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Series 1:

WHITE MAGIC


 

Study Set 11

Skill in Human Relations


Contents

Seed Thought
Reading Assignment
Recommended Additional Reading
Written Work
Letter from Teaching Staff
How Certain Ashrams are Preparing to Take Outer Form
Further Views of Certain Ashrams
Biographical Vignettes
Glossary of Terms


SEED THOUGHT:

The task of the NEW GROUP OF WORLD SERVERS is not the spreading of esoteric or occult information.


The work of the New Group is to hasten and facilitate the entry of new ideals and new aims into the public mind: to promote world understanding, international good will and religious amity, thus preparing the climate of public opinion for the Coming One.


Reading Assignment:
A Treatise on White Magic, pages 322-374

Recommended Additional Reading (optional):
MARKINGS, Dag Hammarskjold
JOURNAL OF A SOUL, Pope John
 


QUESTIONS AND ISSUES FOR STUDY, REFLECTION, PONDERING:

Please answer the following questions out of your own thinking, rather than searching through the book or study set for quotable answers. You are urged to give considerable attention to this aspect of the subjective work. The more time, the more thought you give to it, the more spiritual help you will receive through your studies. These are quite searching questions. If you wish, try to formulate written answers to these questions. The effort you give to expressing your thinking about them is in itself a method of calling into activity hitherto unused parts of your mental equipment.

1.) What relation do you see between esoteric training (occult study) and the New Group of World Servers? (See seed thought.)

2.) Please turn to (f) and read the biographical vignettes. Consider each in turn and decide whether the person depicted qualifies as a world server. Then answer the following questions, keeping in mind that there is no right or wrong answer. Putting your opinion on paper will help to clarify your concept, your mental picture, of a member of the New Group of World Servers.

3.) (a) Try to imagine how the Hierarchy would rate these people according to Their standards for the New Group of World Servers. In the case of each person, is he or is he not a Server?
    (b) Why do you think so?


Dear Fellow Server:

We hear often, in this line of study, the terms "mystic" and "occultist". Not so often are these words defined by those who teach, nor are they understood by those who study. And yet, each term is an important one with its own clear definition, and each refers to a particular approach to spiritual being.

A mystic is one who loves God, who experiences God as love in such a way that his life is colored or completely changed by the experience. Mysticism is a movement of the heart toward God the Beloved, with a passionate intention toward union with the Object of this love. The aims are wholly transcendental and spiritual and are not concerned with exploring or rearranging or improving anything in the visible universe. The mystic cannot imagine anything higher than the union toward which he strives, this giving of himself to God, asking nothing in return. For the great mystics of the middle ages, to inquire of God, to ask anything of God was sinful. The love of God might be entered into if one disciplined oneself rigorously and long; to try to know God with the mind as well as with the heart was to commit the sin of being spiritually "nosey," of prying into God's affairs.

We have all been mystics at some time in the past; many of us are still mystics, but we are mystics who question. We are glad to have found the love of God, to know that it is there even when we are not able, at times, to contact it. But we have begun to know that what we call God yields to us true answers when we ask clear questions. When we begin to question, to stand back critically and analytically from what we have always accepted as true, we are beginning to use our minds. It is true that the mind has a separative aspect, and many mystics object to thinking about things spiritual because such activity makes them feel apart from God. But the one who questions, criticizes, and analyzes, while apparently separating himself from God, is learning and growing. His mind, a vital part of his triple form, in its insistence upon clear answers, in its effort to encompass these answers with mental appreciation, is becoming larger and brighter. The mystic who begins to think is in process of becoming the occultist.

The thinking mind pushes the man on the physical plane in a different direction than does the feeling heart. The mystic abstracts himself from the world in his inward search for God; he performs what might be called an inbreathing action. The occultist, who searches for answers so that he may put them to use, whose approach to God is mental rather than romantic, is a practical individual who, while he may love God, is more intent on serving humanity. He is taking what he gained as a mystic, in lives gone by, and putting it into action in the three worlds -- he is outbreathing it. Once again we can see an example of the circulatory activity of life of which we have spoken in earlier study sets. Abstraction or inbreathing must inevitably become expression or outbreathing.

Sometimes the mystic, the lover of God, and the occultist, the knower of God, are equally present in the same individual. When this is a fact we have a man whose heart and head balance each other, and, for him, truly wise living is possible. Such a man might be a priest or a king, a teacher or a servant, a financier or a musician, but in whatever realm he lives, his life will show a notable symmetry.

Appearing throughout history, such workers for God, such servers of humanity, excite our deepest admiration. We might point to Florence Nightingale, whose compassionate heart and practical head led her into the Crimea to try to alleviate the sufferings of wounded soldiers, regardless of the criticism of her countrymen and her family's concern for her personal happiness. Her complete self-sacrifice and her common-sensical methods of handling the appalling problems she met there are clear indications of her symmetrical being.

Winston Churchill is another whose broad development of both heart and head was impressive. Dag Hammarskjold and Pope John XXIII are two others. Pope John might be presumed to be more mystic than occultist until one examines the practical rules he set for himself in dealing with people and circumstances. Indeed, as one studies the life of this man it becomes increasingly difficult to say where the lover of God left off and the server of humanity began.

Dag Hammarskjold, in his work as Secretary General of the United Nations was a tireless, eminently intelligent, and firm leader, who was believed by those who knew him to be a cold and detached individual with very little heart quality. Readers of his posthumously published journal, MARKINGS, learned that he was in fact a sensitive and spiritually oriented man with deep reverence for a Presence to Which he gave no name. The heart quality was indeed there, giving him a depth and leadership ability he would not have had otherwise.

There seems to be today a plethora of self-seeking, self-serving little people with, alas, ourselves oftentimes in the midst of this motley crowd. But when we remember to raise our eyes higher and see further, we can always find these larger-than-life-size human beings whose influence is broad, whose hearts are inclusive, and whose minds are absorbed in their tasks of serving mankind in the truest sense. Take heart, for the presence of such people is an indication of what we can be someday. They, like the Christ, are the Great Example, not the Great Exception.

In the fellowship of spiritual growth, we are your good and steady friends,

The Staff of Arcana


HOW CERTAIN ASHRAMS ARE PREPARING TO TAKE OUTER FORM

Prefacing note by Teaching Staff:

An Ashram is made up of disciples and initiates of various degrees who are both receptive and responsive to the energy and the guiding influence of the Master of the Wisdom who is the head of the Ashram. Not only do the workers within a single Ashram cooperate with and strengthen each other, but Ashrams work with and are linked with other Ashrams. This chain of graded workers and interlinked groups of workers is what is meant by the "Chain of Hierarchy." At any point of the chain, from the head of an Ashram to the disciple who labors among the masses, a worker qualifies for his particular task by being sensitive, receptive, and responsive to ashramic intent and ashramic energy.

The work to be done is selected with clarity and sureness within the Ashram. The method of working is selected by the disciple or serving group, usually through experiment, uncertainty, trial and error. The worker selects himself. A particular disciple is not assigned nor appointed to a specific task. Rather, the one who dedicates himself to a specific ashramic task is drawn to that task by his responsiveness to ashramic intent and his own sensitivity to immediate world need. He accurately senses a detail of the Plan and commits himself to working out that detail into appropriate form.

The serving disciple works in the outer world as a spiritual volunteer.

The five Masters concerned with the initial stages of the Organisation of the Hierarchy on earth are the Master K. H., the Master Morya, the Master R., the English Master and Master D. K., also know as the Tibetan. On the physical plane, the initiates and disciples working in the first ray Ashram of the Master Morya are primarily occupied in the world of politics and government, seeking to preserve individual and national cultures and to subordinate them to the good of the whole of humanity.

The reappearance of the Christ is the major preoccupation of the second ray Ashram of the Master K. H., and its mission is to produce energy which will make possible and definite that reappearance. This ashram will be one of the last to manifest objectively on the physical plane.

The Master R. is the Lord of Civilisation, and His is the task of bringing in the new civilisation for which all men wait. His ashram enfolds within its ring-pass-not all the ashrams to be found upon the third ray of Active Intelligence, upon the fifth ray of Concrete Science and upon the seventh ray of Ceremonial Order. He Himself, at this time, works with seventh ray energy, which is the order-producing energy upon our planet. Through the activity of this energy, when correctly directed and used, a right rhythm is being imposed upon all aspects of human living. An effort is being constantly made to arrest the chaos of the present and to produce the ordered beauty of the future.

The English Master (Who has always withheld His name from public knowledge) cooperates with the Master R. upon the ray of Active Intelligence. He started the preparatory work nearly one hundred years ago during the industrial revolution in England, through the labour movement, which was one of the most successful attempts in all history to awaken the masses of men to general betterment. This set up a momentum which could, occultly speaking, swing them into light. Along with the development of the labour movement mass education came into being, with the result that -- from the angle of intelligence -- the entire level of conscious awareness was universally raised.

This is an outstanding example of how the Masters work, for the labour movement arose from within the working classes; it was a spontaneous development, based upon the thinking and teaching of a few men who were regarded as agitators and trouble-makers. In reality, they were a group of disciples who were cooperating with the Law of Evolution and with the Hierarchical Plan. They were not particularly advanced disciples, but they were affiliated with some Ashram and they were therefore subject to impression. If they had been advanced disciples or initiates, their work would have been futile, for their presentation of the Plan would not have been adapted to the level of the intelligence of the uneducated masses composing labour at that time.

The English Master's Ashram is occupied with the problems of industry. The work is directed towards spiritualising the concepts of the labour party and of the industrialists, and turning them toward the goal of right sharing, as a major step towards right human relations. All the great labour organisations, nationally and internationally, are loosely knit together subjectively, because in each group this Master has his disciples who are working constantly to hold the movement in line with the divine Plan.

It is well to bear in mind that all great movements on earth demonstrate both good and evil, the evil has to be subdued and relegated to its right proportional place, before the good which is in line with hierarchical planning can find true expression. It is this process which is going on now, and which is being fought by the selfish and ambitious elements. Nevertheless a right sense of values is being developed, and the foundation of the new civilisation lies in the right direction of the labour group in every land.

This Ashram is occupied with worldwide economic problems, the significance of money, the value of gold, right attitudes towards material living, and the entire process of right distribution. The work is enormous and of great importance in preparing men's minds for the return of the Christ and for the New Age which He will inaugurate. Capitalists and labour leaders, financial experts and thinking workers, and members of all the different ideologies in the world today are to be found working in this Ashram. All of them are deeply spiritual, in the correct sense, but they care not for labels, for schools of thought, for academic or esoteric teaching. They exemplify a livingness which is the hallmark of discipleship; of right motive, intelligence and selfless service.

It is the third ray energy, as wielded in the Ashram of this Master, which will bring about a balance between the material values and the spiritual, and "seal the door where evil dwells." The door must be sealed by a vast mass of coordinated human forces and not by a few enlightened men. Then the energy of Love-Wisdom can and will bring in the Kingdom of God; the energy of the Divine Will can and will galvanise with its dynamic potency the entire human family to the point where a group transition will take place from the fourth into the fifth kingdom.

The second ray Master, D. K., is working under the direction of the three great Lords of the Hierarchy, with the energy of right human relations. It is a magnetic type of energy and draws men together for betterment and for right understanding. In this particular cycle His Ashram is in a key position through the work of the Men of Goodwill, and through all the goodwill movements in the world today.

Goodwill is essentially an expression of the second ray of Love-Wisdom and is therefore an aspect of all the Ashrams of the Hierarchy. All goodwill work is today being galvanised into violent activity through the dynamic energy of the first ray, expressing the Will-to-Good. This dynamic type of energy is channeled through the Ashram of the Master D. K., and works also in close cooperation with the Ashram of the Master R., because the intelligent activity of the energy of Goodwill is our objective. Basic changes in world affairs will take place when the labour movement is swept by the energy of goodwill.

You will note how the three divine aspects are united in one great movement, working through the Ashrams of five Masters, to bring in the Kingdom of God, and the first step towards this is the appearance of Masters upon the physical plane. One thing which humanity needs today, is the realisation that there IS a PLAN which is working out through all world happenings. This presupposes Those Who are responsible for the originating of the Plan and for carrying it forward successfully.

To the spiritual Hierarchy the Plan involves those arrangements of circumstances which will raise and expand human consciousness, and enable men to discover the spiritual values for themselves, and to make the needed changes of their own free will. Nothing of true value is gained by any arbitrary or autocratic activity on the part of the Hierarchy. The Masters lead Humanity, through right understanding, to take the needed action itself, even if it involves trial and error and a much slower process.
EXTERNALISATION OF THE HIERARCHY Summary of pages 660-670


FURTHER VIEWS OF CERTAIN ASHRAMS

Of the seven major Ashrams, only a few have disciples and initiates at work at this time on the externalisation of the Hierarchy. The first ray Ashram of Morya and the second ray Ashram of K. H., together the most powerful in the Hierarchy, control the building forces. The Ashram of a fifth ray Master is the custodian of science and of that which relates and brings into expression the duality of spirit-matter. It is through the scientific use of energy that the world will be rebuilt and the factual nature of the Hierarchy be proven. Through the pressure of education (second ray energy), through the growth of the concept of synthesis (first ray), and through the correct use of energy (fifth ray), this world can be brought into a condition of preparedness for the externalisation of the Hierarchy.

Disciples from the second ray Ashram of K. H. will direct their efforts toward the general public, working primarily through educators in all countries and through those concerned with the teaching of religion. The task will be slow, but second ray disciples are endowed with steady persistence which brooks no discouragement. Such disciples will be found in institutions of higher learning and in churches, and will exert pressure against old methods, ancient theologies and selfish and competitive techniques. The science of co-operation, and of right human relations and of correct adjustments to life through meditation and right vision, will supercede the present methods of learning, all of which will not damage the acquisition of academic knowledge or the right apprehension of spiritual truth.

The disciples of the Master Morya's first ray Ashram will be found in the field of right human relations and in the production of that synthesis of effort which will create a new intuitional consciousness, a changing political consciousness and a situation in which the family of nations will stand together for certain basic values. These are:

1. The four essential freedoms of the individual:

Freedom of speech
Freedom of worship
Freedom from want
Freedom from fear

2. Right international interplay necessitating abolishing war.
3. Clean political regimes.

These disciples will work closely with disciples on the second ray.

Disciples of the fifth ray Ashram will have the task of leading mankind into the benefits the atomic age. Occultists have taught that there is nothing in existence but energy in some form or other, and that all that we can know or work with is energy in relation to forces, or forces as they are directed by energy. The fifth ray disciples will prove this and by their efforts the new civilization will be built. Their work will include the discoveries of science, the adaptation of the laws governing matter, and the directing of dense energy to the service and the growing needs of mankind, as well as observing and probing into the subtle and delicate apparatus of the human body and making their findings available to the healing profession. Humanity will have time for freedom, for the deeper educational considerations, and for a political activity of the spiritual kind; labor as we know it will be abolished and every phase of man's life will be implemented by science; man will be free to think and to unfold the higher abstract mind, and to interpret its conclusions through the medium of the trained lower concrete mind.

The work of the three major Ashrams will be largely educational and when it is done the other Ashrams will slowly send in their workers to continue with the task. The first will be on the third ray. The world will be ready for an all-over financial adjustment; the principle of sharing will be the recognised motivating concept of the new civilisation. Public opinion will be such that certain fundamental ideals will motivate business; the fact that the new general ideas will in many cases be governed by the expediency of interplay will not matter. The sharing is important. When the entering third ray disciples appear they will find:

1. That the principle of barter and exchange to the benefit of all will control.

2. That owing to the development of atomic energy on behalf of human welfare, national currencies will have been largely superseded by a universal monetary exchange.

3. Private enterprise will be regulated; public utilities, the major material resources and sources of planetary wealth will be owned by a governing international group.

The third ray disciples will build a new structure of material relationships.

One major characteristic is, however, present in all these working disciples and aspirants; this is a wide humanitarianism and a determination to aid in the cause of human welfare. One interesting distinction will later emerge and condition the new age in contradistinction to past and present methods. Future servers will not be dedicated to purely humanitarian and welfare work nor to the relief of human necessity. All phases of human living -- politics, finance and science as well as religion -- will be recognised to be their immediate task. A growing spirit of humanitarianism is foundational to the new world order which will emerge out of all these experiments which human thinking is at this time evolving. While in incarnation disciples and aspirants who serve humanity may be quite unconscious of any spiritual objective except the recognition that they love their fellowman; this love will condition all they do and will motivate their every effort.

Summary of points covered in: Externalisation 575-585
Seven Rays V. 380-387


BIOGRAPHICAL VIGNETTE # 1: LEO SZILARD

Dr. Leo Szilard, the brilliant nuclear physicist, died in the spring of 1964 in La Jolla California. He was 66 years old and in the midst of a new career as a biologist. In the New York Memorial Hospital in 1960 he had undergone treatment for cancer and in spite of believing his case to be terminal, refused to concern himself unduly. Szilard was willing to talk to an interviewer quite freely about his affliction. "As a rational scientist, I have never believed in evading reality. So my death is approaching. Well -- isn't everybody's? He smiled wryly. "I have cancer of the bladder," he said explicitly. "It is incurable. I have undergone intensive radiation treatments and the tumor appears to have vanished. But statistics are all in favor of a fairly rapid recurrence."

Asked if there was any hope at all he replied, "I have always believed, in assessing mankind's chances in the nuclear age, that however bleak the prospect may be, there is always a narrow margin of hope, and man must concentrate on that narrow margin. That is the way I must look at my own prospects. There is always hope. But, realistically, my chances are anything but good. Say six months to a year. I have plenty to occupy me in whatever time is left."

Besides carrying on a large correspondence, he was writing manuscripts, scientific papers, and was working on a philosophical tract disguised as science fiction called THE VOICE OF THE DOLPHINS. Szilard's passion for the politics of peace and disarmament rivaled his passion for science itself. He was always writing articles, engaging in debates, lobbying for or against bills in Congress, attending international meetings, making his views known in any way he could. He was said to be one of the great and good human beings of our time, but he was shy in his personal relationships. He was an idealist who was embarrassed to admit how deeply he cared about mankind.

His name was not attached to any revolutionary theory or any specific discovery; indeed, much of his celebrated mental power had gone into catalyzing the work of other men. Getting credit for an idea seemed the farthest thing from his mind. Although he never won a Nobel Prize in spite of having a number of Nobel Prize-winning ideas, he was not bitter about this. Szilard was asked if it was true that he had thought of the cyclotron two years before Ernest 0. Lawrence did.

"Yes.," he said. "But Lawrence thought of the cyclotron independently, and he built one. He deserved the Nobel Prize."

Against all odds and expectations, his cancer never recurred. It was a heart attack that took him in his sleep.

Condensed from Special Report, LIFE Magazine


VIGNETTE # 2: MURAGAPA MODI

Among the most remarkable men in the medical world today is the Indian ophthalmologist, Dr. Muragapa Chenavirapa Modi. This forty-one year old man keeps a mobile hospital unit rolling all the year around through the states of Mysore, Andhra, Madras, and Bombay -- an area covering about three hundred thousand square miles and containing upward of a hundred and fifty million people -- and his surgical skill is so celebrated that the prodigious number of eye operations he performs daily is reported in the papers in India much as baseball batting averages are reported in the papers here.

Dr. Modi, who got his medical degree from Bombay University in 1940, started his unique traveling practice in 1943, and has since examined some two million patients and performed some seventy thousand eye operations, mostly for cataracts. Hard as it is to believe, he is able, by dint of split-second scheduling, to perform between forty and fifty cataract operations an hour; his record for a single day is five hundred and ten cataracts removed within nine hours. He makes no charge for his work, which is paid for by the governments of the four states and by donations from various philanthropic organizations.

Dr. Modi is an honorary member of the Lion's Club and the Rotary Club in India, and greatly enjoys traveling because, he says, the world is a university and to tour it is an education. At present he travels widely, and, in his own country, he does curative work, providing those who need them with glasses frames sent from other countries, and distributing white canes to the blind. In two or three years he plans to found a medical center in Davangere, which is right in the middle of South India,where he can do research and give post graduate courses to younger men.

When he was asked why he didn't stay in one place and let his patients come to him he replied, "I had a private hospital in Bombay, and when I would inquire of my country patients how they met the expense of transportation to Bombay, they would say, 'I sold my house' or 'I had a cow and I sold it for bus fare.' I saw that I would have to go to them to keep them from selling everything they had."

There are, according to Dr. Modi, two million totally blind people in India and six million partially blind ones, most of them impoverished villagers. He and fifteen assistants travel constantly from village to village, trucking their equipment for examining patients and operating on them, plus a generator because there is rarely any electricity in these places.

"Cataracts are very common in India, as they are in all tropical countries; the ultraviolet rays of the sun are harmful to the lenses of our eyes." Dr. Modi said. "In May, I conducted an eye operation camp at Anantapur; I gave eighteen thousand consultations and performed seven hundred and eighty-seven operations, of which six hundred and ninety-six were for cataracts. Our little temporary hospitals must get results as your motor factories get results, by mass production."

Dr. Modi smiled. "I have, always wanted to be useful," he said. "I am not interested in religion; it is a walking stick, and once you have learned to walk, you have no need for a stick. Service to the suffering human body, which is the temple of God, is the best form of worshipping God. I take much pleasure in this service. I have a wife and son, who live in Dharwar, with my wife's father. It would be too hard on them to travel constantly from village to village, as I do. One can truly say that they, too, are making a sacrifice."

Condensed from THE NEW YORKER

July 27, 1959


VIGNETTE # 3: THOMAS A. DOOLEY

Thomas Anthony Dooley, born January 17, 1927, died January 18, 1961, was, from the beginning of his life, an individual full of self-confidence and the will to lead. He felt that he must be first, be best at anything he tackled. He was an intelligent, intense person who was described by his family as "all-out," with no half-way measures.

He loved music for which he had a gift, and languages, especially French, which was to serve him well in the last years of his life. He was a better than average musician, perhaps because of the intensity of his love for music, but he chose, very early in his life, to make medicine his career. Music, he said satisfied him, but medicine was a means of giving himself away to others. In 1948 he visited Lourdes which both repelled and fascinated him. It was his first experience with what Schweitzer called "the Fellowship of Pain." He knelt in meditation while there and wrote that the beauty of Lourdes was apparent while one was looking up, but one must look down, too.

In April, 1953, after receiving his M.D. from St. Louis University, he was appointed Lieutenant j.g., Medical Corps by the U.S. Navy. Later the same year he was ordered to Japan and the purpose of his life began to come into view. While in Japan he became deeply interested in the oriental mind, customs, and religions in an inclusive way without compromising his own faith. Later this attitude was to cause kings, presidents and statesmen to marvel at his inspiring role on the world scene, and to make him beloved by the masses of Southeast Asia.

He seemed to have been born with a passionate belief in the worth and dignity of every human being. In Laos, in his last years, Dr. Dooley would become angry when the people kow-towed before him on the roads or in the villages. "Don't worship me or anyone! Worship God! You're as good as I am! You're as good as anyone in the world!" he exploded at them.

Dooley took part, as a medical corpsman, in the evacuation of North Vietnam, which he later called "Passage-to Freedom." In spite of his horror at the condition of the refugees pouring in from the north he expressed himself as being strangely content. He worked with characteristic intensity for the ailing, exhausted, often apathetic people, describing himself in letters home as "not displeased with MY lot."

"I have to get it across to our sailors that these people are not a stinking mass of humanity, but a great people, distressed." He became so drawn to these suffering and desperately needy ones that all of his thought, his time, and his strength was dedicated to doing what he could for them. "It is so pitiful," he wrote, in speaking of their patience and valor; "you want to weep; they are so tender and fine and noble that you feel humble before these refugees."

Dr. Dooley was very unpopular among the Americans of Vientiane. They were critical of his ego, described as mountainous, his fanatical zeal, his flair for personal publicity. He was described as hyperthyroid by those who worked with him for he drove them without mercy in the hospital in Vang Vieng, set up for treating the natives. Brilliant in the intellectual sense, full of a charm which he could turn on and off at will, he had no patience with mediocrity, with unenlightened plodding. A tremendous driving desire to get things done made him use any situation or any person without compunction if such use furthered the cause for which he worked -- the bettering of the lot of the people of Vietnam and later Laos. When with his white friends and co-workers he was domineering, impatient and thoughtless a good deal of the time.

There were two Tom Dooleys, one entirely different from the other. The first was the one seen on the lecture platform, dramatic, charming, intense and magnetic. The other was the quiet, dedicated doctor who never spared himself in working for his patients. He felt that the hands that healed had to be "my hands" just as the pain or wound or sickness he treated was "my (the patient's) pain." Both were real; neither was an abstraction. His philosophy was a personal one -- individual to individual.

He said, ". . . . .we are learning that there is an intense and vivid joy that comes from serving others. The brotherhood of man transcends the sovereignty of nations, and service to humanity is the best work of life."

Condensed from AND PROMISED TO KEEP
by Agnes Wise Dooley


VIGNETTE # 4: PIER LUIGI NERVI

A striking development in the field of architecture is the use of reinforced concrete to replace steel for the construction of large buildings. A relatively new refinement of the use of concrete, in which cement mortar is sprayed on layers of fine steel mesh to form exceedingly strong and thin sheets (ferro-cemento) was invented by Pier Luigi Nervi.

In the past decade he has radically influenced the appearance of Italian architecture, and his structural ideas have been intently studied by builders all over the world.

For years, steel was almost invariably used for the skeletons of large buildings, but now reinforced concrete, a far more versatile and malleable material, is challenging the tyranny of the right angle. Curves are replacing rectangular lines in architectural designs, but in the absence of taste and the discipline of dignity and sound structure, the new and freer forms could very well lead to architectural chaos.

Nervi has used concrete to produce curvilinear buildings that are sound structurally, suited to their purpose, and "ageless" in their profound air of classic elegance. He regards himself as an engineer of construction; his main interest is the fundamental laws of stress, geometry, and economy in the use of materials.

Nonetheless he produces structures that are not only enchanting to the eye, but authoritative in the sense that one cannot imagine their being altered in the slightest degree without damage to their intrinsic grace of proportion. Nearly all these structures are curvilinear, if not circular, and most of them employ the dome, transmuted by Nervi into lacy designs of astounding grace and breathtaking span.

Nowhere in his work does concrete seem unwieldy or massive, and nowhere is a concrete beam or arch an iota heavier than it needs to be in order to carry the stress imposed on it. His best edifices have the light structural daring and great tensile strength of a spider web.

In the presence of Nervi's buildings one is aware that a master of the mathematics of construction has expressed in them the poise that arises from attacking an object with exactly the right amount of power. They have qualities of serenity and beauty and are ornamental in themselves, because of the balance of the simple elements that compose them.

His philosophy is that architecture is basically a matter of engineering, and that great architecture has always been a triumph of that science, that beauty comes not from decoration but from structural coherence. The problems that interest him can be met with only in large edifices. He has concentrated on producing public buildings which are monumental and convey a feeling of power and dignity. They may force a reappraisal of architectural aims, since they proclaim the awesome thesis that a great edifice can be a thing of beauty and need not be ashamed of being just that. In any building, aesthetic perfection derives from technical perfection.

Not all these ideas are new in the thinking of contemporary architects, it is Nervi's application of them that is new and highly individual. As theories, they reflect the ideal of the Puritan virtues of economy and sound construction. His buildings have been erected on the basis of competitive bids, often with plans that seemed economically impractical until the finished product proved him right.

Nervi is by nature a puritan, and this expresses itself in his habits of life as well as in his architecture. He does not smoke, and he drinks wine frugally with his meals, which are light ones. His appearance and his talk are simple and unassuming; he thinks deeply before expressing himself in words. His words are few, unadorned, and to the point, giving the impression of a mind too preoccupied with creative ideas to indulge in needless dialogue.

Nevertheless there is no severity about him; he is warm and cordial and his great reputation has given him warm professional acquaintance with architects all over the world. He has few close friends, and leads almost no social life; his preoccupation with his work does not permit it, and he prefers things that way.

He has been happily married for thirty-five years and his wife is an intelligent North Italian woman, with whom he discusses everything. They have four sons and several grandchildren; three of his sons are architects and engineers with the firm, and the fourth a physician.

Their home is an apartment in the same building as his office, which they have occupied for twenty-seven years. It is furnished simply and comfortably without pretensions of any self-conscious style. The first thing one notices is a renaissance crucifix, and the pictures on the walls are of saints and Madonnas. They are religious, although he is more concerned with the spirit of Christianity than with its forms.

Contemporary literature holds little or no interest for him; his taste runs to poetry and history. A fine record-player and a large collection of recordings testify to his liking for music. He is a fervent devotee of music, and his favorite composer is Richard Wagner. This may seem incongruous in a man who is in other aspects classically Italian and dedicated to technology, but Wagner was one of the greatest engineers the art of music has ever produced, and the long eloquent spans of "Tristan" might easily be thought of as the musical equivalent of Nervi's domes.

His formidable reputation came late in his life; it started in 1949 with his erection of the Turbin Exhibition Hall, the first building in the world to use Ferro-cemento and the first time he aimed at conscious architectural elegance as well as functional engineering. As usual, he won the contract by under-bidding his competitors; it took eight months to build, and when it was finished architects everywhere acclaimed it as a remarkable feat.

It demonstrates the ultimate flexibility and strength under stress that concrete is capable of, and has the sort of beauty derived from exactly calculated tensions and the sweep of material pushed to its maximum elasticity and delicacy. His building designs are dictated both by functional and aesthetic considerations. Some of them are, the UNESCO auditorium in Paris, the Pirelli sky-scraper in Milan and the Pallazzetto dello Sport in Rome.

Condensed from the NEW YORKER 1960


VIGNETTE # 5: KARL MARX

Karl Marx was born in Trier, Germany, in 1818. His family, a prosperous one of Jewish origins, became Christians before his birth. Marx the man, was dark-skinned with deep-set, flashing eyes. He was stocky in build, powerful, and somewhat formidable, with complete disregard for his appearance which was always untidy, and for the conditions under which he lived, which were usually slovenly. But within this outwardly careless man was a scholarly and meticulous mind which surprised and delighted many of those who took the time to converse with him.

Marx's public personality was rebellious and impatient, and although he was capable of great love and friendship as well as personal sacrifice, these were displayed only in the narrow circles of his family and his immediate political following. He was a German whose English speech was always guttural, even after twenty years of practice, but his mind was occupied with something other than language -- the changing economic structure of Europe and the sad plight of the working classes. He had no pride of race or nationality, but considered himself a European. He was a radical democrat who had no respect for the will of the unenlightened majorities, a fierce individualist who would become apoplectic at the notion of party discipline or of loyalty to anything but his own creative insights. He had a passionate sense of social injustice which burns in everything he wrote. Absolutely incorruptible, he was sustained by a sense of his own moral righteousness,

Just before the birth of Karl Marx the isolated markets of the Middle ages had begun to lock fingers under the impetus of exploration and political unification, and a new commercial world was being born. The age of lords and vassals was part of the past, there was an aristocracy of merchants coming into being, and economic life was changing its form. The feudal lord fought the merchant, the guild master despised the young capitalist, and no one at all considered the factory hand, the worker -- except Karl Marx and his ilk.

He was a furious man, a man fired with a passionate ideal to eliminate the social inequalities, the poverty, and the injustices of his time. Had Marx not lived, there would have been other socialists and other prophets of a new society, for "Marxist" ideas belong in the great line of economic viewpoints which have successively clarified, illuminated, and interpreted the world for us, and like other great ideas appearing in the forward movement of humanity, they are not without flaw nor devoid of merit.

Marx considered himself an economist and a philosopher and as such predicted that capitalism must inevitably collapse, and on that "scientific" prognostication communism has built its edifice. Misunderstood by his contemporaries, Marx and his family passed their lives in the most miserable poverty, two of his five children dying from the results of malnutrition. At times he could not go out to seek work because his coat and even his shoes had been pawned, but he never gave up the fight.

In his final days at the age of sixty-five, weary to death of the bickering of the working-class movement and of his own apparent failure, he remarked to his close friend, Engel, "I am not a Marxist." He died on a March afternoon, having never thought of a government formed upon his ideas, and having never looked in the direction of Russia.

Summarized from THE WORLDLY PHILOSOPHERS, by Robert Heilbroner
and MARX AND THE MARXISTS, by Sidney Hook


VIGNETTE # 6: GEORGE BERNARD SHAW

Bernard Shaw's Hartfordshire house, a commonplace, tasteless, late Victorian building, was a working place, where he could be quiet, and see his friends when so disposed, and where no one in the village took any interest in him. There he lived without identifying himself with his surroundings.

Detachment was the secret not only of his character, but of his plays. He did not live in that dull house, except for bodily necessities; likewise, he attached himself to no possessions, not even to his plays, for they are the works of a completely detached mind. He lived in his imagination. All he did was an expression of this detached being; his political and social activities, no less than his plays, all expressed a disinterested and free mind. It is not that he stood outside his plays and their characters. The true artist works from within himself: he starts with vision not with the outer object. He does not create a semblance of the world, but transfigures it. Instead of assembling what exists outside himself, finding in it pattern or meaning, he perceives an inner reality and presents it in the form of the world. To do this the artist must be detached, not involving himself in his surroundings or the material of his art, or even in himself.

With Shaw there was not merely the mask -- the deliberately created false personality, the public figure. He was as detached from his mask as he was from the rest of his surroundings. He never for one instant supposed that the mask was the man. Neither should we suppose that the mask was the plays; for his work was no mask -- it was the truth.

This detachment gave him throughout his life an insubstantial quality, of which everyone who knew him was conscious. It made him appear contradictory and unpredictable. He could not be pinned down or hurt, or damaged by even the fiercest attack or opposition, and appeared to elude capture even in an argument. In a sense he was never wholly there. Precise, detailed, and accurate as he proved to be in his public debates on the platform or in the press, he was never caught out. This often caused great annoyance. The conclusion is that the real Shaw was not the socialist, the egalitarian, the spelling reformer, nor the dramatist. He was an instrument, and his was an impersonal life.

This conscious non-identification, except with the mysterious self outside himself, was Shaw's outstanding characteristic, and as a dramatist puts him in a class by himself..... It explains why he was able to get his plays listened to -- witness his great fortune -- without accommodating himself to the taste or demands of the time. On no account would he disguise nor diminish the novelty of the truth that was in him. It was this essential disinterestedness that got him a hearing, despite the annoyance he aroused, for he was so clearly single-minded. Enemies called it egotism, but it was his singularity to be devoid of egotism: the egotist was the unreal mask. No one who looks upon himself as an instrument for what is beyond himself can be an egotist. He can only be a humble servant, as Shaw declared himself to be, "an amanuensis or an organ blower," he said. He was never anybody's man but a hand of that which he had no objection to being called Providence, or God. That is what put him at loggerheads with the established professionals of his day in science, philosophy, art and politics, even in the theatre, though less there than anywhere, and made his work unsettling for everyone, for what he said could not be laughed away, even amidst the laughter he aroused. Often he outraged people, but he was never offensive. "I am always shocked by what I write," he said in his old age. A Catholic critic has written of the artist as one who is guilty of rivalry with God, but to Shaw the artist was man as God would have him, obedient to the creative will.


A GUIDE TO THE PLAYS OF BERNARD SHAW

by C. B. Purdon c.1963 Thomas Y. Crowell Co, N.Y.

His major plays include:

THE DEVIL'S DISCIPLE written in 1896
CAESER AND CLEOPATRA " " 1899
CAPTAIN BRASSBOUND'S CONVERSION 1899
MAN AND SUPERMAN published 1903
MAJOR BARBARA produced 1905
THE DOCTOR'S DILEMMA " 1906
ANDROCLES AND THE LION " 1911
PYGMALION " 1912
HEARTBREAK HOUSE " 1920
BACK TO METHUSELAH " 1924
SAINT JOAN " 1924
COLUMBIA VIKING ENCYCLOPEDIA, 1960 edition

This early spate of work included some of the best music criticism ever written, by fairly general consent of the musical world; some of the best drama criticism ever written (absolutely the best theatrical criticism ever written in English); THE QUINTESSENCE OF IBSENISM, a pioneer book in its field; the editing of the classic FABIAN ESSAYS, to which he contributed two of the eight essays; activity as one of the chief proponents and founders of the Labour Party; and the composition of his first seven plays, two of which, YOU NEVER CAN TELL and CANDIDA, will, I believe, still be revived five hundred years from now to a chorus of criticism still explaining -- quite logically -- why they ought to be dead.

Shaw did all these things, and continued to live at this prodigious pace of work of all kinds for about another forty years, when he slowed down to a normal, full-time writer's life. What is also patent -- though often prejudicedly ignored -- is that, along with all these labors, he was consistently generous with time and money, considerate, utterly loyal.

Shaw is a talkative busy body, a nagging preacher, a would-be encyclopedist; he has a faint smell of soap and water, of Jaeger woolens, of Right Living..... One can, if one chooses (which is the root of the matter), stop there. Others, myself included, see these facts as the mortal manifestations of a demi-urge, a titanic being so huge, so insistent, so demonic, that he frequently overrode human practices of work and dedication. The basic discomfort for us with Shaw is not the usual pathos of genius, that he was ahead of his time, but that he seems to have come from another planet: that he viewed the human race with incisive perception but a bit clinically; that, in addition and in contrast to his myriad immediate activities, he had a disquieting long-range historical view.

But what is evident..... is the unleashing of a multitude of forces, the birth of a heroic figure who worked steadily, but who also soared and gamboled, who saw life as a totally consuming, inescapably amusing but nevertheless holy game. Even on this side of our century's cataclysms, we can feel the force of his being; we can feel that, if our connection with his views and art is no longer completely contiguous, yet the fact that such a man really existed is a subtle source of strength.

The link between genius and extraordinary energy has never been more notable than in his case.

From a review of BECOMING BERNARD SHAW in THE NEW REPUBLIC magazine, 11-27-1965


GLOSSARY

MANASAPUTRAS - The 'Sons of Mind': a compound of manas - the adjectival form of manas - mind, and putra - son. The Manasaputras are those Dhyan-Chohans whose work is to awaken the thinking power of man. They entered into the undeveloped minds of humans of the Third Root-Race of the Fourth Round, in order to awaken the unevolved powers of self-consciousness and of mind.
 


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