Excerpts from The Road Ahead
How will you and your family and friends fare in the years to come? Will you continue to eat well? to drive your own cars? to own your own homes? Will you still be able to vote in free elections? to choose your own line of work? to live and travel where you please? Are world wars now a thing of the past? Is mankind moving toward greater plenty, security, and social justice?
Or are we in a tailspin toward hunger, poverty, political slavery, global destruction and chaos?
If ever there was a time when the future of the human race was in doubt, it is now. Man’s sophistication in the techniques of destruction seems hardly to be outdistancing his willingness to destroy himself. Numerous scientists have stated that we are fast approaching a time of such over-population that our planet simply won’t be able to produce enough food to feed everyone; that within a very few years–quite possibly in the present decade–millions will starve to death, or be killed in global wars as nations strive to exploit the available food supplies. More and more reputable economists are predicting world-wide depression. Dwindling sources of energy threaten dire shortages of many of the prime necessities of modern life.
Whatever the future holds in store for us, one thing is certain: We may look forward to sweeping changes in our lives in the years to come.
Forewarned Is Forearmed
To try to pierce the veil and peer ahead in time is not always, as people often claim, utterly futile. Present signs often point at least to probable future developments. And especially in critical and insecure times such as these, it behooves us to do what we can to plan ahead intelligently. During other periods of great change in history there have always been men and women of foresight who managed to ride the storms to new heights of success, while others were crushed and broken by calamities for which they were totally unprepared.
Yet common sense was seldom the only guideline of those fortunate few. Many of them were led by a sort of sixth sense, an inner certainty of impending developments. It is as though, in times of widespread need, inspirations were sent to man from higher, spiritual realms: silent suggestions which a few sensitive people have been inwardly attuned to receive.
And not people only. Consider how often animals seem to know in advance when an exceptionally cold winter is due, or famine, or a record flood. Animals generally have been known to prepare for disasters of which human beings had no premonition. The squirrels have laid in larger stores of acorns; the beavers have built dams to higher levels.
When the time comes for new strides in civilization, too, more than one person often “chances” on the same discovery at the same time. It is as though the idea had been put into the atmosphere for all men to receive it who were prepared to do so. Paramhansa Yogananda, the great master of yoga and spiritual teacher from India, wrote that scientists are inspired by God to discover, at the right time and place, the secrets of His creation
Warnings and Promises
In every age, there have been a few saintly persons who were especially attuned to the subtle messages of inner, divine guidance. Especially in times of great danger to humanity, these persons have often raised their voices publicly in prophetic warning. Whoever heeded them was spared many of the affliction suffered by other men.
Our present age would seem to be such a time. Great seers have raised their voices to speak of coming calamities. At the same time, however, they have claimed to be able to see through the tunnel of approaching darkness to a landscape brighter and more beautiful than any in mankind’s present memory. The trials they predict are, they say, a preparation for a better world, a necessary purification, and not merely a punishment for past sins.
At the same time, they have also offered us a present light to guide us through the tunnel, that the coming darkness may be lessened, even dispersed–if not by mankind generally, then at least by sensible individuals. If anyone cares to prepare wisely for the road ahead, he would do well to heed the words of warning, as well as of promise, of those great souls…
The True Cause: Greed
Yet the seeds of depression are still here. The so-called “safeguards” with which our political leaders claim to have surrounded us are largely paper fortresses. There is no safeguard against human ignorance. There is no safeguard against greed. And the greed, born of human ignorance, is the true cause of every financial depression.
Paramahansa [sic] Yogananda saw another, even greater depression in store for us in our times. He was particularly concerned over the present-day economic philosophy of perpetual indebtedness. However much one tries to dignify excess spending in the name of “boosting the economy,” the fact is no one can exist indefinitely in a state of financial over-extension without offending against certain basic realities. Living continually on money that one hopes to get “someday” has always in the end proved disastrous–as much so for nations as for individual….
Paramhansa Yogananda said that society in future will be based in what he called “spiritual socialism.” From this remark I gather that some of the ideals, even if few of the practices, of modern communism are in harmony with the vibrations of the new age, and to some extent explain why communism has gained such a hold on the minds of men.
I can give only my own interpretation of what the Master meant by this term, “spiritual socialism,” since he didn’t explain it. It is an interpretation, however, based on several years of direct association with him, during which time, although not everything he said was remembered, the sense of what he said lingered on, and lives within me still to this day.
That aspect of communism which seeks to enslave people while providing for their material needs was certainly contrary to the Master’s vision of justice. In principle, he was opposed even to social charities, because, he said, they discourage people from developing their own initiative. He deplored the direction taken by America during the last depression, when people learned to depend on the government to feed and look after them. This trend, which has only been gathering momentum, weakens the individual, and encourages the government to assume more and more the role of dictating men’s personal lives. Such a trend is contrary to the entire principle of Self-realization.
Since Yogananda’s vision of the future included the removal of such social injustices, spiritual socialism as he envisioned it cannot imply some far-reaching socio-economic system, with the rigid controls that total government ownership would entail. Rather, it can only describe a society in which people have learned at last to think naturally in terms of “the greatest good for the greatest number.” It implies a social condition in which people understand that more can be accomplished by voluntary cooperation with one another than by ceaseless, cut-throat competition. Therefore it implies, I think, a state where decentralization is seen to be as necessary to the country as centralization–each serving as an important counterbalance to the other.
For centralization of course there must be, in an age of such rapid transportation and communication as we live in already. Without some central management there would be chaos. But lest too much power be concentrated in the hands of a few men, it is also desirable that man’s deeper values rest on human and spiritual, not on political considerations. It is one thing to be expected to abide by the same traffic laws wherever one goes. It is quite another to be told where he may go.
Under spiritual socialism, then, there will be universal equality based on common acceptance rather than on government-enforced laws. At the same time, Yogananda foresaw a united states first of Europe and, separately, of the Americas, then eventually a united states of the world….
In conjunction with his warnings of a coming depression, Paramhansa Yogananda repeatedly urged his listeners to band together in cooperative spiritual communities, to buy land together out in the country and there to live simply, close to nature and to God, guided by the twofold principle of “plain living and high thinking.” Such communities, he said, would serve as models for the new age, when countless similar, self-sustaining communities will popularize voluntary cooperation over competition as the true key to lasting prosperity and inner fulfillment.
So urgent was he in his efforts to get people to act on his advice that, during his lectures, he would cry, “In this way you will have the best kind of job. You will be working for yourselves!” Then, in reference to such jobs, he would have us affirm loudly after him: “Job means peace! happiness! freedom!” …
A Counter-Balance to Federalism
Cooperative communities of the future, the Master said, will exist everywhere. They will be placed, as Ananda is now, where people will gather for commonly held, high-minded purposes, and not only for economic security. They will serve as an important balance to governmental centralization, and will to a great extent relieve the governments of the world of the burden of caring for the sick and the aged; for such communities would naturally look after their own.
Imagine, if you will, a nation bound together under a central government, yet having thousands of separate, self-sustaining, intentional villages (how different from the average, unplanned and omni-directional modern community!) where many of the practical functions of government would be handled by people known intimately by their constituents, and knowing their constituents in return. In such a system, bureaucracy would be held at a minimum.
A Doorway to the World
Such villages would not be isolated from the rest of the world, as they used to be in times of slow transportation and communication; they would form a vital part of the world at large, and would reach out to that world in a spirit of broader cooperation, learned on the field of actual, personal experience at home. For world brotherhood can hardly be developed except through this doorway of direct experience in brotherhood on a small scale first. It can hardly even be understood without at least a few small, model examples.
An Ideal Tested and Proved
Harmony and loving cooperation on a community-wide basis are not idle dreams. At Ananda Cooperative Village (and other Ananda communities in the United States, Italy and India), we have found that inner peace acts like lubricating oil on the machinery of human relations. Rarely are there any arguments among our members. Brotherhood here is a living reality, one which readily expands itself into a sense of kinship with all life. But basic to our success is the fact that our structure only permits individual unfoldment; it does not presume to ordain it.
If Yogananda’s vision of the future is true, and in time many such intentional communities are founded around the world, governments will more easily tend to fit Thoreau’s famous dictum, “That government is best which governs least.” for many of the regulatory functions of government will have been assumed by a harmonious and cooperative populace….
“A New World”
In all your preparations, don’t lose sight of the long view. Live not in fear, but in hope, and in the security of God’s love.
And above all, don’t make the mistake of expecting this world ever to give you everything you want It is that initial false hope that has led to widespread greed, from which have followed all the sufferings the human race has ever been heir to. As Paramhansa Yogananda said, “Do not seek perfection in this world. Seek it only in God.” Human life is but a stepping stone to divine perfection.
The Master was once told by God in a vision: “I am your stocks and bonds. Dance of life and dance of death: Know that these come from Me, and as such, rejoice!” The final lesson of the trials on the Road Ahead will be man’s need for the wealth of inner, spiritual awareness.
But Yogananda foresaw that humanity as a whole would approach this truth more nearly in the years to come than it has in countless centuries. Alas, that the approach must be through suffering! Indeed it needn’t be, if men would only learn now to love one another. But however great the darkness in the tunnel we are so quickly approaching, we may take great comfort from the knowledge that at least the darkness will be temporary.
As the great Master Paramhansa Yogananda once said, of the light in the centuries beyond:
“I prophesy: You will see a new world!”