Vol. 15, No. 3, Fall-Winter 2013

Pearl S. Buck

by Nancy Maehl

Pearl-BuckPearl Buck was born Pearl Sydenstricker in Hillsboro, West Virginia, on June 26, 1892 (Sun, Mercury, Moon, and Venus all in Cancer). Her parents were Presbyterian missionaries serving in China. They came back to the United States for Pearl’s birth, and then returned to China when she was three months old. Pearl learned to speak Chinese before she learned English. Absalom Sydenstricker, Pearl’s father, had lived in China for ten years, working as a missionary. Since a missionarian had to have a wife, he married Caroline Stulting. Love never entered into their relationship. Pearl was the sixth of seven children. Four of the children died in early childhood. The loss of her siblings deeply touched Pearl.

By the age of seven, Pearl had read everything on her father’s book shelf, including Plutarch’s Lives, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, the Bible, church history and sermons, Tennyson and Browning, as well as all of Charles Dickens’ books, which she read twice. “Dickens opened my eyes to people,” she later wrote. “He taught me how to love all sorts, high and low, rich and poor, the old and little children. He taught me to hate hypocrisy and pious mouthings, that beneath gruffness there may be kindness, and that kindness is the sweetest thing in the world.” (Nora Stirling, Pearl Buck: A Woman in Conflict, p. 10.)

Pearl was instructed in classical Chinese by a Confucius scholar named Mr. Kung. Especially important was the primary Confucius principle, “What you do not like to have done to you, do not do to others.” The Confucius ideal, rather than a Christ-like figure, was “the superior person”—a man of self-discipline and self-control. The pragmatism of Confucianism suited the practical Chinese mind and apparently Pearl’s mind as well.

Many of the Chinese who converted to Christianity were harassed or tortured. Gradually Pearl saw that her mother and father had fewer friends. Her father blamed the white men from Europe who forcibly entered China, humiliated the people, overran the land with armies, and took special privileges with ports and properties. Russia and Japan also moved into the crumbling country. China applied for loans from Germany, France, Russia, and Britain, thus, finding herself “in hock to the white race.” (Stirling 13)

A secret society, the Boxers, turned against the white settlements. Hundreds of people were killed, including the Chinese trying to protect the settlements. Pearl and her mother ended up in Shanghai, while her father stayed behind tending to missionary work. The chaos lasted until the combined forces of Britain, Russia, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, the US, and Japan besieged the Boxers. The family was reunited in Shanghai with plans of returning to the US for a sabbatical.

At fifteen years of age Pearl was sent to a boarding school in Shanghai. In 1911 (19 years old) Pearl left China to attend Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia. She became class president and won two literary prizes. She returned to China in 1914 and assumed much of her mother’s missionary work with the exception of seeking converts. She obtained a position in the mission school providing teaching, nursing, and church work. Her students were high school seniors and she stated “They taught me far more than I taught them.” She served as a Presbyterian missionary for close to 20 years.

Pearl met John Lossing Buck, an agricultural economist missionary, and they got married May 13, 1917 (Pearl was 25 years old). Her mother was quite against the marriage, saying that he never reads and Pearl is never without a book. Pearl responded, “He will read when he has the right atmosphere.” Long afterward, Pearl admitted that at the moment she said yes to the marriage, a voice in her head told her emphatically, “This is a mistake. You will be sorry.” (Stirling 41)

Pearl, fluent in Chinese, was known as the Learned Lady and the Wise Mother. “The farmers and their families in villages outside the city, who bore the brunt of life, were the most real, closest to the earth, to birth and death, to laughter and weeping. To visit the farm families became my search for reality…” (Stirling 46)

There was no real government in China. Altercations between warlords were common, as was death due to assassinations, ignorance of medical care, and stray bullets. One had to get hardened or life would be unbearable. Pearl focused on the good of the Chinese, especially the women. She did the missionary work of visiting the women, conducting classes on hygiene and child care. She admonished the women for abandoning girl babies, for they were often suffocated and thrown to wild dogs as food.

There was so much corruption, drunkenness, and opium addiction, that Pearl wondered when China would awaken to its own weaknesses. Pearl was torn between savagely condemning a people and loving them deeply. To Pearl, the Chinese peasant woman, exhausted from child bearing, enslaved by her men, yet patient and humorous, was a creature of gigantic strength and courage. Singly and in groups, these women came to Pearl, grateful for a receptive ear.

Within three years, life changed for Pearl and her husband. Funds for her husband’s agricultural projects were cut off, their house was taken over by the mission for a boys’ school, and Pearl became pregnant. Her husband found work at the University of Nanking, while Pearl’s pregnancy was progressing with difficulty. Her daughter Carol was born two months behind schedule. She was afflicted with phenylketonuria (inability to breakdown amino acids causing mental retardation).

After Carol’s birth, Pearl went through difficult times. She was torn between caring for her dying mother 200 miles away and caring for her daughter. In spite of all the medical evaluations and false hope of cures for her daughter, Pearl was finally taken aside by an honest and caring medical staff member. He told Pearl that her daughter was mentally retarded and that there was no cure. He suggested that the child be placed in an institution where she would be accepted and would be able to adjust more readily in a caring environment with children like herself.

In 1924, they left China for John Buck’s year of sabbatical and returned to the United States. During this time Pearl earned her Master’s degree from Cornell University. Pearl searched all over for the right institution for her daughter and found an ideal place in Vineland, New Jersey. Carol stayed there for years and did well with the other children, showing no distress when Pearl visited and left.

Before Carol was institutionalized, Pearl wanted to adopt a child, so that her daughter Carol could have a sister. Pearl was unable to have any more children of her own. When visiting an orphanage in Troy, NY, she went from crib to crib until she came upon a small little girl lying with her eyes closed and scarcely breathing. The child was three months old, weighing only five pounds, having never gained weight since birth. The child would not eat. Pearl said, “I want her.” The doctor argued against it. “I felt a strong instant love for the exquisite dying child. I took her in my arms and carried her away.”

Over the years, Pearl adopted five children, one while living with her first husband and four while living with her second husband.

With Carol’s illness, Pearl confessed to her husband that she had lost her faith that there was nothing there to pray to as no one was listening. The experience with Carol taught her “patience with dull people.” Her adopted daughter Janice, from Troy, New York, was her consolation. In the autumn of 1925 they returned to China.

In March of 1927 the confused battle between Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist troops, Communist forces, and assorted warlords brought terror to Nanjing. Several Westerners were murdered. The soldiers were killing their own as well as looting and burning. Many of the Chinese were working to save the Whites and were tearfully apologizing for the troops’ unexpected hostility. They stayed in a hut with a poor Chinese family while their house was being looted. The next day they were rescued by American gunboats. They went to Shanghai and then traveled to Japan, staying there for a year. She returned to China in 1927 and began to take up writing in earnest. Prominent Chinese writers, including Lin Yutang, encouraged her.

In 1929 she went to the United States and found a publisher (John Day publishers in New York) for her novel East Wind: West Wind. She began a relationship with Richard Walsh, an editor at John Day, whom she later married. She returned to China and within a year completed the manuscript for The Good Earth—her most famous work, for which she received the Pulitzer Prize in 1932.

Pearl saw her husband as an unelastic mind. Richard Walsh was most supportive and attentive, something she had never had with her husband, who was totally absorbed in his agricultural studies. She divorced Lossing Buck in 1935 and immediately married Richard Walsh. She was still experiencing an inner turmoil. Years of anger and bitterness had to be eliminated before she could be at peace. “I shall put into a book the wickedness of a marriage without love, the evil that can come out of it.”

She withdrew into herself, and it was a dark period. She asked herself, should she restrict herself to impersonal subjects, fearful of hurting people, wounding their egos? Sitting at a Bach’s oratorio with 300 voices gave her strength to forge ahead in a manner she saw fit. It was a turning point in her life.

Richard and Pearl adopted two boys from the “Cradle” in Chicago—both were one month old, born two days apart. The following year they adopted a boy and a girl. They hired a fulltime nurse and Pearl’s daughter Janice to help. Richard was supportive and helpful during the work.

In 1930 she was invited to speak at a luncheon of Presbyterian women in New York. She candidly told her audience that she saw little need for an institutional church preaching Christianity through missionaries to the Chinese. Missionaries were often ignorant of the Chinese culture and they were arrogant in their presentation. When the talk was printed in Harpers, something of a scandal was created that led to her resigning from the Presbyterian Board in 1934.

Pearl S. Buck was one of the first writers to try to explain the mystery of the Far East to Western readers. Buck’s first article on China appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in 1922. Her first book, East Wind: West Wind, was published in 1930. In 1932 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for The Good Earth. She received the William Dean Howells Medal in 1935. She received the Noble Prize in Literature in 1938 (the first woman to win the prize). Altogether she wrote over 85 books, including Dragon Seed (1942) and Pavilion for Women (1946). She worked four years on the translation of a Chinese novel, All Men Are Brother, written in the 13th century.

She adopted nine children. She also established an agency for the adoption of American-Asian children. Initially this was called Welcome House—an institution that accepted unwanted children. It developed into the first international, interracial adoption agency. The Pearl S. Foundation was established in 1964 (now called Pearl S. Buck International). This organization works for the welfare of children worldwide. The purpose is to “publicize and eliminate injustices and prejudices suffered by children, who, because of their birth, are not permitted to enjoy the educational, social, economic and civil privileges normally accorded to children.”

Pearl Buck died on March 6, 1973, in Danby, Vermont.

“People didn’t realize all the things she did. She said she was doing things on the quiet so no one would know about and distort it.” (Stirling 135)

“As time passed she became less the writer and more the woman driven by a sense of responsibility for the world at large.” (Stirling 190)

What seems apparent with the Sign Cancer is the mothering quality in relation to home and family in all of its aspects. The mothering concept includes that inner knowing that alerts one to significant changes that could help or be detrimental to the family unit. This establishes an environment that is nurturing and protective.

The Cancer characteristics are pervasive throughout the life of Pearl Buck. The psychic intuitive quality is evident and necessary for the nurturing of the young. The right development of the young is the hope of the future. As the family goes, so goes the nation and the planet.

Perhaps humanity as a whole needs to develop that Cancerian quality of protecting and caring for the planet with a reverence for its life in all the kingdoms. This would be more of a Soul feeling than an emotional feeling.

In 1938 the Noble Prize committee in awarding the prize said, “By awarding this year’s Prize to Pearl Buck for the notable works which pave the way to a human sympathy passing over widely separated racial boundaries and for the studies of human ideals which are a great and living art of portraiture, the Swedish Academy feels that it acts in harmony and accord with the aim of Alfred Nobel’s dreams for the future.”

Stirling, Nora. Pearl Buck: A Woman in Conflict. New Jersey: New Century Publishers, 1983.


by Andrew Nellist

In Rays and Initiations (pp 649-50) it is said that the “new and beautiful future” will come partly as a result of incoming Ray 1 activity through the sense of spiritual objective. There is a close relation between Ray 1 and Ray 2 mainly expressed in terms of Goodwill and Right Relations. This affords opportunity to work positively in problem areas of human living, in our own lives, and also in broader areas such as International Relations and the World Economy. There is also a close link between Ray 1 and Ray 7 in the work of the transmutation of substance, which will help in refining our own vehicles, and also in lifting the condition of humanity and the planet.

Ray 2 is the Ray of the solar and planetary Logoi. It gives the process of making whole, the will to synthesis, and the fusion of spirit and matter. Ray 1 is the first sub-ray of Ray 2 in this system. Ray 1 gives the line of light, and Ray 2 is the light carrier (EPII p359). In this regard we might consider the Will to work very much in terms of Ray 2 Wisdom and Wholeness. Ray 2 is important in the Vegetable Kingdom, giving growth towards the light, and this gives a vision of the unfoldment of humanity, for under the Law of Magnetic Impulse the egoic lotuses unfold, there is reorientation towards the spirit and inter-soul relationship. Magnetism is connected with the problem of sex, and so in future we can expect to see striving to harmonise the lower and the higher aspects of human nature, and also the transmutation of material desire into divine love. The love of Reality and the Soul will become more important.

This will also bring increased understanding of our own nature, more integration and balance, as well as the new psychology, with an appreciation of the soul in relation to the mind, emotions and body, and recognition of the working of the Rays. Ray 4 very much conditions human history. It is the Ray of humanity and gives the struggle to synthesis. Through greater understanding of the fourth ether there will come a closer understanding between science and religion. Ray 2 controls Ray 4, giving the development of right human relations and the spirit of universal goodwill, the desire for harmony, and the principle of sharing.

The interrelation between Rays 4 and 7 will be important, and Ray 7 is known as the revealer of Beauty. Ray 7 relates to the major pair of opposites on the physical plane – spirit and matter – and relates them to each other, producing eventually one functioning whole. The Law of Sacrifice, associated with Ray 4, is an important theme of our solar system and our Earth. Matter is lifted up into heaven. The interaction of Rays 4 and 7 gives coherency, and will allow more expression of the buddhic nature, while the reincarnation of Ray 4 souls will bring a turning-point in human history, and allow the effective use of Ray 7 energy. Hopefully this will bring more of respect and understanding into practical expression in world affairs, as well as in our individual lives. In this way the Rays show Aquarius to be not just a mystical dream of a golden age, but an era of hard-working, practical and scientific use of spiritual energies, and cooperation with spiritual reality and the deeper, guiding spiritual Life.

Third Ray Personality.
“The magnetic pull of that which is desired is modified on our planet by the personality ray of our particular planetary Logos. This is the Ray of Active Intelligence, and of selective Adaptability. Just as every cell and atom in the human body is modified and conditioned by the egoic ray and the ray of each of the inner bodies, so every cell and atom in the body of the planetary Logos is conditioned and modified by His outstanding ray influence, in this case, His personality ray. In this conditioning influence is found a clue to the distress and agony and pain in the world today. The planetary Logos of our Earth is primarily conditioned by a cosmic ray, to be sure, but not by His egoic ray. Perhaps in this condition may be found the reason (or one of the reasons) why our Earth is not one of the seven sacred planets. On this I need not enlarge, but it was necessary to call attention to this great determining factor, the third ray, which is the personality ray of our planetary Logos.” (Alice Bailey, Esoteric Psychology I, 337-8)

Influences at this time: 2 Sun, 3 Earth.
“Speaking therefore in terms of man’s life problem, we might state that it is affected potently by the two major influences which beat upon the human kingdom, the cosmic ray of the solar system, the Ray of Love-Wisdom, and the cosmic ray of the planet, which is the personality ray of the planetary Logos, the Ray of Active Intelligence or Adaptability. Man might be defined as a unit of conscious life, swept into tangible expression through the discriminating love of God.”
(Esoteric Psychology I, 339)

Ray of the Planetary Logos
“Each of the seven groups of souls is responsive to one of the seven types of force, and all of them are responsive to the ray of the planetary Logos of our planet, which is the third Ray of Active Intelligence. All are therefore upon a sub-ray of this ray, but it must never be forgotten that the planetary Logos is also upon a ray, which is a sub-ray of the second Ray of Love-Wisdom.” (Esoteric Psychology I, 403)

Earth a Non-Sacred Planet
I might here point out that the sacred planets—so-called—are those ray potencies which are expressive of soul and spirit, with the personality ray of the great informing Life, the planetary Logos, subordinated to the two higher rays, such as is the case with the man after the third initiation. A non-sacred planet, such as the Earth, is still subject to the ray of the personality of the informing Life, and the correspondence to the esoteric monadic ray is non-effective. (Esoteric Astrology 363)

What Determines the Profession:
The Ray of the Soul, the Personality, or the Ray of the Mind?

by Kurt Abraham

(Excerpt from SEVEN RAYS: Frequently Asked Questions, 85-87)

Question: I wonder why you have the mind rather than the ray of the soul or personality as determining the profession of these people? People who seem to have a calling and stick to it throughout their lives…without a crisis and change of profession later in life? I understand that the mind can be effecting the early years of development…. I’m mixed up on why you focused on mind as determining the profession?…So about vocation and rays…I have read that the soul ray determines the vocation or profession (as opposed to JOB) and other places I have read that the personality (or combo of personality and mental or astral) determines the vocation and that the soul ray influences the manner of expression. So say a R-4 personality with a R-2 soul would paint or write beautiful soul inspired uplifting stuff. Spiritual stuff. Or say the same R4 with a R1 soul might express more militantly or forceful.

It seems to me that the mind, the personality or the soul, or some combination thereof, could determine the profession. In the study sets 4-10 we look primarily at the soul ray as the major condition-ing factor. Also in my book Great Souls we look primarily at the soul ray. We take known soul rays and try to make a case for which rays are conditioning the other aspects or vehicles. Rather than saying it is the mental ray, or personality or soul ray that determines the profession, one really has to take it on a case-by-case basis. For many people the soul ray does not determine the profession (the life’s work) because the soul has not yet come strongly into play, is not yet a controlling influence. In other cases the soul note could be so strong and the personality rays so aligned that the destiny is visible in childhood. In other cases there might be something approaching a dramatic shift of directions as the personality suddenly finds the soul direction in midlife. In such a case the personality along with the mind would bring the person to a profession, but all that would change under the stronger soul influence. Much depends on level of development.

Also, not all soul rays, or all personality rays, follow the same type of profession. Nevertheless the ray energy will “color” the work in the profession. Herbert Kitchner (soul 1, personality 7) was a British general. Napoleon (soul 1, personality 4) was a French general. Both were military generals with very different styles. (Kitchner is in the book Great Souls and Napoleon we discuss at some length in the study sets.) In these cases we have first ray souls in the military. The first ray type at various levels can be many things, but generally, the power issues are under-stood, which means that there is executive ability, administrative skills, strength, will, persistence, a good understanding of rules, regulations, laws, systems, and organization. So the question is, where do we find these skills? All over, lots of places—in the military, the government, business, cultural organizations, the legal profession, scientific-health organizations, environmental organizations, etc. Also in spiritual organizations one will find first ray souls. Blavatsky probably has a first ray soul, Foster Bailey and Mary Bailey have first ray souls. Mother Teresa had an extraordinarily strong will.

To take another example, what about sixth ray souls? You will find idealism-devotion in many walks of life, not just in religious fields. We have the example of Woodrow Wilson, a sixth ray soul. His idealism was a significant factor in his work to bring about the League of Nations (an organization to end all wars), which, after getting past formidable political obstacles,
evolved into the United Nations. There are other rays and astrological factors in his life (Capricorn Sun, a first ray mind) that enabled him to work intelligently in the field of government. So he had a developed soul, to be sure, but did it bring him to something akin to a sixth ray profession? Hardly, but nevertheless the sixth ray quality proved helpful and beneficial.

If a person is working in a scientific field, certainly you are going to look for the fifth ray somewhere. It could be on any level (mind, personality, or soul) but the fifth ray might not be there at all. Sometimes first ray minds are attracted to positions of prestige, power, and status. A good salary often relates to a prestigious position. A person with a first ray mind and a third ray personality (developed, intelligent) could become, say, a medical doctor. Looking at the different ray types in that profession, one will find different types of doctors.

In my book Psychological Types and the Seven Rays I look at the ray of the mind in pronounced types in order to get a practical understanding of something of the rays. With the ray of the mind we are generally looking at three rays instead of seven, so that helps simplify. Also, with pronounced types all the rays are going to be on the same line, so the rays of the other bodies are going to help “exaggerate”, or make “pronounced”, the ray of the mind. This helps people see or recognize the energy. But it also brings up a lot of other questions, like the ones you brought up.

“Peace” — A Poem by Kurt Abraham


Restless is where restless wants
to find some peace where peace is not.
Peace is where the wants are few
but the need to give is restless too.

Restless is the empty cup
and restless is the filling up.
Peace descends when love provides
both ebb and flow of every tide.