Before brotherhood can be made a part of daily life, it must first be recognized as a fact. The intellectual conception passes gradually into a feeling of its truth, and this works its way out in action. Universal Brotherhood is not a theory. It is not a mere hypothesis for sentimentalists on which to construct a visionary golden age. It is not a passing fancy. Universal Brotherhood is a reality. It is the expression of the fundamental unity of Nature. The many forms of life are manifestations of the one life, which works its way from the lower kingdoms of nature up through man to conscious godhood. Nature is one; no part is separate from any other part.
The unity of the human race can be seen even on the physical plane, where the delusion of separateness is most deceiving. Divest men of their surroundings, the conditions of their lives, and what have we? Take from the scholar his books; from the general his army; remove the business man from the intricacies of trade, and the society leader from the whirl of fashion; think of the Englishman minus his nationality, and the American less his; cancel the brown skin of the dark races and the white skin of the whites; remove from the Christian his dogmas; from the Mohammedan his forms; from the Brahmin his superstitions and we have — human beings who suffer the same physical wants, whose lives are torn by the same contending passions and lighted by the same loves, whose souls cry out for the same Truth. Only the superficial interests of mankind are diversified and antagonistic. The fundamental interests are identical.
The world is so closely bound together by cable and by steamship line that the condition of one country affects all the others. Fluctuation in London stocks is immediately felt in Wall Street. A failure of the crops in Russia makes a shortage of grain throughout the world. The financial panic of Australia swept this country and Europe. The bubonic plague has its victims in almost every seaport. Daily the world reads the South African war news, and is depressed or elated. If such an interdependence can be brought about by the purely physical cable and steamer, how much more intimate and immediate must be the connection along the subtler lines of mental action and the irresistible currents of feeling; for here every person is a seaport town, a centre of communication. Lust, selfishness and revenge go straight to corresponding centres and awaken kindred feelings in others; trust, sincerity, compassion arouse the highest part of man into responsive action.
Knowing Brotherhood to be this interrelation and interdependence of Humanity, it is evident that to make it a part of daily life demands more than a friendly feeling for one’s associates, or a pleasant smile for all we meet. Outer actions are the result of inner impulses. Only as the motive is pure and the impulse genuine or the reverse is the brotherly act truly or falsely so. We must first awaken a genuine sympathy for our fellow men; accord to each the dignity of being a human soul; grant that each life is as full of cares and trials as our own; that all are journeying towards the same goal.
If we feel our kinship with others we shall not regard them as competitors, but as fellow-workers. What is another’s loss is not your gain. Another’s gain is no loss to you. The best interests of the individual can be served only by serving the best interests of all. If we shift our field of effort from the plane of competition to that of mutual helpfulness, we shall receive better value for our labor. If another attains success in a line along which we have been striving, or is doing a work we have longed to do, we should not feel envious, nor regard him as a rival. There is work enough for all; the work of each is suited to his ability. If another acquires some degree of perfection in the performance of his duty, rejoice in his strength, for is not the world helped as much by his strong act as by yours?
Universal Brotherhood demands more than tolerance. It is not enough to say, “Brother, I wish thee well; go thy way.” Brotherhood, whose basis is that fact in Nature, demands that each should work unceasingly for the good of all. If this end is served by kindly, gentle treatment, let it be tender and loving. But if the occasion demands strength and severity, do not hesitate to deal the blow. The act which causes pain, and which to the superficial gaze might seem unbrotherly, may be the only thing that could awaken another to his failing and help him on to a better life. The friend is unkind who speaks only of the things which please and flatter us, but dares not mention our shortcomings for fear of incurring our displeasure. The parent is unkind who indulges the child in all its wayward whims, leaving it to learn self-discipline when it is thrown upon the world.
The assistance which benefits one’s worldly condition or aids in the gratification of desire may arouse gratitude and admiration, but it is of trifling importance compared to that which builds character, gives a truer conception of life, or awakens the soul to its responsibilities.
To be brotherly in the highest sense demands wisdom to discern the proper course of action and will to push it through, whether the process be pleasant or not. To look behind the present sensations of pleasure and pain and work for the ultimate good is true brotherliness.
If we could realize that the welfare of each is closely interwoven with the welfare of all, we should cease drawing the sharp lines of selfish personality, we should cease building for the personal self, and build for the larger self — Humanity. Universal Brotherhood is a part of that life whose guiding purpose is “To render noble service to all that lives”.