83 QUESTION: In the last lecture [Lecture #82 The Conquest of Duality Symbolized in the Life and Death of Jesus] we learned that it is important for us to face death in order to live fully. There is, at present, great publicity given to the trial of Adolf Eichmann. My questions are: One, can we, and should we, try to face the death of these millions of unfortunates in order to learn something for ourselves individually? Two, is it healthy to revive an era of death and destruction? Three, can any positive lesson be learned by mankind through reviving this?
ANSWER: Answering first the question: can any lesson be learned about life and death, or any other topic for that matter? That depends entirely on you, the individual, whether or not you can or want to learn a lesson. But as to the lesson of death, I venture to say that every individual has to go through that personally, whether it be actual physical death, or the many little everyday dyings I discussed recently.
I think it would be very dangerous to assume that one person can learn through the tragedy of another in this particular sense. It would be dangerous because it would make for a smugness in that individual, which could possibly wind up in passive, or eventually even in active, cruelty. Such a person might condone cruelty in an insidious and subtle way. Certain things one can learn only by going through them oneself.
There are other ways in which one could, at least theoretically, learn through other people’s experiences, if one is open. However, experience shows that most individuals have to learn their own lessons through their own mistakes, not by the mistakes that others make, and not by the experiences others have.
If in isolated cases this does occur, all the better. But there is no general law that can proclaim one particular happening as more conducive to learn from than another. Theoretically, one could learn from any occurrence in life. Mostly it is easier to learn a lesson from one’s own tiny insignificant disappointments than from another person’s tragedy.
As to the second question, my dear friends, I cannot answer that with a Yes or a No. Again it depends on the individual. A positive lesson could be learned by individuals, as well as by humanity in general, if they recall this era of destruction and cruelty. And a negative lesson could also be learned through it. By the same token, a positive as well as a negative lesson could be learned by not reviving it. There is no Yes or No. There is no pat answer to either of these two alternatives.
As long as people are governed mostly by vindictiveness, by hatred and by revenge, and these emotions remain predominant, there will be no lesson. If, on the other hand, the main motivations are truly and genuinely more constructive than destructive – not only proclaimed, but truly felt – the lesson will be a positive one. On the other hand, not reviving it could also happen out of negative motives, such as cowardice, fear, indifference, opportunism, resignation. This would then be a negative lesson.
Not reviving it could as well come out of a true wisdom that knows that the laws of the Divine World take care of everything. But this certainly does not mean that criminals should not suffer the consequences. The approach of taking it upon oneself to punish another human being is a very different one from the approach of making further cruelty impossible, while healing criminals of their disease – if they are at all willing to accept the necessary help.