Boris de Zirkoff – USA
[Original cover photo of Theosophia, the magazine in which this article was publshed]
When the historian of the future appraises the era we live in today, it is more than likely that he will set down its main characteristics to have been a widespread downfall of ethics, emotional instability, and a loss of reliable ethical standards, resulting in mental and emotional confusion.
We live through a period of great transition, when ideas prevalent but a few years ago have lost their power over us, and new ideas, while known and unfolding, have not yet acquired sufficient momentum to provide a new and sure foundation for life.
Outmoded theologies have no restraining hold any longer, as they have been shown to be based on mere superstitions.
Mechanistic science, engaged in the development of bigger and better means for human destruction, can hardly provide any spiritual motive or objective for right living.
Philosophy is as yet too closely wedded to a mechanistic conception of life and struggles to free itself from outworn traditional molds of both a mediaeval theological kind, and a materialistic type.
Political expediency, dedicated to love of power, exploitation and destructive competition, is equally unable to enforce any ethical precepts of conduct upon the people.
Yet, noble, spiritually-motivated and lofty ethics nevertheless exist in the world of today. They exist both in the ageless though neglected message of the Seers and Sages, the Prophets and Messengers of Light, and in the lives and sayings of lesser men and women whose presence can at times be felt and recognized in almost any phase of life - the progressive movements within organized religion, within the halls of science, the fields of philosophy, and even, upon rare occasions, in the turmoil of political strife.
These nobler characters are few; when openly active, they are usually hounded by their opponents and driven from pillar to post in a vain attempt to silence them; when expressing their nobler ideas, these are misrepresented and they are made to appear quite different from what they really are - precursors of a greater age, heralders of a New Era in human thought. They work mainly as a leaven active within the mind of the race. The ideas which they promulgate are an integral part of that ancient universal tradition of mankind which has been known throughout history by many names, and which should be regarded as synonymous with the Theosophical Movement, not so much, in its organizational aspect, but rather in its spiritual counterpart and fountain-head.
It is from this fountain-head of universal spiritual tradition that must come the new conception of Ethics which the world is in need of. Ethics as distinct from mere morals which are human temporary concepts of mere behaviorism. Ethics as rooted in the very structure of the Universe, and as providing those foundation stones of right conduct which can support the structure of an enduring civilization dedicated to universal peace and mutual good-will among all men.
It is only these ancient concepts of  truth that can ever re-vitalize true religion, spiritualize science, organize our shreds of philosophical thought, and transform in due course of time mere politics into enlightened statesmanship, a part of the spiritual government of the world.
In order that this be possible, the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom would have to be spread broadcast. Men and women on a very large scale would have to become aware of the basic ideas underlying the philosophy of this Wisdom: Karma or Causation, Reincarnation, the indwelling Divinity of every man, the inseparable Unity of all that lives, the road to self-knowledge through self-mastery, the substantial nature of thought and its power-aspect, ethical responsibility for one's thoughts, emotions and actions, the cyclic pattern of all evolution, the existence of perfected men as advanced products of that evolution, the common source of all religious and philosophical knowledge the world over, and a few other thoughts and concepts of a unifying and integrating kind.
If we were to teach these ideas to the rising generation on a wide scale, the change in our social order would be tremendous within a short time. If our young people would leave their institutions of learning or their immediate family circles, to become integral parts of the life of the world, imbued with these ideas, the change in our orientation would be startling.
It is therefore essential and imperative that we contact the younger generation with the ageless wisdom of mankind, in whatever language or phraseology we may be able to do so. Then and only then will we have a chance to alter our foolish and ignorant behavior as nations and peoples, and strike a new chord in our mutual relations the world over.
Consider our peculiar way of life! Ask yourself a few questions, however embarrassing they may be and often unwelcome!
In a world of Science, a world which swears by Science and almost worships it, confused and bewildered men attempt to lead the most unscientific life anyone could possibly imagine - a life of continuous and un-interrupted warfare!
In a world which that same Science has conclusively shown to be constructed throughout of the same constituent parts, the same atomic and electronic particles and forces, ethically blind men attempt to commit racial suicide by means of scientifically developed gadgets, gadgets and weapons whose very function and operation is based upon the latest discoveries of atomic and electronic forces.
In a world which Science again has proved to be a world of utter unity and wholeness, and which it has covered with a network of intercommunication, men attempt to erect and perpetuate mutual barriers dividing from each other parts and portions which cannot live without each other.
What would an inhabitant from some other planet think of this state of affairs? Would he look upon us as sane?
The brighter side of the picture consists mainly of the fact that the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom, the concepts and precepts of the Theosophical Movement, are spreading, and that more and more People in all walks of life are becoming progressively more and more aware of the existence of certain laws which must be recognized and followed.
Their number may yet be small, but their influence is beginning to be felt, as it is cumulative in its effect. Voices are being raised here and there which proclaim the imperative need of higher ethics, of a sense of spiritual responsibility, and of world-wide solidarity among men of all races and creeds.
It is only by means of a return to sound ethics and to a vital sense of ethical responsibility that we can ever hope to build a civilization worthy of spiritual man, worthy of his divine birthright as a thinker, worthy of the undreamt of possibilities which Nature contains everywhere.