his fifth Ennead:
Reverencing those cosmic intelligences which we call Gods of Wisdom, we are able to see the Order that "hath established Their Choirs". We can attempt to mirror on earth that Divine Harmony or Rta and its action or Karma by reordering our social institutions in terms of Dharma, the Law of Duty, the Religion of Works, and Swaraj, the Rule of the One Self. In the memorable words of the sixth Book of The Republic of Plato:
. . . are not those who are verily and indeed wanting in the knowledge of the true being of each thing, and who have in their souls no clear pattern, and are unable as with a painter's eye to look at the absolute truth and to that original to repair, and having perfect vision of the other world to order the laws about beauty, goodness, justice in this, if not already ordered, and to guard and preserve the order of them are not such persons, I ask, simply blind?
This is a magnificent ideal, difficult to conceive, apparently impossible to achieve. In continuing to strive to draw nearer to this glorious goal, we are inspired by those "Heroes full of goodness and light" and the "Terrestrial Daimons" to whom, according to Pythagoras, we must pay "the worship lawfully due to them". Every person should endeavour to enter into inmost communion with the hero-souls of all lands and eras who still live, especially in their own immortal works. As Plutarch says, in his life of Aratus:
It is necessary to celebrate not only the lives of the "Heroes full of goodness and light" but also the thoughts and writings of the "Terrestrial Daimons" of our age and of the past. Plutarch wrote both the Lives and the Morals, the former setting forth to us, from an ideal point of view, what the ancient world had accomplished in the world of action, and the other, in like manner, what it had aimed at and accomplished in the world of thought. Even in the Lives, Plutarch is far more the moralist than the historian. A study of the archetypal ideas underlying human culture and the offering of homage to gods, adepts and geniuses are not ends in themselves but ways in which we can make of ourselves men and women of culture, of enlightenment and grace. Self-culture is in itself not the final goal, but only the means by which we can become the servants and custodians of the ideals that inspire and sustain the whole world.
Pythagoras offered the distilled wisdom of the ancients when he said:
Integrity, uprightness and self-respect these are the very roots of real culture. Intelligent, deliberative action and an awareness of the norms of goodness and beauty (of what the Greeks called arete) these constitute the fragrance or aroma of culture, the "sweetness and light" of which Matthew Arnold wrote. The joy of silent contemplation and the repose of a lofty, well-controlled mind these are the fruits of culture, the harvest of prolonged cultivation. Cultural development, whether individual or collective, is a continuing process, a creative activity, an exciting pursuit. As Plotinus counsels in his very first Ennead:
Great and enduring changes in the world in which we live cannot come through the efforts of partisan politicians unless they are inspired and directed by the wider vision of seers, poets and artists. The concept and goal of a united world community have been foreshadowed by a long line of creative writers, especially poets, from the earliest eras. In our own epoch, several leading writers have shown a lively sense of their social responsibilities. In his fine Presidential Address in 1953 to the Amsterdam Congress of the International P.E.N., Mr. Charles Morgan appealed to the writers assembled
Admittedly, writers, like sensitive seismographs, are peculiarly responsive to the prevalent horrors and imminent terrors of our time. But the very immensity of the dangers that loom before us and the time ahead, according to Mr. Charles Morgan, should be a means of grace":
It would be a betrayal of their mission if writers refused to rise above the predicament of mankind and offer a message of comfort and courage. Mr. Lewis Mumford fully appreciated this point in his In the Name of Sanity. In the chapter entitled "Mirrors of Violence", he declared:
Hermes, March 1979