READER, WE have followed the sorry tale through to its end. We have seen one of the two great streams of history lose itself in a swamp of misery and abject brutishness. We may now return to that point where I first realized an inconsistency in my experience of man’s career, where, in fact, the torrent of history was already dividing. This was the point at which the Tibetan revolution had been successfully brought off by the Young Lamas. Under their guidance the new Tibetan state was already becoming a thing of splendid achievement and more splendid promise.
I had already noticed among the Tibetans two very different tempers. Sometimes the one had dominated, sometimes the other. In the one mood the leaders of the new society faced their task with sober fortitude and a clear understanding that only by a miracle could they preserve the new order against the hostility of the two great empires. In the other mood these same leaders, though they fully realized the difficulties and dangers, were buoyed up by a seemingly irrational and almost boisterous hopefulness, nay a certainty of victory. Though they recognized that only a miracle could save Tibet and perhaps the whole species, they also knew, so long as the mood of exaltation was on them, that the miracle had already happened in themselves, and that it could be made to happen in the whole Tibetan people. By now the Tibetan people had supreme confidence in their leaders. Even the dullards, who could not appreciate at all clearly the aim of the new society, felt vaguely that they were sharing in a glorious enterprise.
The first sign of inconsistency in my experience was a strange sense that this miraculous hopefulness both dominated and did not dominate the whole life of the people. Then inconsistencies of external events began to appear, so that little by little my torn mind was forced to live in two mutually exclusive worlds.
This duality of temper, followed by a duality of external events, soon made itself evident beyond the frontiers of Tibet. The progressive minority in all lands was dominated and was not dominated by a new, defiant, and gay confidence. Each mood produced everywhere its effect on action; but it was in Tibet that hope first triumphed, and it was Tibet’s miraculous success that inspired the rest of the world.
It was in connection with the synthetic faith propagated in Russia and China that the Tibetans gained their first important success. The calculated appeal to man’s baser nature, it will be remembered, had been propagated in order to defeat the Tibetan missionaries. In the story that I have already told it succeeded; in the story that I shall now tell it failed. The Tibetan missionaries in their mood of bright confidence disconcerted the imperial governments by laughing the new movement into frustration. For a sham faith cannot stand ridicule. The symbols and slogans of the religion of pain were ridiculed and parodied on every wall. By skilful heckling the meetings organized by the dervishes were given a tilt towards farce. But this was not all. Many a missionary bore witness to his own faith by unflinching behaviour under torture. For the governments were at first eager to ‘make an exhibition’ of them, until it was clear that every public martyrdom merely spread the Tibetan faith. The missionaries were trained both in spiritual discipline and in the technique of advertisement. The symbols and slogans of their faith were made to appear in every public place, often superimposed on the emblems of the synthetic faith. The propaganda meetings organized by the dervishes were often frustrated by some obscure member of the audience who challenged the speaker to compete with him in an ordeal by torture. According to the synthetic faith, it will be remembered, the supreme ecstasy was to be experienced under torture. The challenger would suggest to the dervish that they should both, in public and at once, inflict severe pain on themselves, or be tortured by a third party. The mere challenge was often enough to expose the impostor. But when dervishes who had been specially chosen and handsomely paid for their ability to endure pain undertook to prove their faith under torture, it soon appeared that the missionaries could draw upon some source of strength inaccessible to hired martyrs. The missionary could allow his flesh to be torn or crushed to a far greater extent, and in doing so he made no false claim that he enjoyed it. Though he rejoiced in the opportunity to bear witness to his faith through pain, he took no delight, he said, in pain itself. The dervish, on the other hand, would make agonized protestations of delight, until suddenly, and sooner than his rival, he called out for release. The governments did, indeed, gain a temporary success by sending out dervishes who had been specially prepared for the inevitable ordeal by having an arm permanently anaesthetized. But it was not long before the trick was exposed. The next move by the imperialists was to organize ‘spontaneous’ lynchings of those who dared to challenge the dervishes. But this policy also was defeated, partly by the courage of the missionaries, partly by highly trained crowd-controllers who by shrewd interjections often succeeded in turning the temper of the mob from sadism to kindliness.
The source of the courage of the missionaries was, of course, their faith in the spirit. But courage alone might not have achieved so swift and complete a discomfiture of the synthetic faith had it not been reinforced by a sly and friendly ridicule. There was nothing new in the method of the missionaries; but never before had it been used on such a scale and with such expert psychological understanding. And never before had those who used these methods been the emissaries of an established Utopian society preparing to fight for its life.
The success of the missionaries certainly did not depend wholly on their powers of enduring pain. They constituted a great army of ‘fifth-columnists’ disseminated throughout the imperial territories, secretly inspiring the people with dangerous political and social thoughts. The original Tibetan missionaries were reinforced by a great company of native missionaries in every country. Altogether there were millions of them, and each one was a travelling spark of the new fire. Under this influence men’s desiccated hearts were tinder. Most of the missionaries worked at some trade in the lower or middle reaches of society, and were at pains to earn the respect and love of their fellow workers for their efficiency, integrity, and loyal comradeship. Armed with this personal prestige, they were able to capture the allegiance and fire the imagination of all who were not yet hopelessly perverted; and to build up little by little a great body of servants of the light in every land. Their method combined that of the religious missionary with that of the social revolutionary. On the one hand, though they showed no insistence on any metaphysical doctrine, they preached the inner light, and manifested it in action. On the other, though they avoided the subtle Machiavellian intrigues which had been used by so many revolutionaries in the past, they entered into political disputes and declared, often at the cost of their lives, that the time had come to withhold from Caesar the things that were Caesar’s. Of the universe, as a whole, they said, man knows next to nothing; but in our hearts we find that in right personal relation man fulfils himself. Love, they said, and wisdom are right absolutely. True community of mutually respecting individuals, and also fearless free intelligence and imagination, are right absolutely. And we all knew it. There is one intrinsic good, they said, and one only, the awakened life, the life of love and wisdom. This is the sacred thing which all developed beings throughout the universe cannot but will, unless they have been blinded. This spirit, they said, is in the long run all-powerful in the affairs of conscious beings. But the run may be very long. And what the scope of that spirit is in the whole of things no man can know, nor needs to know.
The world-wide missionary effort would have been far less effective if the missionaries had not been able to point to the example of Tibet’s actual achievement. ‘In Tibet the police are few and unarmed,’ they said. ‘In Tibet no doors need be locked. In Tibet no one feels any need of the debauch of cruelty. We have neither rich nor poor. Our prisons have been destroyed or turned into laboratories and art galleries. We know how to live, and we have the means.’ Visitors to Tibet were welcomed and could see for themselves that these claims were true. At last the imperial governments adopted drastic measures. Realizing that ‘the roof of the world’ was becoming a Mecca where the seditious gathered to study and plan revolution, they forbade all travel to Tibet, and made a great effort to round up and destroy all the missionaries. But intercourse with Tibet continued. In spite of all restrictions, hosts of daring enthusiasts managed to slip through into ‘the fortunate country’ for mental and spiritual fortification; and to slip out again to spread the gospel. And the stream of native Tibetan missionaries was restricted not by the imperial attempt to put an end to it but by the needs of the home country to organize a desperate military defence.
At last war came. I have told how, in the theme of darkness it resulted in the destruction of man’s most promising society. In the theme of light the issue was far otherwise. Not only had the empires been effectively undermined by the missionaries, so that rebellions were frequent; more important was the fact that the servants of the light in all countries, and specially in Tibet, were armed with an inner certainty of victory. As in the darker theme, the Tibetan frontier was defended by microbes which reduced the invaders to infantilism. But whereas in the dark theme the respite thus secured was used merely for strengthening the defence, in the theme of the triumphing light it was turned into an opportunity for attack. Against all probability, the small but highly trained and highly mechanized Tibetan army, supported by its small but well-appointed air force, pushed forward into the imperial territory of Kashmir. There it attacked before the Russians had had time to recover from the effects of the microbe, and it gained a surprising victory. The Russian imperialists hastily concentrated vast new armies and air forces upon the invaders; but owing to a combination of inefficiency, corruption, and above all half-heartedness and positive disloyalty the imperial armies put up a feeble resistance, and were presently retreating in disorder, closely pursued by the Tibetans, and constantly attacked by the natives themselves. Organized revolt had of course broken out in Kashmir, and the imperialists’ defeat ensured its success. The whole of this mountainous land was soon freed. A temporary government was set up by the Kashmiri servants of the light, and the new state formed a close alliance with Tibet.
The moral effect of this surprising victory was immense. In Russia itself, particularly in Moscow, there was serious disorder. An army which was ordered to proceed to the recovery of the lost territory, was incapacitated by mutiny. Meanwhile the whole mountainous tract stretching from Kashmir through Afghanistan, Persia, and Turkey to the Aegean Sea rose against the oppressors. In Greece, in Britain, and in Scandinavia isolated rebellions were started. To the north of Tibet, Sinkiang and the more mountainous part of Outer Mongolia overcame the local imperial forces. Meanwhile the main Tibetan land and air armament, far from resting on their success, were hurried from the western to the eastern end of the country where the Chinese, a much more formidable enemy, were heavily bombing Lhasa and the whole comparatively rich eastern part of Tibet.
It was desperately important for the Tibetans to secure at once some positive and spectacular success against the Chinese Empire, so as to start in China also that process of galloping decay which was already at work in the rival empire. The people of eastern Tibet were able to retire to their deep shelters, prepared long before the war, and to escape the destruction which now fell upon their cities, their herds, their precious irrigation system. It now appeared that the government, convinced many years ago of the inevitability of war, had established a great number of underground munition factories. But the attack was too heavy to be endured for long without the crippling of the Tibetan resistance. The method of surprise, which had succeeded so well in Kashmir, was impossible against the Chinese imperialists, for they had concentrated an immense force in Chwanben. The efficiency of this army was beyond question. Its loyalty to its imperial master had never been tested. After much discussion the Tibetan leaders decided that there was nothing for it but to court disaster and hope for a miracle. Or rather, divinely confident of victory, they saw that the only way to it was the way of inspired foolhardiness. The Tibetan air force, though heavily outnumbered, proved far more resourceful and skilful than the Chinese, and their courage was fanatical. They did their utmost to destroy the enemy aerodromes. They dropped bombs and the microbes of infantilism on the advancing army in Chwanben. They scattered leaflets on the great industrial centres. At the same time the Tibetan land forces put up a desperate defence upon the frontier.
There is no need to give details of the fighting. At one time it seemed that resistance had broken, yet the Tibetan leaders and fighters maintained their irrational confidence. ‘Hang on, hang on,’ it was said. ‘The tide will turn.’ And sure enough it did. The enemy’s attack began to weaken, both in the air and on land. Deserters, who came over in large numbers to the Tibetan side, told that the population of Chwanben had sacrificed itself in thousands so as to create confusion behind the lines. The spirit of the imperial army was changing from bored acceptance of this tiresome frontier war to whispering complaint and doubt. The air force was suffering from badly damaged professional pride. The Tibetan leaders judged that the moment had come for the great gamble. Instead of using the lull to recuperate and prepare to withstand the next blow, they threw the whole Tibetan strength into an attack which violated all the accepted principles of warfare. Though they were the weaker side, they flooded the whole of Chwanben with parachute troops, leaving Tibet almost undefended. The effect was as spectacular as the result of peppering a forest with incendiary bombs. Bewildered by the multitude of the parachutists, and never imagining that this move was the last effort of a beaten enemy, the Chinese troops fell into disorder. Some, of course, obeyed their officers and rounded up the aerial invaders, but many others rallied to the parachutists themselves. The whole of Chwanben fell into chaos. The minute remnant of the Tibetan land army advanced into Chwanben without meeting serious opposition. From the eastern heights of the province they looked down upon the hilly lowlands of Szechwan, amazed at their own success. Disorder now broke out all along the Yangtze Valley and spread to most of the great cities of China.
But the Chinese Empire was tougher than the Russian. The imperial air force bombed many of the revolting cities into submission. The routed imperial armies in the Yangtze Valley were rallied and stiffened with fresh troops. The rebels in the eastern part of Szechwan were overcome and massacred. The fantastic Tibetan advance was checked before Ichang.
The leaders of Tibet knew well that the peoples of China could not be freed unless the imperialists were everywhere attacked by their own subject population. This seemed at first likely to happen; but Chinese nationalism was a strong sentiment, and the rulers were able to make good use of it. The Tibetan leaders, though daring and even foolhardy when their daemon urged them forward, were also realists. Instead of trying to press on into the heart of China, they consolidated the positions they had gained, and waited. They also broadcast to the people of China, saying in effect, ‘We are not conquerors. We desire no empire. If you want freedom, rebel, and we will press on to help you. Otherwise we shall leave you alone. We shall merely defend those peoples whom we have already freed, and only if they wish us to help them.’ All this they said knowing that the Chinese rulers had an exaggerated idea of the Tibetan power, that they feared the complete destruction of their empire, and that they were in the mood to arrange a peace.
The imperialists believed that if they could stave off the immediate disintegration of their empire they could later gather all the resources of both empires to crush Tibet for ever. They therefore proposed a peace conference. The final settlement was one which left China itself almost intact. The Tibetans held plebiscites in their conquered territories, and respected the wish of the majority in Szechwan to remain within the imperial system. Chwanben, however, along with the rest of the great plateau of southern central Asia, including Afghanistan, chose to be free from the rule of the imperialists. The rebellions in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey had been crushed by the Russian forces. The freed peoples of Central Asia now formed a Mountain Federation, which was dominated by the Tibetans in virtue of their civilization and military prestige.
The effect of the war was from the political point of view by no means spectacular. It might even be represented as a kind of victory for the empires, since they recovered much territory that had at first been lost to the rebels. Moreover Tibet had been very seriously crippled from the air. Lhasa was destroyed. Most of the surface factories had been put out of action. A large proportion of Tibetan adult males had been killed in the fighting. On the imperial side the damage was very small in proportion to total population and resources. But psychologically the effect of the war was far-reaching. The empires, in spite of their traditional and inveterate hostility, had thought it worth while to combine to crush weak and ‘barbarian’ state which, it had seemed, could easily have been destroyed by either of them alone. Yet the mountain people had not only successfully defended themselves but had counter-attacked, and in the end it was the empires that sued for peace. In every country the imperialists, in spite of their loud rejoicing over their ‘victory’, were secretly dismayed; while their enemies gradually came to realize that the war had opened a new and hopeful chapter in the history of man. At the peace conference the Tibetans had firmly refused to agree to refrain from propaganda in imperial territories. Indeed they declared that they would do all in their power to support the struggle for freedom in every country, and that whenever opportunity offered they would assist rebellion so long as its aims seemed to them to spring from the will for the light. The mere fact that the empires were unable to alter these provisions showed how far their authority had been damaged.
The human race now settled down to a long period of armed peace, in which the Mountain Federation developed its defences, propagated its gospel, and strove to make its own social order a model for the future order of the world. The imperialists meanwhile prepared for the war in which Tibet and its satellites and their dangerous ideas must be extirpated. Peace, however, revived the rivalry of the imperial tyrannies. When a sudden rebellion broke out in the remote British Isles, and was supported by an attack by the Mountain Peoples against Russian forces in Iran, the Chinese government refrained from helping Russia by attacking Tibet from the east. This was a grave error, for Britain gained its independence, and Iran, Iraq, and Turkey joined the Federation. The economic resources of the Federation were still ridiculously small compared with those of the empires, whose sway covered all the rest of the earth save isolated Britain; but the prestige and moral authority of the Federation were ever increasing. The Russian Empire’s territories were now constantly in revolt. Chief offenders were India, so near to Tibet, and America, so remote from Moscow. It was clear to the Chinese rulers that the whole Russian system would soon collapse, if nothing was done to save it; and that its fragments would coalesce with the hated Federation. They therefore determined to seize what they could before it was too late. India was the obvious starting-point. They proposed to police the turbulent subcontinent for the Russian government, and they reinforced the offer with threats. Russia had no choice but to agree. The Chinese imperialists then flooded India with police, commercial agents, and propagandists. Rapidly they gained complete power, so that Russia’s relationship became one of theoretical and impotent suzerainty.
Further details need not be given of the process by which the whole Russian Empire was gradually annexed to China. The world now consisted of a mighty imperial system and a small federation of free peoples occupying a tract which was very largely mountain. Britain had failed to maintain itself against the more efficient imperial power.
In the imperial system the great majority of human beings were practically serfs, while in the free system all shared equally in the frugal prosperity of the whole federation, and there was ample individual freedom. The one was a gigantic police state, the other a co-operative venture of free men. In the one there was strict censorship, in the other complete freedom of expression. In the one the dominant mood was apathy, mutual suspicion, and neurotic vindictiveness; in the other buoyant confidence and unfailing mutual friendliness prevailed in spite of the constant external danger. It might have been expected that the need for watchfulness and unity would have forced the Tibetans to sacrifice freedom to military dictatorship, and would set up the kind of deterioration which external danger had long ago caused in revolutionary Russia. But the Tibetans were by now too sure of themselves and of each other to feel the need to restrict freedom. Their discipline was at bottom a thorough self-discipline, which, though it permitted unlimited discussion and criticism, freely and fervently accepted in the last resort the decision of the government. And treason was by now unthinkable.
The contrast between the two systems must not be overdrawn. Within the Empire was much that was good, much right personal relationship, much of true culture, much honest search for the way to a better world. But all this was crippled by the system and poisoned by the false assumptions on which the system was based. On the other hand in the Federation there was much that was thoroughly bad. The individual human beings who made up the freed peoples were themselves mostly pro-ducts of the bad old system. They could not at a stroke wipe out the mental damage that had been done to them. Save in Tibet, where the new order was by now well established, there was probably in men’s daily lives almost as much sheer self-seeking, downright meanness, insensitivity, cruelty, and stupidity as there was in the rest of the world. Sometimes the forces of darkness gained considerable power in some region of the Federation, and might threaten to dominate. In Turkey, for instance, a movement was started to gain special privilege for this wealthiest of the newly federated countries. There was a dangerous recrudescence of nationalism within the Federation. The ‘fifth column’ of the Empire did its best to use this opportunity for weakening its enemies. The imperial government even suggested secretly that imperial gold and armaments might help the Turks to gain their point. But this danger was turned to a new strength by the forbearance and tact of the federal government. By an overwhelming majority the Turks reaffirmed their loyalty.
The great difference between the Empire and the Federation was that, while in the one case human decency was damped down by a false social system and moral tradition, in the other it was immensely strengthened by the new institutions and the steady dominance of the will for the light. In the one case the average frail but potentially humane individual was nearly always corrupted by a debasing environment, while in the other he was constantly supported in a higher range of integrity and intelligence than would otherwise have been possible to him.
For several decades the world remained divided between the Empire and the Federation. More than once in this period the Empire made ready to crush the Federation; but, as zero hour approached, unrest within the Empire itself strangely increased to such a pitch that at the critical moment serious rebellions, generally in Britain or America or China itself, made attack impossible. Throughout these decades the government of the Federation concentrated on defence and social development. For defence it relied partly on its mountains, but mainly on a great air force, built at heavy cost of luxury and comfort. Economic resources were meagre. A modest supply of oil was still produced in the western territory of the Federation. Water-power was developed to the utmost. Gold was assiduously sifted from the river-beds and mined in the mountains for the purchase of urgently needed foreign goods. Agriculture and pasture were the main occupations throughout the territory, apart from the manufacture of munitions and planes. The manner of life of the Free Peoples had perforce to be very simple, but it was adequate to health and fullness of mentality, and the standard was the same for all.
Throughout these decades the Mountain government continued its propaganda in every part of the Empire, and kept its frontiers open to all political refugees who were able to pass an expert psychological examination for sincerity. After a month of this careful observation they were given citizenship. Many fugitives from imperial tyranny were caught before they reached the frontier, but a steady trickle of immigration from every part of the world crept in through the coastal cities of Asia Minor, the passes of the Caucasus, the Caspian Sea, from far-eastern Nan Shan, along the valleys of Chwanben, over the Himalayan passes, and through the ports on the Persian Gulf. Thus little by little the Federated Peoples were impregnated with new blood, new skills, and new elements of culture. This influx of refugees caused a serious food problem, but in spite of protests from short-sighted critics the Federal Government insisted on welcoming the new-comers. Intensive cultivation and new development of earthless agriculture alleviated the problem.
At last the long period of armed peace came to an end. Propaganda for the light was rapidly gaining ground throughout the Empire. The imperialists decided that at all costs they must destroy their enemy at once. For some years they prepared in secret, while trying to persuade the Free Peoples of their increasing friendliness. Then suddenly they flung their whole armament into a double attack, from north to south, to cut the Federation in two between Afghanistan and Kashmir. With clouds of planes and swarms of mountain tanks the imperial armament pressed up among the hills. Behind the attacking forces came ‘supporting’ forces whose office it was to bombard the attackers should they show any signs of wavering. The Federation defended itself desperately, but the pincer movement of the enemy succeeded in cutting the Federal territory in two. Not long afterwards the richer and more vulnerable western half of the Federation collapsed. Tibet, with Kashmir and Chwanben, was once more alone against the world, a world more effectively organized than that which they had formerly opposed. Moreover their own economy was gravely mutilated by the loss of the western lands, which had been well integrated with the eastern districts. Tibet had become largely dependent on the more industrial West. But once more the Tibetans rose to strange irrational and almost hilarious confidence. Aided by their mountains and their microbes, they held the frontiers intact. Air bombardment once more blasted their homes and factories and reservoirs. Yet Tibetan life continued. Still the yak browsed, the crops were tended, save where lack of water had ruined them. Food was strictly rationed. No one had enough, but none actually starved. The whole population of Tibet, Kashmir, and Chwanben was united in the will to resist. ‘If we hang on long enough,’ they said, ‘the tide will surely turn.’ They were right.
Throughout the world the rumour spread that the whole strength of the World Empire could not subdue these mountain peoples. Their example encouraged the servants of the light in every land to organize a crop of well-correlated rebellions, of which the most important was in China itself. With surprising suddenness the imperial power throughout Asia and Europe collapsed, giving place to a medley of unstable independent local states, some genuinely of the light, some merely ostensibly so, some frankly nationalist and blind. For a while the imperialists retained their hold on China, America, and South Africa, but in time these also were lost to them.
The world was in chaos. Already minor wars were breaking out in China and Europe. Already little leaders were seeking a foothold on the ladder to power. The Mountain Federation was at once re-formed, and the Federal Government issued an appeal to the peoples of the world, urging a world-wide federation. The forces of the light in every country worked strongly for the new order. There was a short period of civil wars and interstate wars. But behind the backs of these struggles, so to speak, the new world order was steadily ramifying. World-wide commissions for transport, health, postal services, the regulation of industrial disputes, and so on, were gradually forming into a vast network of cosmopolitan organization. Even states at war generally respected this incipient supranational organization, and it was common for enemies to co-operate with one another in the spheres of health, industrial, and agricultural organization. But mere commissions could not prevent wars from occurring. Potentially hostile states would not surrender to any mere committee their control of aeroplanes and tanks. And because they would not do this, and because in many of the new states the new ruling class, though ostensibly loyal to the light, was in fact a power-seeking oligarchy, predatory towards other states and its own subject population, economic rivalry often produced the bitter fruit of war.
But though it seemed at first that in breaking the World Empire mankind had merely exchanged one evil condition for another, the period of chaos was brief. One by one the peoples of the world joined the new ‘Federation of the Light’. Within a couple of decades the whole planet was brought within the new order, which then was solemnly renamed the Federation of Mankind.
The preamble to the constitution of the new world organization became one of the most cherished scriptures of the human race. It was based on the appeal which the Tibetans had issued after the downfall of the world empire, and it had been developed little by little in subsequent years by the best minds of all countries; so that in its final form it was truly co-operative and anonymous. I now remember and will quote some garbled fragments of it.
‘We, inhabitants of every land, intelligences of the planet Earth, having overthrown a world-wide tyranny, having abolished a world-wide darkness of the spirit, now, through our chosen representatives, pledge ourselves to the light. We acknowledge that the high goal of all the lives of men is to awaken themselves and one another to love and wisdom and creative power, in service of the spirit. Of the universe we know very little; but in our hearts we know certainly that for all beings of human stature this is the way of life. In service of the spirit, therefore, we the human inhabitants of this planet, unite in a new order, in which every human being, no matter how lowly his nature, shall be treated with respect as a vessel of the spirit, shall be given every possible aid from infancy onwards to express whatever power is in him for bodily and mental prowess, for his own delight and for service of the common life. We resolve that in future none shall be crippled in body or perverted in mind by unwholesome conditions. For this end we declare that in future no powerful individual or class or nation shall have the means, economic or military, to control the lives of men for private gain.’
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:54