One of the Signs of the Cycle
The Path, May, 1890
The people of all nations now turn their eyes to America, and that name for them stands for the United States. Its energy, activity, and freedom hold the imagination of the foreigner, and here he thinks aspirations may be realized, unfettered by the chains of caste, kingly prerogative, or religious restraint. With all that, Europeans often laugh at the newness and crudity of America, yet admiration cannot be withheld for the tremendous nerve power, the facile adaptability, the swift onward rush of the civilization beginning to bloom in the United States. It is the occult forces working in this land and really affecting all men, whether they know it or not, that is the reason.
Men who are not counted seers often see centuries into the future; and Tom Paine, the last who could be called a seer, had one such sight about America, although he called it a thought or “that which he saw with his mind’s eye.” When he was yet in England he wrote that he seemed to see a great vista opening for the world in the affairs in America. This was before he wrote Common Sense, which, as George Washington said, did more for our independence than any other thing. Paine was destined to be a great factor in American affairs, and naturally—in the occultist’s eyes at least—he would see in advance some slight vision of the “great experiment” in which he was so soon to take an influential share. This experiment was not conceived alone by mortal minds, but is a part of the evolutionary plan, for here the next great movement has already begun and will reach a high development.
Its greatest importance for us is theosophically. We think, quite naturally, that the theosophic ideas and culture are supreme, but if we needed confirmation from the outer barbarians we have it in the lately-written words of the great Frenchman, Emile Burnouf, who said that one of the three great factors in religious development of today is the Theosophical Society. If we assume this to be true, a glance at statistics will point to one of the signs of the cycle.
In England there are almost 30 million people, yet for fifteen years the Theosophical Society has not made much progress there. For some years but one branch existed—the London Lodge, and now there are not ten. India has a population of 350,000,000, but if a count were taken we should find that the possible material available for the creation of T.S. Branches would not reach 1,000,000 souls. The reason for this is that out of the whole of 350,000,000 there are an immense number who cannot sympathise with the movement, indeed can hardly know of it, because they are uneducated and unable to speak or read English; the English-speaking Hindu is one who joins us there. And we find in India say 175 active Branches.
Turning now to America—to the United States where Theosophy has been promulgated—we can only reckon on a population of say 50,000,000. Yet those 50,000,000 have furnished us with 36 Branches, and more rapidly coming into existence. Those who work for and in the T.S. in the United States know of the great interest there is in the subject in every part of the country, and can feel quite sure that not only may there very soon be one hundred Branches here, hut also that nearly every man, woman, and child will ere long know of the word of Theosophy and of the Society bearing its name. Several causes make this possible in the United States as nowhere else. There is a wider spread of general English education, a more constant reading of newspapers and magazines by all classes from lowest to highest, and a keener spirit of inquiry working in a freer mental atmosphere, than in any other country.
The statistics given lead to but one conclusion: they place the possibilities of theosophical growth in the United States ahead of India. Any one can calculate the proportions in the proposition: given the U.S. with 50 million people and 36 Branches, more than two-thirds of which have been formed within the last three years, and India numbering one million available people and 175 Branches, of which the greater number have been in existence many years, which is greater proportional growth and which gives greater promise for the future?
But the analysis must not end here, for the conditions and the people are different. Most of India’s people will probably for many centuries remain as they are, some technical idolators, some Jains, some Mohammedans, some Fire worshippers, and some Buddhists. But here the lines of demarcation between the different sects are being shaded into disappearance, there are no great differences of religion and of caste, and people of all avowed religions are daily finding theosophy creeping into their thoughts and their literature. It is a sign of the Cycle; it points to India as the conserver of the ancient wisdom-religion, and to America as its new and vigorous champion who will adopt those old truths without fear of caste or prejudice, and exemplify them through the new race to be brought forth in the old Fifth continent. The careful student of Theosophy will not fail to see that America alone, of all lands, meets all the requirements respecting the problem. “Where is the new race to be born?” H.P. Blavatsky in the Secret Doctrine calls it the Fifth continent, although for the time including Europe under that head. Here we see the fusion of all races going on before our eyes, and here too is the greatest push of energy, of inquiry, and of achievement.