THE WAY OF UNDERSTANDING
I tell you any more horrors, I want to assure you now that out of those
horrors will come a beauty such as the world has not known during this cycle
It will not come at once, for many adjustments will have to be
made; but the way is open already for those who choose to walk in it.
It is a curious commentary on unregenerate humanity, this war in
which each side declares loudly its own righteousness and execrates its
opponent. As in all quarrels, there is more wrong on one side than on the
other; but the side which triumphs—and it will be the side that has least
wrong—will have to understand and to forgive its enemy before it can go
forward to its own great future.
Though international organizations have
failed for the time being, I am not discouraged about international
organizations. They were merely shocked into failure, the peace people, the
socialists, and others who make far higher claims to the ideal of universal
Even now, during the stress of the conflict, go out yourself in
thought and in love to that nation which you feel to be your enemy. Try to
understand it. And do not try to understand it by telling yourself that it
is evil. That is not understanding. There is evil in all men. Try to
understand it by becoming it, for the time. Put yourself in its place; feel
as you would feel if you stood alone—even though by your own fault—with the
whole world against you.
You draw back a little with the thought that you could not have
placed yourself in a position where the world for its own protection would
be obliged to range itself against you. But are you sure?
By entering the consciousness of that nation you are
placing yourself in such a position, and I tell you to do it temporarily, in
order that you may be a centre, a beginning, an infinitesimal part of that
international comprehension and pardon which must become general to a degree
before the long-heralded and always misunderstood Universal Brotherhood can
even begin to find room for itself in this unbrotherly world.
If all those aggregations of people who
have long believed that they stood for this ideal would now try to make
peace with one another, if they would acknowledge the ideals of one another,
however much the working-plans of those ideals may differ, a force could
even now be set in motion that would shorten this war and lessen the number
of those who must die for their conflicting ideals of national honor and
In the reaction from hate to love, in the reaction from
criticism to understanding that will follow a formal declaration of peace,
all those quarreling spiritual organizations may if they will, begin
to work harmoniously. If their members cannot bring themselves, because of
their narrow pride and the memory of all the harsh things which they have
said against one another in the past—if they are too meanly afraid of eating
their words, publicly to acknowledge one another as brethren, let them begin
to feel thus in their hearts. Perhaps in time the greater courage will come,
and some daring leader will say to his flock that those with whom they once
worked, with trust and the profession of love, may be trying,
according to their lights, to serve the ideal.
I do not know that any further elaboration of this idea would
make it any clearer to you, and these remarks are only an interlude, a
relief, in the tension of the story which I have to tell you.