“To freedom you are called, Brothers!—only that your freedom be not a pretext for the flesh. But serve each other by love. But if you bite each other and eat each other, take care that you are not exterminated by each other.
“I say: Act according to Spirit, and you will not obey the cravings of the flesh. Because the flesh wills what opposes Spirit; and Spirit, what opposes flesh. They oppose each other, so that you do not do what you would. But if you are led by Spirit, then you are not under law.
“The doings of the flesh are known, they are: unlawful sexual passion, sexual self-indulgence, impurity, self-indulgence; serving idols, sorcery; animosity, quarrels, envy, anger, contests, discord, separation, detestation; murder, drunkenness, disorder, and things like these; I warn you, as I warned you before, that they who act like this will not inherit the inherit the divine kingdom.
“But the harvest of Spirit: love, joy, peace, tolerance, graciousness, charitableness, faith, gentleness, self-control: over these things there is no law.”—THE CHIEF OF SINNERS.
You say that you would willingly make an end of it, go away. and have done with these uncomfortable Brothers once for all.
Yes, it would be easy enough, and a great relief perhaps, to he rid of this Uncomfortable Brotherhood; but what about the still more Uncomfortable Brotherhood that you were born into, and entered with no apparent choice of your own?—the Brotherhood of mankind. To this greater Brotherhood you are bound, you are tied hand and foot, and there is no prospect at all that your bonds will ever be unloosed.
No one who knows anything of this greater Brotherhood, and all of us perforce must know a good deal of it, will deny that there are in it Uncomfortable Brothers enough, and a large variety among them.
There are Uncomfortable Brothers who love to make daggers, and curved swords, and knives with ragged edges, to be presently thrust, with the keenest enjoyment, through each other’s ribs and heart. From Uncomfortable Brothers like these you would gladly separate yourself; yet, by your involuntary birth in the greater Brotherhood, you are bound to them, tied to them hand and font, and there is no prospect at all that your bonds will ever be unloosed.
Then there are Uncomfortable Brothers who steal and lie in wait for each other, and cheat, and by all possible means seek to rob each other of the fruit of their lawful or unlawful labours. Of them, too, you would doubtless gladly be rid; yet you are bound to them, tied to them, and there is no prospect that your bonds will be unloosed.
And again there are Uncomfortable Brothers who, to gratify all sorts of unholy passions, to satisfy all sorts of dark and midnight cravings, will hesitate at no cruelty or knavery, or uncleanness. Here, again, you would doubtless gladly be quit of these Uncomfortable Brothers of yours, yet you seem to me to be so bound and tied to them that there is no prospect at all of your ever getting separated from them.
Then there are uncomfortable Brothers, perhaps the most uncomfortable of all, who, for the sake of their truth and for the sake of their goodness, would use every effort to strangle your truth and your goodness; who would bind your thought, and fetter your heart, and lay chains on your soul; nay, who would and did and will again, at the first possibility, put chains and fetters on your body, and prepare for you the rack and the thumbscrew and the stake, in the cool of the morning; prepare them, and apply them too, till there is nothing left of you but a handful of ashes, until you are born again among them to your sorrow. From these last Uncomfortable Brothers. you would gladly escape and be rid of them, without any question at all; yet it seems again that you are bound and tied to them that there is no hope at all of your ever getting away.
It seems, therefore, that, quite against your will, you have fallen in to a very discreditable Brotherhood indeed; a Brotherhood that private opinion and public opinion, and every other opinion, including that of each Uncomfortable Brother about all the others, will without hesitation condemn, and with very little hesitation denounce. Yet to this quite discreditable Brotherhood it seems to me you are so tied and bound, as indeed we all are, quite as much as you, that there is no prospect at all of your or our bonds being unloosed for ever.
And as it is impossible for you and for us to get away from this discreditable Brotherhood, it seems to me that there are only two courses open to us: to bend our eyes only on what divides us from these Uncomfortable Brothers, to look only at our points of difference: or to bend our eyes only on which unites us, to look only at our points of union.
In other words, we may follow the course that the Chief of Sinners—who felt himself to be a very Uncomfortable Brother indeed—has called the way of the flesh: animosity, quarrels, envy. anger, contest, discord, separation, detestation.
Or we may follow the course that he has called the way of Spirit: love, joy, peace, tolerance, graciousness, charitableness, faith, gentleness.
These are the two ways. And I do not think that you have any doubt, that we have any doubt in our heart of hearts as to which of these two ways will, in the long run, be most effectual towards making this discreditable Brotherhood a little more creditable, towards bringing a measure of comfort to these Uncomfortable Brothers.
And it seems to me that in their credit and comfort lies your only hope and ours, for we are bound and tied to them, hand and foot, soul and body, and there seems no prospect at all that our bonds will ever be unloosed, either here or there, either now or at the end of ends.
And if you come to look at it in this way of good-natured tolerance, of charitableness, of graciousness, this way of Spirit, as the Chief of Sinners called it, you will begin to see that each of your Uncomfortable Brothers has a case of his own, a truth of his own, a rightness of his own.
The first, the Brother of daggers, is really, in a blind way, fighting for the divine and inviolable Self: when he comes to see the Self in all beings, he will find a wiser way of doing its work. And we have no real doubt in our hearts which conduct of ours, the way of the flesh—detestation—or the way of Spirit—love—will sooner bring this Uncomfortable Brother to the wiser way of looking at things.
And the Uncomfortable Brothers who lie in wait for each other, who would satisfy all kinds of dark and midnight cravings, they are really, in the blindest way, trying to give expression to the Self which is bliss. And here again we have no real doubt which of the two ways is likely to bring them to a more comfortable and more creditable mind.
Even the most Uncomfortable Brother of all, the Brother of the thumbscrew, is only trying to give expression to the Self which is Truth. Some day he will learn that Truth is reality, that the highest reality is oneness, that the expression of oneness is not detestation hut love; and that this love’s companions are joy, peace, graciousness, charitableness, gentleness, and other qualities far enough apart from thumbscrews.
So that, if you rightly look at it, each of your discreditable, Uncomfortable Brothers is only following his highest truth for the time being; is only trying after his highest good.
For it is a law of pretty wide extent that a man cannot help trying for his highest good; can help it as little as a dog can help trying for the largest and nicest of two bones. If you have tried it you will agree—if you have not it is worth trying—that the best way to wean a dog from a bone that is objectionable to you, is not to lay hold of the other end and pull, but rather to offer him a bigger, nicer, and more tempting bone.
So with your uncomfortable Brother; show him a less discreditable highest good, and he will presently leave his own way to follow the better. In other words, try the way of union, not of discord. And if you have no more creditable highest good to tempt your Brother, then be counselled, leave him to himself, and he will presently find a new and better highest good for himself: one, perhaps, in advance of yours, and which you will therefore have the pleasure and advantage of following too.
So that, Uncomfortable Brother, be counselled to follow the largest tolerance, not sour and supercilious at all, but good-natured, genial, full of understanding and sympathy, full of graciousness, charitableness, gentleness. This is the only way, as you in your heart of hearts know, by which this great discreditable Brotherhood to which we all belong may, some day, after a long time, be won to a better and sweeter mind.
A truce with evil? Toleration of evil-doers? Yes, or rather truce, a lasting peace with your Brothers, from whom by no chance or accident you will ever be separated, even at the end of time.
For there is no evil but stupidity, but the seeing of the highest good in the wrong places; there is no stupidity like discord, and no cure for discord but—well, the answer to that you know well enough yourself.
“He who beholds all beings in Self, and in all beings beholds Self, thereafter censures none.
In whom all beings have become Self through wisdom, for him what delusion, what sorrow is there, beholding Oneness?”
This, therefore, is the counsel of an often equally Uncomfortable Brother.