Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words

CHAPTER 8: The Way of Peace

THIS IS THE WAY OF PEACE: Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.

It is hard for people to understand that all war is bad and self-defeating. People in their immaturity attempt to overcome evil with more evil, and that multiplies the evil. Only good can overcome evil.

My simple peace message is adequate - really just the message that the way of peace is the way of love. Love is the greatest power on earth. It conquers all things. One in harmony with God's law of love has more strength than an army, for one need not subdue an adversary; an adversary can be transformed.

One day as I was walking along the highway I began to sing peace words to a familiar tune which I believe sums up the present world situation in a nutshell:

    The world is feverishly working to build the things of war,
    The world is preparing destruction of a kind unknown before.
    I hear much cursing of enemies, and arguments increase,
    But, oh, the world is longing, is yearning,
    Is praying for peace - for peace!

The nuclear bomb says to us: "Make peace or perish!" We recognize that we can no longer think in terms of military victory, that a nuclear war would mean mutual annihilation. Many face this critical situation with apathy, some with frustration, but only a very few face it constructively.

There is such a great need for constructive peace action. We live at a crisis period in human affairs, and those of us who are living today face a very momentous decision: a choice between nuclear war of annihilation and a golden age of peace. All who are living today will help to make this choice, for the tide of world affairs now drifts in the direction of war and destruction. So all who do nothing in this crisis situation are choosing to let it drift. Those who wish to choose peace must act meaningfully for peace. And become a part of the stirring and awakening which has begun and is accelerating. And help to accelerate it sufficiently to turn the tide. In this crisis situation peace is certainly everybody's business! The time to work for peace is now.

Ultimate peace begins within; when we find peace within there will be no more conflict, no more occasion for war. If this is the peace you seek, purify your body by sensible living habits, purify your mind by expelling all negative thoughts, purify your motives by casting out any ideas of greed or self-striving and by seeking to serve your fellow human beings, purify your desires by eliminating all wishes for material possessions or self-glorification and by desiring to know and do God's will for you. Inspire others to do likewise.

Some will prefer to work on an interim peace - a setting up of mechanisms to resolve conflicts in a world where conflicts still exist - so that although there may still be psychological violence there will no longer be physical violence. If this is the peace you seek, work on a world scale for world disarmament and reconstruction, for a world government which will include all people, for world thinking: placing the welfare of the human family above the welfare of any nation. Work on a national scale for changing the function of the so-called Defense Department from destruction to construction. So much constructive work is needed among the less fortunate peoples in the world, and for the adjustment of our economy to a peacetime situation. Lots of problems to solve here. Get others to work with you.

***

We can work on inner peace and world peace at the same time. On one hand, people have found inner peace by losing themselves in a cause larger than themselves, like the cause of world peace, because finding inner peace means coming from the self-centered life into the life centered in the good of the whole. On the other hand, one of the ways of working for world peace is to work for more inner peace, because world peace will never be stable until enough of us find inner peace to stabilize it.

***

My inner peace remains in spite of any outward thing. Only insofar as I remain in harmony can I draw others into harmony, and so much more harmony is needed before the world can find peace. This doesn't mean that I am not concerned about world happenings. A time like this calls for much peace prayer and peace effort. All right work and all right prayer has effect, all good effort bears good fruit, whether we see the results or not. In spite of the darkness in the present world situation I am not discouraged. I know that just as human life proceeds toward harmony through a series of hills and valleys, so a society has its ups and downs in its search for peace.

There is within the hearts of people deep desire for peace on earth, and they would speak for peace if they were not bound by apathy, by ignorance, by fear. It is the job of the peacemakers to inspire them from their apathy, to dispel their ignorance with truth, to allay their fear with faith that God's laws work - and work for good.

Knowing that all things contrary to God's laws are transient, let us avoid despair and radiate hope for a warless world. Peace is possible, for thoughts have tremendous power.

A few really dedicated people can offset the ill effects of masses of out-of-harmony people, so we who work for peace must not falter. We must continue to pray for peace and to act for peace in whatever way we can, we must continue to speak for peace and to live the way of peace; to inspire others, we must continue to think of peace and to know that peace is possible. What we dwell upon we help to bring into manifestation. One little person, giving all of her time to peace, makes news. Many people, giving some of their time, can make history.

***

One day a lady said to me, "Peace, I'm praying with you for peace, but of course I don't believe it's possible." I said, "Don't you believe peace is God's will?" "Oh, yes," she said, "I know it is." I said, "How can you tell me that which is God's will is impossible? It's not only possible, it's inevitable, but how soon is up to us."

***

Never underestimate the power of a loosely knit group working for a good cause. All of us who work for peace together, all of us who pray for peace together, are a small minority, but a powerful spiritual fellowship. Our power is beyond our numbers.

Those who seem to fail pave the way and often contribute more than those who finally succeed. I cannot help feeling grateful to the peace pioneers, who worked for peace when the going was rough and there were no apparent results.

***

One of the most common questions asked of me is: "Have you seen any results from your pilgrimage?" The answer is that I've never asked to see results - I leave the results in God's hands. They may not even be manifest in my lifetime, but eventually they will become manifest. And, believe it or not, I have seen results: Lots of letters from people indicating they have been inspired to do something for peace in their own way - anything from writing letters to Congress to making peace with some friend or relation. And it all adds up.

Now, as I look back at the overall efforts of all the peacemakers, I can see the results. When I began my pilgrimage, people accepted war as a necessary part of life. Now, the peacemakers are on the popular side! When I started out, there was very little interest in the inner search. I could actually make an inquiry at a state college and discover that two-thirds to three-quarter of the students at that time considered themselves agnostic if not atheist. Now, I can hardly find a student or a person who isn't interested in the deepest kind of searching. To me that is the most hopeful sign of all.

***

On the one hand it can be said: How tragic that our material advancement has gotten so far ahead of our spiritual advancement that we stand on the brink of destroying all life on earth. On the other hand it can be said: How good that we finally realize that military victory is impossible, so that immature people and even not-good people now have an incentive to lay down their arms. Both statements are true.

***

There is no greater block to world peace, or inner peace than fear. It has led us to manufacture implements of mass destruction. What we fear we tend to develop an unreasonable hatred for - so we come to hate and fear. This not only injures us psychologically and aggravates world tensions, but through such negative concentration we tend to attract the things which we fear. If we fear nothing and radiate love, we can expect good things to come. How much this world needs the message and the example of love and faith.

***

Peace and freedom! These things shall be! How soon these things shall be - whether now or whether after great destruction and new beginnings and aeons of time - is up to us.

***

Much research and experimentation needs to be done on peaceful ways of resolving conflicts. We can work as groups, or as an individual right where we are, undertaking specific peace projects, commending and strengthening the good wherever we find it.

***

You can only expect to change one nation - your own. After your nation has changed itself, the example may inspire other nations to change themselves. If any influential nation had the great spiritual strength to lay down its arms and appear with clean hands before the world, the world would be changed. I see no evidence that any influential nation has such great spiritual strength and courage. Therefore disarmament will be a slow process, motivated by the wish to survive.

***

The darkness that we see in our world today is due to the disintegration of things out of harmony with God's laws. The basic conflict is not between nations, it is between two opposing beliefs.

The first is that evil can be overcome by more evil, that the end justifies the means. This belief is very prevalent in our world today. It is the war way. It is the official position of every major nation.

Then there is the way that was taught two thousand years ago -of overcoming evil with good, which is my way, the way Jesus taught. Never loose faith: God's way is bound to prevail in the end.

***

In order for the world to become peaceful, people must become more peaceful. Among mature people war would not be a problem - it would be impossible. In their immaturity people want, at the same time, peace and the things which make war. However, people can mature just as children grow up. Yes, our institutions and our leaders reflect our immaturity, but as we mature we will elect better leaders and set up better institutions. It always comes back to the thing so many of us wish to avoid: working to improve ourselves.

The sanctuary of peace dwells within. Seek it out and all things will be added to you. We're coming closer and closer to the time when enough of us will have found inner peace to affect our institutions for the better. And as soon as this happens the institutions will in turn, through example, affect for the better those who are still immature.

***

Peace will probably come to the world in the same way as it has come to our land. Out of the chaos of civil war, Indian wars and the duels of hundreds of years ago, has come order. Mechanisms have been set up to avoid physical violence, while psychological violence still endures. The smaller units, the states, have given up to the larger unit, the United States, the right to make war. Yes, I think the time will come when the smaller units, the nations, will give up to the larger unit, the United Nations, one single right: the right to make war.

I don't believe the nations would or should give up other rights. People have the most control over their affairs at a grass-roots level. Anything that can be fairly and efficiently handled at a grass-roots level should be thus handled, and only delegated to a higher authority when necessary.

The United Nations would have as its job maintaining a peaceful situation in the world. As long as we remain immature the UN would have a police force to deal with individual offenders against the peace of the world - by removing them, I would hope, for their rehabilitation. Also it should have an unarmed peace force to deal with war prevention. While our nation can deal with problems like an inadequate food supply, the UN would have to deal with problems like a country striving for freedom - and freedom is now the desire of all human hearts.

***

I once said to a woman who believed in war and Christian values: "On the one hand you talk about Christian values, on the other hand you say, 'Isn't force the only deterrent they respect?' This has been our trouble down through the ages - we have given only lip service to Christian values, and lived by the jungle law of tooth and claw. We have quoted, `Be not overcome of evil, overcome evil with good' and then attempted to overcome evil with more evil, thereby multiplying the evil. We worship God, but have no faith in the working of God's laws of love. The world awaits the living of the law of love, which will reach the divine within all human beings and transform them."

***

The pastor of a large Canadian church, who had recently returned from a visit to the Orient, told me that the Buddhists are sending two thousand missionaries to convert the Christians to the way of non-violence!

***

During World War II, an American Sunday School teacher who was in the Pacific had captured a Japanese soldier. In marching the soldier to camp, the American discovered that his prisoner spoke English. "You know what," said the Japanese soldier. "I was once a Christian." The American deliberated a moment and then said, "Why did you give up Christianity?" A look of surprise came upon the Japanese soldier, and he answered with a puzzled expression, "How can I be a soldier and still be a Christian?"

What people do not realize is that nonviolence can be applied in all situations, including World War II. I met four of the Danish people who used the way of nonviolence and love in World War II, and it was a wonderful story.

Now, when the Germans occupied France, the French would often kill the German soldier who was patrolling, and then the Germans would wipe out the whole block in retaliation. When the Germans marched into Denmark, the Danish people began a program of non-cooperation. You know, they say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach - many Danish people actually used that way. They would say to the German soldier who was patrolling, "As a representative of the Nazi Government, you have no right to be here anymore than we would have the right to be in your land, but you are also a young man far from home. Maybe you're homesick, and if you as a fellow human being would like to take off your gun belt and come in and share our evening meal with us, you are welcome." It usually didn't take more than one try. After that the German soldier would get to thinking, "Gee, these are nice people. What are we doing here?"

The Danes also used nonviolent ways to protect the Jewish people in Denmark.

***

I met a Jewish woman who had been married and living with her parents in Germany under Hitler at the time of World War II. She was married when she was sixteen. Her first child was born when she was seventeen and the second when she was eighteen. She was nineteen when three things happened to her. The first: her home was destroyed and her parents killed by an English bomb. I guess they thought they were liberating her. The second thing that happened: her husband was taken away by the Nazis, and she assumed he was dead because she never heard from him again. The third thing that happened: she was injured and her two small children were killed by an American bomb. When I saw her she still carried the effects of the injury. Again, we were "liberating" her.

In her injured condition she wandered round and round with the refugees. Sometimes extenuating circumstances make you take a spiritual leap. She began thinking, They have injured and even destroyed our bodies, but they have injured their own souls, and that is worse. She was able to feel compassion and pray for all connected with the situation, the killed and the killer. She was able to maintain such a good attitude that she was befriended by German people, who at the risk of their lives, got her to England where she was befriended by the English people, and eventually got to the United States.

Now obviously this represents the most amazing victory of the spirit under the most difficult circumstances you could possibly imagine. It also illustrates something else. Who or what was that woman's enemy? Was it the English who destroyed her home and killed her parents, or the Germans who killed her husband, or the Americans who injured her and killed her two small children? The answer is amazingly obvious: it was war that was her real enemy. It was the false belief that violence will accomplish something, that evil can be overcome by more evil. That was her real enemy, and it's the real enemy of all mankind.

***

Just as a human soul that faces great difficulties also faces great opportunities for spiritual growth, so a human society that faces destruction also faces the opportunity to enter a period of renaissance. I think that, barring an accident, the wish to survive will keep us from a nuclear war. And I think both sides will change. We will move toward more economic and social democracy, and they will move toward more political and individual democracy. The ideal society has yet to be built - one which balances nicely collective well-being and individual well-being.

Stories about Non-Violence.

One day as I was musing beside an old fort, I wondered what it would say to the people of the world if it could speak, and I wrote this article:

AN OLD FORT SPEAKS

"When I was built much time and money was spent on me, because it was thought that I would defend the city against all invaders. Now I stand forlorn, since it does not require great wisdom to recognize that I am obsolete. But I am not the only material defense which is obsolete. Even the most modern of them are obsolete now, although you in your fear and your bewilderment still cling to them. But while in your immaturity you lavish your time and your treasure upon them, you know in your hearts that they cannot defend you against anything. You know that you stand, seemingly defenseless, facing a new age, while the nuclear bomb says to you, `Make peace or perish!' But are you really defenseless because all material defenses have crumbled as they were bound to crumble? Have you forgotten the defense which cannot crumble, the defense which lies in obedience to higher law? Down through the ages your best teachings and your best selves have been telling you that evil can only be overcome by good, and experience has shown that if you want to make friends you must be friendly. When will you have wisdom enough to forsake the path to annihilation and turn to the defense which is timeless and ageless and changeless? People of earth, the decision is before you! You can still choose life, but you must choose quickly!"

***

THIS STRANGE CREATURE CALLED MAN

An outsider might view this strange creature called Man this way:

A Being from another world parked his space ship in an isolated spot. The next morning he passed a military camp, where he saw men sticking knives fastened to odd looking poles into bags of straw. "What is this?" he asked a uniformed youth. "Bayonet practice," answered the youth. "We're practicing on dummies. We have to learn to use the bayonet a certain way to kill a man. Of course we don't kill many men with bayonets. We kill most of them with bombs." "But why should you want to learn to kill men?" exclaimed the Being, aghast. "We don't," said the youth bitterly. "We are sent here against our will and we don't know what to do about it."

That afternoon the Being passed through a large city. He noticed a crowd gathered in a public square to see a uniformed youth being decorated with a medal. "Why is he being decorated with a medal?" inquired the Being. Because he killed a hundred men in battle," said the man beside him. The Being looked with horror upon the youth who had killed a hundred men and walked away.

In another part of the city the Being heard a radio announcing loudly that a certain man was soon to be executed. "Why is he to be put to death?" asked the Being. "Because he killed two men," said the man beside him. The Being walked away bewildered.

That evening, after the Being had thought the matter over, he opened his notebook and wrote: It seems that all youths are forced to learn how to kill men efficiently. Those who succeed in killing a large number of men are rewarded with medals. Those who turn out to be poor killers and succeed in killing only a few men are punished by being put to death.

The Being shook his head sadly and added a postscript: It looks as though this strange creature call Man will exterminate himself very quickly.

A Vision of Hope for Peace.

At the end of my forty-five day period of prayer and fasting, as I lay between sleeping and waking, a wonderful vision came to me...a vision of hope. I saw the nations of the world arming for war. I spoke to them, but they would not listen. I wept for them, but they paid no attention. I prayed for them, and then as I looked about me I saw that the people of the world were praying with me. Next I noticed that a luminous mist was rising above us as we prayed, and it gradually took form. A radiant figure emerged whose white robes were full of light and whose face was so bright I could scarcely look upon it. When the figure spoke the gentle voice had the power of thunder. "Put up your swords!" the figure said. "Those who take the sword shall perish by the sword!" And the nations of the world looked up startled and dropped their armaments, and the people of the world rejoiced together.

More Thoughts on Peace and Disarmament.

I would like to emphasize again that right prayer leads to right action, "faith without works is dead." An excellent way to put thoughts into action is to write a letter for peace.

***

Disarmament is slow in materializing - partly because fear is so prevalent, partly because there are vain hopes that arms might still accomplish some desired objective, partly because some economies seem to be functioning rather profitably in a situation of war preparation.

***

The new age demands higher values. Those who spoke of peace were once called idealists, but in this nuclear age the idealists have become the only realists. We have always thought of ourselves as having high ideals. Let us apply some of them in this crisis situation.

***

Believing that war is contrary to the will of God and to common sense, and feeling that the way of peace is the way of love, I shall work for peace by using the way of love myself, by helping any group I am a part of to use it, by helping the nation of which I am a citizen to use it, by helping the United Nations to use it, and by praying that the way of love be used all over the world.

***

I would say to the military: yes, we need to be defended; yes, we need you. The Air Force can clean up the air, the Marines can take care of the despoiled forests, the Navy can clean the oceans, the Coast Guard can take care of the rivers, and the Army can be used to build adequate drainage projects to prevent disastrous floods, and other such benefits for mankind.

***

We limit ourselves by thinking that things can't be done. Many think peace in the world is impossible - many think that inner peace cannot be attained. It's the one who doesn't know it can't be done who does it!

***

The basic cause of all our difficulties is immaturity. That's why I talk so much about peace within ourselves as a step toward peace in our world. If we were mature, war would not be possible and peace would be assured. In our immaturity we do not know the laws of the universe, and we think evil can be overcome by more evil. One symptom of our immaturity is greed, making it difficult for us to learn the simple lesson of sharing....

Now, I realize that sometimes the symptoms become so acute that if we don't work on them we might not survive to work on the cause, so during the war in Vietnam I did participate in some peaceable peace demonstrations. That was an amazing time. The people of this country stopped the war in Vietnam, in spite of the government. It just shows the power of the people of this country.

Then there are symptoms of symptoms, like extensive starvation. I would like to give everyone access to pure food, pure water, and pure air. I would like to be able to supply all their material needs, and also give them access to good food for thought, and beautiful surroundings and all things that inspire. You don't have to be very good at arithmetic to figure out that if the nations of the world would stop manufacturing implements of destruction, the conditions for a very good life could be provided for all people.

***

We must walk according to the highest light we have, encountering lovingly those who are out of harmony, and trying to inspire them toward a better way. Whenever you bring harmony into any unpeaceful situation, you contribute to the cause of peace. When you do something for world peace, peace among groups, peace among individuals, or your own inner peace, you improve the total peace picture.

***

We must never forget that disobedience to God's laws brings disaster, although people eventually do learn by their own mistakes.

***

Now let's look at our world. A poor, war-weary world. What's the matter with us? We're so way off on the materials side: even if we do not have it we desire it. We are so lacking on the spiritual side: whenever we discover all the technological advances, the first thing we do is to turn them into weapons and use them to kill people. This is because our spiritual well-being lags so far behind. The valid research for the future is on the spiritual side. We need to bring the two into balance so we'll know how to use well the material well-being we already have.

***

During the war in Vietnam there was intense peace activity. When the war was finished there was a letdown and a period of apathy resulted. I suppose this was inevitable. It happens after every war.

After every war there is also a period of violence. I saw it after both World War I and World War II. I remember after World War II a man in Camden, New Jersey had just killed five people on the street, and when they grabbed him he said, "You taught me to kill." He was taught by the military. The man who shot from the University of Texas tower and killed fifteen people and wounded others was taught by the military during the Vietnam War.

The Price of Peace.

We seem always ready to pay the price for war. Almost gladly we give our time and our treasure - our limbs and even our lives -for war. But we expect to get peace for nothing. We expect to be able to flagrantly disobey God's laws and get peace as a result. Well, we won't get peace for nothing - and we won't get peace by disobeying the laws of God. We'll get peace only when we are willing to pay the price of peace. And to a world drunk with power, corrupted by greed, deluded by false prophets, the price of peace may seem high indeed. For the price of peace is obedience to the higher laws: evil can only be overcome by good and hatred by love; only a good means can attain a good end.

The price of peace is to abandon fear and replace it with faith - faith that if we obey God's laws we will receive God's blessings. The price of peace is to abandon hate and allow love to reign supreme in our hearts - love for all our fellow human beings over the world. The price of peace is to abandon arrogance and replace it with repentance and humility, remembering that the way of peace is the way of love. The price of peace is to abandon greed and replace it with giving, so that none will be spiritually injured by having more than they need while others in the world still have less than they need.

People of the world, the time for decision is short. It is measured in a few years. THe choice is ours as to whether or not we will pay the price of peace. If we are not willing to pay it, all that we hold dear will be consumed in the flame of war. The darkness in our world today is due to the disintegration of things which are contrary to God's laws. Let us never say hopelessly this is the darkness before a storm; rather let us say with faith this is the darkness before the dawn of the golden age of peace, which we cannot now even imagine. For this, let us hope and work and pray.


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