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Consciousness

The more we study the world of externals,—the objective world we imagine to exist distinctly outside of us,—the more we appropriate, build into our thought ideas presented to us objectively, the larger our conception of life grows, and the more we realize of self-hood subjectively; and, conversely, the more we think, expand mentally, the larger and richer our outer world grows. We note such an intimate correspondence between the two worlds that it is at once evident that they sustain very close relations to each other, and that some underlying bond joins them. The superficial thinker fancies that the world he sees as external is quite independent of his inner, subjective world; but the moment his thought-forces come into a vital relation with the outer order, he is conscious that the two are united. All separating distinctions disappear, and the two are merged in one.

Every man's outer world reflects his thought—images the self he knows inwardly. The self and its image are one; but one can only see himself outwardly in the reflection. In the deeper sense, then, he perceives nothing entirely apart from himself; the self is all and in all. When, in some moment of conceit, he fancies that he has attained to a standard that represents the full proportions of his self-hood, forthwith there arises before the mind a vision of a larger self, embracing the former ideal. As we continue to study our outer world,—a world that at first seems to consist of innumerable independent selves—its apparent variety and differentiation are found to be unified in the life of one Self. As our thought goes out and comes into contact with the world of symbols, their aspect changes. As they come within the scope of our comprehension, their deeper significance is found to be internal rather than external. We can only recognize (recognize or know again) what we have already known, even though it be remotely. Evidently this process may be continued indefinitely. So long as anything in our world appears to be severed from vital connection with our thought, we may continue to merge the external in the internal, to include the objective within the subjective, by enlarging our sphere of self-consciousness. In the last analysis, then, we come into contact with the real essence of things through self-consciousness. The stronger and deeper this consciousness, the more closely we approximate to perfect knowledge of what is real.

On the inferior planes of consciousness, our outer world seems essentially foreign to us, excluded from our self-life, a mighty mechanism, the motive power of which is blind force, devoid of intelligence and lacking soulful qualities. Conscious only of impotence inwardly, we are fairly overwhelmed by this show of external forces. But as we slowly awaken from the state of lethargy or inertia that furnishes the basis of such a conception of self, and makes such a construction of life possible,—as we affirm our deeper self-hood and more fully realize its true proportions, the sovereignty of external things at once begins to diminish. As the power of the inner waxes, the supremacy of the outer wanes. While our higher, spiritual faculties are dormant, the world appears dead; but when they awaken, it seems to be quickened into life.

Every man sees such things as he sees because he has reached just the stage of development of consciousness which makes it inevitable that the ultimate Reality or Essence of things shall appear to him in such a fashion,—under precisely those forms, endowed with exactly those qualities and attributes which he recognizes,—and not because the phenomena he perceives have an absolute, objective existence, apart from his thought.

If one's world is of the material sort, it is because his mind is so imbued with that quality of thought that everything must appear to him in that guise, and not because anything possesses, independent of his thought, the material value he ascribes to it. Every change in consciousness on the part of the observer causes the aspect of things perceived by him externally to change correspondingly. What one sees depends on how he sees. If, then, one wishes to improve the world, which ordinarily seems firmly established outwardly according to inexorable laws, he holds the key to its transformation within himself. It is only necessary to cultivate a different sort of consciousness; and the degree to which he has acquired the habit of effecting internal changes of this kind determines his mastery over things external. This fact is absolutely true in every relation of life. There are not two distinct kinds of world—material and spiritual; these terms simply signify two distinct aspects, modes, or degrees of manifestation, of one Reality. The conception Matter excludes the conception Spirit, and vice versa. The absolute Essence of things is unalterable; it only appears to change as we regard it in different ways, or in varying lights.

Spirit is not an entity or substance existing apart from matter, concealed from view, waiting to be revealed to mortals at death. On the contrary, it is ever-present Reality, independent of time and space—not a reality, or a particular kind of reality, but Reality itself; the absolute, ideal Principle or Essence of things, about which all conceivable qualities and attributes are predicable; unalterable, formless, undifferentiated, unconditioned; neither describable nor comprehensible, but simply appreciable. By many, the spiritual realm is conceived to be a sort of extension of, or adjunct to, the material. They look forward to the time when it shall be disclosed to them as if by magic. But it is only through cultivation of the spiritual faculty that Spirit can be made to appear, and that factor of experience does not depend on time or space. It is futile to search for Spirit within the domain of objective experience; it must be approached subjectively.

Whenever we try to apprehend the Absolute Principle of things, Spirit, with the intellect, we see it indefinitely extended in time or space, differentiated in endless numbers, relations, forms—just as by refraction and reflection, light, although indefinable and indescribable in its homogeneous aspect, is resolved into an infinite number of diffused rays; and in this heterogeneous aspect it displays a world of endlessly changing hues. Yet the principle which is the source of these varied phenomena remains all the while unaltered, regardless of the way we chance to perceive its effects. It is not light, but our manner of observing it, that changes. One person may possess a normally sensitive vision, while another is color-blind or even blind; but it is only the effects perceived that vary, and not, in its ultimate essence, that which is perceived. The existence of discrepancies in impressions received must be accounted for by the observer's view-point, or the conditions under which his experiments are made. We see outwardly just what we are inwardly conditioned to see by reason of the status of our own consciousness; and if we would see otherwise, it must be primarily, through the cultivation of a different quality or degree of consciousness, rather than through the substitution of different external conditions. In the last analysis, the suggestion that leads to a change of view must operate from within; the view-point must be altered. Inasmuch as one's own consciousness is the prime factor in the creation of his outer world, if he would live in one superior to that which he now enjoys, he must set about transforming his consciousness; and it matters not how radical the change in his view-point may be, it will effect a corresponding regeneration of his outer world, as surely as the image in the mirror corresponds to the figure of the body that stands before it. His attention, then, should not be directed, primarily, toward changing those specific objects and circumstances he may have imagined to have an absolute existence outside him, but to transforming his inward life or consciousness, thus preparing the way for an outward change.

This is quite the reverse of what most men are accustomed to regard the true order of things. The ordinary type of mind grows confused and bewildered in trying to find out what is real, either through the senses or the intellect—faculties which are but mediums of interpretation—and finally jumps at erroneous conclusions, mistaking its own imperfect thoughts about truth for the Truth itself. Truth may be formulated intellectually, as the spiritual idea of the poet is cast into forms of verse symbolizing or suggesting to appreciative minds the Reality known to the poet himself, and which must be discerned by the reader as well, in the last analysis, through the intuitive faculty. Spirit can no more be perceived through the intellect than can the stars through the microscope. Many pursue the quest for spiritual truth with the intellect, until it leads them to agnosticism or pessimism; others, in whom the discriminative faculty is less keenly developed, are satisfied with such aspects of truth as the intellect is able to reveal, and imagine those transient, kaleidoscopic reflections of the real to be Reality itself. But "spiritual things are spiritually discerned." The intellect can neither perceive what lies above its own plane, nor recognize the existence of such a plane.

Therefore learning, of the conventional description—intellectual knowledge, observations concerning truth—may, and frequently does, preclude the discernment of truth itself, by preoccupying the entire mental horizon so as to obscure the higher vision, causing the attention to be so constantly and persistently centered in the lower channels of perception that, through practical neglect of the higher soul-faculty, its very existence is often either forgotten or denied. Conventional standards of education as yet make comparatively little account of this highest of human faculties, and the incomparable benefits to be derived from its further development. The material consciousness is cultivated and freely propagates itself, while the spiritual starves for lack of suitable nourishment —ideals upon which to feed. But first of all we must become aware of the existence of a spiritual faculty as a positive certainty, and not as a mere vague, shadowy possibility.

Intuition is the supreme court of our Being, from the decisions of which no appeal can be made. However, for him who first discerns the Truth, Reality, Spirit, intuitively, the intellect and the senses furnish invaluable sidelights which add immeasurably to its appreciation. Their echoes are like the overtones or harmonics accompanying the fundamental tone heard when any string of a musical instrument is struck or caused to vibrate. No man in whose consciousness the light of truth is entirely diffused, by the refracting power of the intellect, into separate beliefs, definite periods or external events, can appreciate Spirit. "If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light."

When one's ear becomes attuned to certain discordant notes in the symphony of life, or his eye over-sensitive to certain distasteful colors, from constant emphasis of them in their separateness, the ideal unity of life known through the spiritual consciousness alone, fades away, so that in time he comes to realize nothing but a narrow, disjointed, material existence. After a while, by dwelling perpetually on the phenomenal aspect of life, he grows to perceive only a monotonous repetition of certain coarser vibrations; his spiritual sight and hearing become continually duller, and the distinguishable vibrations coarser, until he finds himself in the silence of that "outer darkness" which is death.

Only as one's consciousness expands sufficiently to enable him to appreciate Reality itself, does he understand the true meaning of experiences that come to him, seemingly at random, from without; and not until divested of the fictitious values with which time and space have endowed them, are they visible in their true light.

The purely spiritual consciousness is both broad and deep, extending beyond the personal sphere and furnishing the common basis of all separate, superficial experiences that arise in our lives. He who realizes this type of consciousness may, through it, reach another's thought fundamentally enough to suggest to him ideas that, if accepted and acted upon until they penetrate into the more superficial channels of expression, will transform his whole outward appearance. If, as in the case of Jesus, one's consciousness be profound enough, its regenerating power may be made manifest instantaneously, providing a sufficient degree of receptivity exists in the mind of the subject toward whom it is exerted. Such is the possibility of consciousness when one becomes fully awakened to the power behind his own and other finite lives; and today many are rapidly approaching that point in their actual experience.

Out of this cosmic, spiritual substratum, this fundamental type of consciousness, arises a multitude of individualized experiences, just as myriads of leaves, each endowed with peculiar characteristics of its own, spring from a common source, the life of the tree. The forms through which this personal aspect of consciousness is expressed, appear and disappear; but deeply hidden beneath every superficial expression lies the eternal, spiritual consciousness, ever the same, the ground of immortality in every human being. To realize immortality is the supreme desire of every man—the end toward which his hopes tend, however mistaken he may be in regard to its real significance and the method of its attainment. In the last analysis, the incentive to live is the desire to escape from the harassing conditions of the lower planes to some higher state of consciousness which will afford us peace and satisfaction.

When one realizes this permanent, eternal type of consciousness which enables him to become aware of a deep, spiritual identity persisting through all reverses—such as loss of property, or friends, and even the dissolution of the body—he possesses a clear title to immortality; for by steadfastly identifying one's self with that element in consciousness which is able to survive the death of the body, because it transcends all conditions of time and space, viz., spiritual Principle, life and immortality are brought to light. Conditions change, forms perish, beliefs disappear; nothing is stable on the sensuous or the intellectual planes. By allying one's Self and one's hope of perpetual existence with things, events or beliefs—transient factors of experience, uncertain phases of life—by building of "wood, hay or stubble," one must, sooner or later, suffer the loss of what he has built; and even though he be "saved as by fire," it will be naked, forlorn and destitute of that spiritual garment which must be woven, stitch by stitch, through experience in the highest realm of consciousness.

"I who must be saved because I cling with my mind To the same, same self, same love, same God; ay, what was, shall be."

Every man who desires to know the Truth, Reality, Spirit, must assume the spiritual standpoint without waiting to find it through an intellectual process of reasoning; it cannot be revealed by any such method, since it lies on an entirely different plane. He must once for all discard that method and cease trying to discover it in that way. When one cultivates the intuitive faculty, and lives according to its affirmations, its efficiency increases, like the grain of mustard seed which grows into a mighty tree. When one looks steadfastly spiritward, Spirit begins to come into evidence, and the spiritual consciousness to displace the material. When the invalid, looking at life for the first time, perhaps, from its true center, declares "I am well," he is only asserting the supremacy of Spirit, allying his life with the eternal element in consciousness. It may sound strange at first, but it is none the less the deepest truth to which he has ever given utterance; and the verbal expression, if persisted in, will be the antecedent of a more general and vital expression. By assuming the ideal element in life, appropriating it, building it into our thought, we shall find it, in time, to be the real.

As one must be familiar with the mathematical principle in order to be able to solve mathematical problems, so also must one first become clearly conscious of the spiritual Principle before the deeper, more vital problems of active life will solve themselves to the entire satisfaction of his reason.

Examples in arithmetic are worked out by means of figures representing numbers, the relative values of which are definitely known; but in algebra another class of problems is encountered, the solution of which, by reason of their more abstruse nature, demands the introduction of another factor, viz., certain letters of the alphabet, used to denote unknown quantities.

Likewise in the deeper problems of life arising out of the spiritual nature of man, it is often necessary to introduce an "X," symbolizing a spiritual factor unknown to the finite mind. This "X" is the element of Faith, "the assurance of [or the giving substance to] things hoped for, the proving of things not seen." In the practical affairs of life, it stands for a spiritual Reality which we are unable to define in exact terms, although we are perfectly conscious of its existence. We are apt to overlook the intent of the first clause of this declaration of Paul's. Faith is not alone ''evidence” it is "substance" as well. In the spiritual consciousness lies the potency of the fulfillment of one's desire, not only subjectively, but also objectively; for the subjective and objective factors in the case are blended together. "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you." "All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye have received them, and ye shall have them." To be actuated by this Spirit, is to be conscious of the presence in our lives of the essence of all that is real, the source from which all realization proceeds, the power by which all objective things are created or brought forth into manifestation. In every instance where we reach the heart of life, the spiritual germ, the center from which all expressive power issues, the outward transformation will be marked. The more direct the method, the more speedy and decisive will be the result. This was the position of Jesus, and the secret of his power over men and nature. He recognized in Spirit the basic Principle of all things. He perceived it directly, intuitively, by the inner, soul-sight, not through distorted and inverted intellectual images. His consciousness penetrated to the heart of expression, Spirit, causing morbid, spectral thoughts of suffering and disease in the sick and infirm to be undermined and displaced by the revitalizing, spiritual consciousness he was able to awaken.

Genuine Faith, then, is creative, being itself the substance out of which all things are made, constructed, brought forth into objective realization; "so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which do appear." This polarizing consciousness is very different from "such stuff as dreams are made of." Jesus referred to it as "the pearl of great price," "the kingdom of heaven," and "the hidden treasure." No man who invites and cultivates it steadfastly, with singleness of purpose, can fail to create for himself a congenial environment. It will manifest itself mentally in inspiring thoughts, pictures of health, feelings of peace, joy and satisfaction. It differs from the dreams of the visionary idealist or theorist, in that it appropriates the ideal Principle and brings it down into the realm of actual, practical affairs. The visions of idealists and optimists are too often divorced from the world of actuality; the chasm between the two is too wide. But it must be bridged before one can experience the real in life. Every man who takes firm hold of the spiritual Principle finds things, forces, events, circumstances, friends, and the necessaries of life, ranging themselves around him as planets follow the sun, and satellites the planets. He can no more push them from him than the man with the negative, material consciousness can ward off the things he fears and hates. The magnet will attract the loose particles that are susceptible to its influence.

It is not sufficient to hold in mind and emphasize specific thoughts of good, definite personal ends, or objects of selfish desire. That is why so many who long to attain to the higher life go faltering, stumbling, and halting along, beset by all kinds of perplexing problems, apprehensive lest they shall fail to reach the goal.

The spiritual consciousness is a soul atmosphere—not one of many states of mind to be sought after, but the very mind substance itself, out of which grow all subjective states and their correspondences, objective things. This is the plane of the Logos. "All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that hath been made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men." "Before Abraham was, I am." This consciousness may be shared by all men who earnestly and persistently desire it.

Broadly distinguished, there are two methods by which men seek to transform their own lives and conditions, and those of others. Their attention is directed either to certain objects of consciousness (a secondary matter), or to consciousness itself (the primary factor). The physical scientist deals objectively with physical forces, and their relations in things. The efforts of the physician are exerted from the extreme outer circle of life—its circumference—with the intention of affecting the center and inducing the inner Being to awaken and resume its normal activities. By application of material remedies, by concentration of forces at certain definite vantage points on the surface of life, in the material realm, he endeavors to effect changes in the inner, subjective realm. Ordinarily but an insignificant portion of the whole organism is affected by this method, while at best it is possible to reach only a mere fragment of the patient's nature; so that, save on the physical plane, his life remains virtually unchanged. The physician who diagnoses symptoms of disease, and relies on suggestions which operate subconsciously on the chemical plane, proceeds from effect to cause, and deals primarily with results, instead of penetrating to their ultimate source. While in this way he is frequently able to gain the specific end sought, he is utterly powerless to establish a new, perpetual soul consciousness which, once implanted, remains as "a well of water springing up unto eternal life," being itself the germ of a spontaneous, out-growing life, which can no more be quenched than can the world of nature.

The world in general still continues to assiduously pursue the clumsy, crude, roundabout, cart-before-the-horse method of realizing ends, in spite of the magnificent example of Jesus and the early Christians, and the marvelous achievements that attended their adoption of the reverse method. "Narrow is the gate and straightened the way [spiritual consciousness] that leadeth unto life, and few be they that find it." Jesus rejected the objective method in toto. He healed only such as were inwardly receptive to the Truth in a degree sufficient to enable him to reach their lives from the spiritual center of Being, at which his thought continually rested. This method (the subjective) assumes the Principle of consciousness to be the basis of all expression. It exerts its activity from the absolute center of life, working outward toward all points on the circumference. As each individual's center of consciousness becomes established at the universal center, the whole outward aspect of things changes for him. According to this method, instead of supposing the basis of consciousness to be in the physical realm, we assume spiritual Principle as the basis of all physical manifestations; and wherever this affirmation is made, not as a theory, but as a fact of self-consciousness, its correctness is proven by results achieved.

God is Spirit, absolute, unconditioned Principle. Nothing real is outside him, external to him. There can exist for him nothing transcending his own consciousness, no objective thing superior to his own subjectivity; otherwise he would not be the Supreme Being. His will is absolute freedom and spontaneity. As we approach this standpoint, where the supremacy of the subjective is realized, we know it through actual experience to be the basis of all expression.

We do not realize heaven by going to it, but by assuming that consciousness, now. "Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven" (this subjective, spiritual kingdom which is "within you"), and all else "shall be added unto you." "And no man hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended out of heaven, even the Son of Man, which is in heaven."

If, then, one is to satisfactorily determine or control his experiences, he must have access to the key to all experience, the basis of all that is thought or perceived—the spiritual consciousness; for all definite mental states and thoughts are evolved from it, as are forms of matter from the ether. It is only from this subjective viewpoint that we are able to perceive the unity and true relations of objective phenomena. In proportion to the degree in which we realize this consciousness, are we able to work changes which shall appear objectively in things; just as the chemist, by dealing with the elementary basis of a certain substance, is able to transmute it into another; i. e., by so altering the structure of its molecules, through agencies which operate in their atomic substratum, the substance is made to assume a different form.

Now, if the spiritual, God-consciousness is assumed as the basis of all experience, we have here a factor underlying all individual lives, and therefore common to all minds,—a sort of common multiple of all, as it were—an elementary, ideal substance out of which all specific forms of experience are evolved.

According to the degree to which one realizes this fundamental consciousness, is he able to produce the objective results he desires. There is no place here for caprice or wantonness. As his consciousness deepens, and he approaches the absolute center of life in God, he knows only unity of purpose, singleness of aim, uniformity and consistency in results. As the superficial, ephemeral consciousness produces symptoms of disease (the disintegrating force), so a deeper consciousness gives rise to expressions of wholeness. By reaching in one's own life the common basis, in consciousness, beneath all individual lives, and, from the position thus gained, touching the springs of expression underlying another's life, it may be made to assume a more normal character. Jesus said to one whom he healed, "Thou art loosed from thine infirmity"; i.e., through singleness of thought and purpose, recognizing only the ideal in his own consciousness, he was able to reach the deeper Self of the sick person, and thereby to accomplish a transformation of his outward expression.

One finds in his orchard a wild, gnarly apple tree producing sour, unpalatable fruit. He cuts off the top, and grafts shoots of some choice variety on to the old trunk. The whole appearance of the tree is thereby altered. Henceforth it yields foliage and fruit of a new order. The wild variety does not develop into the cultivated, neither does the material consciousness grow into the spiritual; they are quite independent of each other. Not until one assumes the spiritual view-point, and begins life anew from its level, will his outward conditions be completely and permanently changed. "That which is born of the flesh [the wild apple tree, "the natural man," according to Paul is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." "The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is of heaven."

The higher consciousness in man is grafted on to the lower, the material, which has developed gradually by the slow process of evolution; but it is of a totally different order, and is not to be confounded with its inferior counterfeit. If one waits to reason his way out of intellectual difficulties, he will never see the spiritual light. "Let the dead bury their dead." Assume the spiritual consciousness, and hold to it constantly and exclusively, until it becomes permanently established.

No ideal is in itself extravagant. In most instances where men fail to realize high ideals, it is not because their ideals are preposterous, but because they have entertained them without a sense of consciousness sufficiently profound and unwavering to affect their realization. They have failed to rightly interpret New Testament history, because, not having become acquainted in their own consciousness with the deeper life of the spiritual plane, the accounts narrated in the gospels have seemed to them either mythological stories, dealing not with actual events, but with purely imaginary experiences outside the realm of fact, or else descriptions of events of a supernatural origin. But science is fast abolishing the supernatural, and bringing all facts within the domain of universal law; and it only remains for innumerable well-authenticated accounts of occurrences at the present day, similar to many of those recorded in New Testament history, to be verified by thoroughly scientific tests, in order that they may be accorded such unreserved acceptance by the thinking world in general as they have already received at the hands of a considerable number of trustworthy, independent investigators.

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Frank H. Sprague

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