Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Home Perennial Philosophy More

From The Perennial Philosophy
 Aldous Huxley 

A "great man" can be good — good enough even to aspire to unitive knowledge of the divine Ground — provided that, while exercising power, he fulfills two conditions:

First, he must deny himself all the personal advantages of power and must practice the patience and recollectedness without which there cannot be love either of man or God.

Second, he must realize that the accident of possessing temporal power does not give him spiritual authority, which belongs only to those seers, living or dead, who have achieved a direct insight into the Nature of Things.

A society, in which the boss is mad enough to believe himself a prophet, is a society doomed to destruction. A viable society is one in which those who have qualified themselves to see indicate the goals to be aimed at, while those whose business it is to rule respect the authority and listen to the advice of the seers.

In theory, at least, all this was well understood in India and, until the Reformation, in Europe, where "no position was so high but that it was subject to a spiritual superior in what concerned the conscience and the soul." Unfortunately the churches tried to make the best of both worlds — to combine spiritual authority with temporal power, wielded either directly or at one remove, from behind the throne.

But spiritual authority can be exercised only by those who are perfectly disinterested and whose motives are therefore above suspicion.

An ecclesiastical organization may call itself the Mystical Body of Christ; but if its prelates are slave-holders and the rulers of states, as they were in the past, or if the corporation is a large-scale capitalist, as is the case today, no titles, however honorific, can conceal the fact that, when it passes judgment, it does so as an interested party with some political or economic axe to grind…

In actual practice how many great men have ever fulfilled, or are ever likely to fulfill, the conditions which alone render power innocuous to the ruler as well as to the ruled? Obviously, very few. Except by saints, the problem of power is finally insoluble.

But since genuine self-government is possible only in very small groups, societies on a national or super-national scale will always be ruled by oligarchical minorities, whose members come to power because they have a lust for power.