The Power of Right
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THE POWER OF RIGHT.
BY J. K. INGALLS.
There is a worldly aphorism, quoted as often in earnest as in irony, that "Might makes Right;" but so far from adopting this sentiment, as one of right morals, or good policy, I shall hope to show, without much effort, that even the reverse is true; and therefore I shall proceed in the inverse direction to illustrate the genuine text; "Right makes Might."
However true it may be that arbitrary power often stands in the place of right, it does not—it can not—possess any faculty to change, much less create the properties of Justice. On the other hand, permanent force can reside only with the true and good; and these have the power to generate and control living and vital energies.
It is because the common mind does not perceive the working of hidden principles—does not comprehend forces until they are revealed —that men are made to succumb to the external authority and show of power, and hence do great injustice to themselves, by neglecting to exert those qualities which are essential to success. It is through the operation of this cause alone that any distinction is made to exist between Might and Right. In reality right only has power ; and why we are ever led to suppose that wrong is powerful, is because we comprehend only the external bodies with which all forms clothe themselves. Self-deluded, we bow down and worship, not living Power, but the expressed forms of it, which even now are tending to decay. We revere the passive exhibition, not the active agent; and mistaking the effect for the cause, we are constantly following and yielding to a might which is altogether external and evanescent. In our servile adulation we kiss the border of the garment—we adore the pompous robe?—but of the spirit which they clothed, or the power that projected them, we know nothing.
Nor is it strange that undeveloped minds should be arrested by the transitory and phenomenal shows of things; for when we rise into the position of men we only change our play-things—perhaps take possession of larger and more imposing toys ; and in assuming the self-control of mature age, we do not " put away childish things." The most of mankind reverence the mighty pile that has been reared in the form of palace, tower, or pyramid. They have seen only this. They have not seen, and can not revere—can not even comprehend—the mind of the architect which planned, or the patient industry which reared them. They see and bow before outward forms, and arbitrary arrangements of religion, and of government, but have no understanding of those principles upon which these, however corrupt and decaying they may now be, originally depended for their existence.
The real creator of all things is invisible to the external sense. All that the common mind terms force and power is but the outward revelation and embodiment of the reality—is, indeed, but the effect, and not the cause. This incapacity of the rudimental mind to rise to the sphere of causation, and its tendency to confound cause and effect—to worship the creature more than the Creator—is the foundation of all the more permanent wrongs, external encroachments and monopoly ; and. what is worse than all. arbitrary and thought-restricting formula, whether embodying the views of Church or State.
Cause and effect do not follow in alternate sequence, as is assumed by a rudimental and external philosophy; but in an eternal and infinite series, parallel, not serial, to each other. You can never discover a cause by tracing back effects. The cause is internally present with them all—externally nowhere. The attempt to reason of God's existence in this material manner, justly subjects us to the ridicule of the sceptical mind. After tracing one effect back to another, and finally, when lost in conjecture, we make the bold assertion that the last effect was produced by God, as the cause, we are still open to the legitimate question ; of what is he the effect ? Who made him ? We can not by this material process find out God—nor indeed any thing real.
But may the effects serve no purpose in our search after truth ? Certainly as indices, but not as realities, for realities they are not, however much they may be worshiped as such. The most enduring of all earthly things—the fundamental crystalline rocks—are only revelations of force and essences. They are not real. They must change ; and the elements which gave them birth will combine to produce other and higher forms of motion, and of life. You need not attempt to find God, nor any cause, nor force, in the series of effects. They are as much in one effect as another. They are in all. It is the unseen reality which gives the outward form. The mighty oak grows with vigor, and strengthens itself in its thousand roots and branches. You see the outward thing we call a tree ; you do not see the living force which made it what it is. The outward sense comes not in contact with this.
You see the form of a strong and powerful man ; and it is true that the innate force of the man corresponds in a general sense to the external form ; but you should not therefore say that that form is the cause of this strength ; but rather that the strength was the cause and parent of the form. He is a powerful man, not because he has a powerful form, but because the vital force was great, and developed under favorable circumstances. He, however, who would assume that the form and dimensions of the man are an infallible test of strength, would often become deceived, as size, merely, would give little certainty of indication. The largest body, where the internal forces are wanting, is the weakest of all. So the small and compact form, is often accompanied by superior force and agility. Again, the robust man becomes weak by age, although there is no decrease of material accumulation ; aud the infant in a little while becomes the man of strength and power, thus clearly showing that the external revelations of strength are but manifestations of the interior vital power, with whose degree of activity, in all their changes, they precisely correspond.
Thus by external logic we are constantly liable to self-deception, which enlists us under the banner of arbitrary authority—the mere forms, and expressions, of forces already exhausted. Thus Absolutism is powerful. Thus Orthodoxy is powerful—not on account of any virtue of their own, but for the credit they enjoy in a world swayed by externals, of having once been the repositories of power. Thus your corrupt and dogmatical Church is sustained, while your advanced and progressive organization is left to make its way, like the poor man's child, dependent on its own merits for success. It is thought weak, despised, contemned, because its strength is counted by its comparative numbers, by its outward display of worldly wealth and popularity— not by the order of mind which it attracts, nor by the intrinsic, everliving forces which it seeks to embody. The materialistic mind is led where the external show of power resides, not where its real presence is.
See Galileo, surrounded by the spiritual and civil lights of all Christendom, compelled to falsify the truth of a discovery which he had made in science. And yet, with him dwelt power to overthrow all their absurdities, and superstitions. He was compelled to bow, only because the persons who surrounded him mistook the question of Might. The Pope was strong, only because his myrmidons were ignorant, and mistook the trappings with which he was clothed, for the true authority and power. Could they have seen the question as we see it, they would have perceived that the real might—that which was destined to triumph —not merely for a day but for all future time—dwelt with him, in the great truth, which, by the assertion of brute force, they had overawed, and compelled him to forswear.
See the martyr who has shed his blood for human liberty, for heavenly Right. Why has the world arrayed itself against him? Simply because it could not discern the mighty force of principle which controlled him to a rejection of all expediency—to a defiance of all compromise. The devotees of the Old and Formal, exert all their power, and apparently conquer in the earthly strife. The stoical philosopher looks on, and says : See how truly Might makes Right. The spiritualist waits the rapid changes of time, then points triumphantly to the unseemly wreck, and asks : Where now is the might of the old wrong ? What power has it, now, even to exist ? The Form is a ruin ; the Power has vanished, notwithstanding the support of deluded victims; or rather that support which constituted its only strength, even then, has been removed by the might of Truth, and left the relics to fall into forgetfulness, and final oblivion.
But now are not these things, it may be asked by many, in view of the exterior forms of worldly pomp and power—are not these abiding and substantial things—real forces—which must compel, not ouly our reverence, but our cooperation ? Nothing can be known by a superficial, or outside view. The only right way is to study principles. No matter about the forms. Truth alone is mighty, and will prevail. You may have the whole world upon your side—all its wealth, popularity, swords, and magazines of war—a simple Truth—a foothold of Right—is all I ask, to bid defiance to it all ; and, in the confidence of a regenerate manhood, to wage the war, and determine on victory.
Only the few have ever understood the might which lies in Truth have apprehended moral forces, and in obedience to the higher law, sought to employ them. And yet these are all. That outward manifestation of force which is so much worshiped—that external world — is unstable and changeful as the representations of a troubled dream. It is but a shadow—a mere phantom—which disappears when the soul has mustered sufficient courage to question it. The creations of Truth—the deeds of Right—shall stand, when the whole time-vesture has worn out, and disappeared.