Lessons from History

Mrs. Prophet Reflects on
“Lessons from History” & The Writings of British Historian
Arnold Toynbee

By Thomas G. Gulick
A Study of History ToynbeeOn May 5, 1980, during the “Life Begets Life” conference, Mrs. Prophet gave a three-hour talk at Camelot called “The Lessons of History.” Although I was present for that talk almost 40 years ago, I still remember the impact of her remarks on the writings of famed British historian, Arnold Toynbee. Toynbee was a specialist on the rise and fall of civilizations throughout recorded history. He wrote, for instance, a six-volume work called A Study of History, which you can peruse on your own if you should have a more than ordinary interest in historical writing.

For our purposes here, let’s get right to the key issue, namely, how is Western Civilization doing to date. Specifically, how is the U.S.A. doing? What’s our report card as a civilization look like so far?

Interpreting Toynbee, Mrs. Prophet said: “The dynamics of the growth [of civilizations] are such that as long as the civilization meets its external challenges, then it will continue to grow and exist. Its ability to do so depends on comparable spiritual development. That’s the view of Toynbee. When a civilization fails to meet an external challenge [such as terrorist attacks, for example,],it is the result of a lack of spiritual growth. If society cannot settle its spiritual problems and spiritually transcend itself or ‘etherealize,’ as Toynbee calls this process, then the civilization enters into a time of troubles that leads to the breakdown and collapse of civilization.”

As a country, the United States of America, leader of the free world, is in “a time of troubles.” Terrorism is a serious sign of stress on a society, the 9/11 bombing of the twin towers in New York marking a new era of attack by our enemies. It is far from the only problem we are facing, however. There is the drug addiction crisis. There is the abortion crisis with still well over 1 million abortions being done yearly in the U.S. There is a poverty issue and an increasingly large national debt currently at some $18 trillion.

According to Toynbee, for a civilization to make spiritual progress, its people need the example of what he called “the creative minority. An example of this might be the life and teaching of Confucius and his disciples in China, which raised the consciousness of that civilization for centuries thereafter. Conversely there are many historical examples of civilizations collapsing, such as: the fall of the Roman Empire at the hands of the barbarian tribes in 476 A.D., the fall of the Baghdad Caliphate to the Mongols in 1258, the fall of the Hindu Mogols in the 1700’s, the Ottoman empire, the Assyrians, the Egyptians and others.

Something that sets Toynbee apart from many historians is his view of the role of Jesus Christ in Western Civilization. Here is what he says about Jesus choosing crucifixion rather than “taking up the sword” in conquest as many other “saviours” had done.

“In choosing this alternative in the hour of crisis, Jesus is breaking away from the conventional line of action taken by the other would-be saviours whose conduct we have studied. What inspires the Nazarene savior to take this tremendous new departure? We may answer this question by asking, in turn, what distinguishes him from those other saviours who have refuted their own pretensions by turning swordsmen. The answer is that these others knew themselves to be no more than men, whereas Jesus was a man who believed himself to be the Son of God.”

Mrs. Prophet reminds us then of our mantra: “I AM a Son of God!” She concludes her talk on the “Lessons of History” with this statement of our mission as Sons and Daughters of God.

“So, the goal of you, the revolutionaries, the Christed ones incarnate, is to move for the early coming of the golden age by the reestablishment of the very value of the worthfulness of life and the personhood of God’s people, and to go about making all of God’s children sense that they are worthy of this Kingdom and that they can joyfully anticipate entering into it in the here and now – not through death, and not in the afterlife, but here and now, God’s Kingdom come. That’s the story.”

Mrs. Prophet, for this reason, emphasized, in this talk from 40 years ago, the vital importance of a solid spiritual education beginning at the pre-elementary stage of a child’s growth through adulthood.

2 Responses to Lessons from History

  1. Hi Thomas,

    I, too, have enjoyed Toynbee’s Study of History. Thank you for sharing the small but mighty role we in the teachings are playing from this standpoint of Mother’s lecture and Toynbee’s philosophy.The historical perspective is vital to our understanding of our unique and powerful role in the alchemical transformation of Western Civilization.

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