BLTC Press Titles

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Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett

The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois

Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)

The Secret Doctrine, Volume II Anthropogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

Natural selection and spiritual freedom

by Joseph John Murphy



It is the merest commonplace, that the age in which we live is an age of unusually rapid historical change ; and, in the most obvious sense, it is evidently true. But, like many other true sayings, it is generally so understood as to be in effect a fallacy. The changes that astonish us with their rapidity are conspicuous because they are superficial; but if we look deep enough, we shall see that those more important changes which are deeply seated and therefore comparatively inconspicuous, are not proceeding with more activity in the present age than in the previous centuries.

The changes which are so conspicuous at the present time are chiefly in the industrial arts; the improvements in those arts, which began with the invention of the steam-engine towards the end of the eighteenth century, have revolutionised industry, trade, and travel, and, in a great degree, the external ways of human life; to them is due the building of the vast cities of the modern world and the rapid xv1 Historical Progress.

spread of the European races over remote continents. If visibility were the true measure of importance, the century which is now drawing to its close would be, beyond all comparison, the richest in change and progress of all the centuries that have passed since history began to be written.

But if we look deeper; if we endeavour to estimate the changes which have occurred, not only in the surroundings of men, but in the men themselves ;—the increase of knowledge, and the changes in those beliefs, sentiments, and ideals, which constitute character ; — we shall arrive at a different result; we shall see that these profounder changes have been proceeding, with no manifest difference in rapidity, ever since the beginning of the modern history of Europe four hundred years ago.

I do not assert that this is a general fact, or anything approaching to a law of nature. Sir Henry Maine may probably be right in saying that with mankind on the whole, stagnation is the rule and progress the exception. The common idea about the changclessness of the East may be true, although the rise of Mohammedanism was one of the greatest and most rapid revolutions that history records; and it may also be true that the mind of man stood still during what were formerly called the dark ages—that is to say, the period from the close of the barbarian invasions which destroyed the Koman Empire, to the rise of medieval civilisation. But what are properly called the middle ages were a period of change and Europe four hundred years ago. xvii

progress; and during the entire period of four hundred years that has passed since the beginning, towards the close of the fifteenth century, of what is properly modern history, that invisible progress of the intellect which underlies visible progress, has proceeded, so far as the rapidity of such a process admits of being estimated, as rapidly as it is proceeding now.

To make this evident, let us consider what was the state of the European world immediately before the discovery of America in the year 1492—an event which may be fairly regarded as the commencement of modern history. At that time, the greater part of the globe had never been visited by Europeans ; and the existence of North and South America, of Oceania, and of the ocean route to India, was unknown. Astronomy was as the ancients had left it, and the earth was regarded as the centre of the universe. The fundamental conceptions of our modern physical science had not been formed; the foundation of physiology had not been laid, and it appears probable that medical and surgical practice had retrograded since the time of the Roman Empire. The Renaissance was only dawning, and the intellectual glories of Elizabethan England were in the future; the Papal and the Feudal systems remained unbroken; the religious revolt of the Reformation, and the political revolt of the French Revolution, were not imagined. The Divine right of kings remained uncjuestioned; and the enforcement of xviii Progress is not

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