Space pertains to the perception of things outwardly, as they are represented in objective relations.
Time pertains to their perception inwardly, as they are represented in subjective relations.
Every person is familiar with the three-dimensional conception of space; but comparatively few people are accustomed to think of time in that way. Yet a three-dimensional conception of time is just as essential to an adequate comprehension of the subjective phases of life, as is a three-dimensional conception of space to such a comprehension of its objective phases. Nearly all phenomena of our outer world would be incomprehensible were it not for our recognition of three dimensions of space—length, breadth and depth. Quite as surely must certain phenomena of our inner world remain enigmatical until we regard them as dependent on a three-dimensional conception of time. Distance is the factor most readily appreciable in our conceptions of both space and time. In space, we locate objects by distance; and in time, we chronicle events by distance.
The human mind is just as incapable of conceiving of an absolute beginning or end of time, as it is of conceiving of similar limitations of space. A stream of phenomena continues to pass in review before the mind as long as we view life in that way, i. e., estimate its duration —measure it by points related consecutively in time. But the inner aspect of things is revealed by means of other dimensions than length alone; breadth and depth are modes of extension that pertain to time as well as to space. When we examine thought, we find that it possesses superficial, broadly extensive properties, requiring two dimensions of time for their representation; and still further, substantial properties, implying depth as well, and requiring three dimensions of time for their representation. Both dimension and number are elemental ideas which underlie all diversified forms of expression. They are in no way dependent on any particular class of phenomena with which they are associated. As we look observingly into the interior realm, we find that subjective phenomena, thoughts—"mental things"—are related in other ways than the linear alone. The kind of thought necessary to estimate and compare facts, events, opinions, has breadth as well as duration; it extends in more than one direction of time. This is the distinctively intellectual type of thought. It exhibits different degrees of intensity, as do colors in space, but it suggests only superficial qualities. In space we see only the surfaces of bodies; yet we have evidence of their substantial quality, although none of the physical senses reveal it, because, holding the three-dimensional conception of space, we are obliged to see objects in that way, i. e., as substantial bodies. And it is precisely so in regard to the interior aspect of life. Thoughts have substantial as well as superficial properties. One may be conscious of hardly more than a mere procession of mental phenomena in his thought-world, as he counts the passing moments; or he may recognize the broad phase of thought, while almost utterly oblivious to its depth; or again, he may comprehend its substantial content, its "solid" quality. Thoughts, doctrines, conceptions of truth, systems of belief, appear to grow and sustain relations to one another in the temporal world, precisely as do bodies in the spatial world. In order to properly estimate spatial relations, we must assume some point as a center from which to observe objective phenomena. We conceive of motion and extension because our standpoint is fixed. We see an outer world extending around us in every direction. We seem to stand at the center of an indefinitely extensive sphere. Just so, in order to properly estimate temporal relations, we must assume some point as a center from which to observe subjective phenomena; we must concentrate, center our consciousness. It is only in this way that we become aware of past and future in connection with our lives. From this central view-point we see an inner world extending around us in every direction of time. To properly comprehend the content of our inner world, then, we must realize the meaning of the three-dimensional conception of time.
This conception will prove the key to an understanding of psychic phenomena that seem weird and mysterious to those who are unaccustomed to associate more than one dimension with time.
An illustration of the narrowest imaginable thought of life is furnished by the individual who considers only the amount of personal gratification the present moment can be made to afford, e. g. the habitual drunkard, the reckless sensualist.
His thought, which embraces but a single instant of his own career in a personal sense, denotes an essentially animal type of life. Even on the" lowest distinctly human plane, the individual who considers simply his own interests, usually looks ahead and takes into account, in some measure at least, the probable result of his immediate action in its bearing on his future comfort and happiness. The most intelligent, cultured person may think only of his own wants and his own advancement, planning and scheming to achieve what seems likely to afford him the greatest amount of personal gratification, either at present or in the future. His thought of life expresses virtually but one dimension—length. He may be strictly honest, honorable and even charitable, in a narrow sense—often finding his own pleasure enhanced by giving—but always acting, primarily, with a view to increasing his own happiness and perpetuating his narrow, personal interests, either in this or some other world. The conception of salvation embodied in the "old theology" was essentially of this everlasting sort. It considered the welfare of the individual apart from that of the race. It took into account only the linear aspect of life.
This elementary conception is fast being superseded in the race-consciousness by one which recognizes breadth as well as length of life, and includes within its scope other individuals—family, friends, the nation, the race. In the latter thought, personal considerations are subordinated to the interests and well-being of a larger circle of individuals. Each personal life constitutes a segment of this circle.
We find elements of the heroic and tragic even on the surface of life. Their presence suggests breadth, as well as length of experience. Great breadth of thought leads to an utter abandonment of the personal attitude. It enables one to reach out beyond the restricted limits of personality, and embrace a broader life, without fear of losing his identity; for he is then conscious of possessing a larger selfhood.
It is this conception of life which prompts altruism, philanthropy, humanitarianism.
According to an ancient Roman legend, there opened in the Forum a yawning chasm, which the soothsayers declared could be closed only through the sacrifice of Rome's choicest possession. Thereupon the noble Curtius mounted his horse and rode headlong into the abyss, which immediately closed over him. Innumerable heroes have sacrificed their personal lives for family and country. Hosts of martyrs have given their bodies to be burned, rather than surrender allegiance to principle. Among the lower animals, birds and even insects, instances of self-sacrifice are by no means rare. The mother has been known to deliberately give up her life to save the young offspring. In certain tropical species of ants, the warriors commonly sacrifice their lives to protect the colony from harm.
The universal instinct which prompts self-sacrifice, self-immolation, is certainly significant. It does not result from mere blind, mad recklessness, yielding to the impulse of self-destruction, annihilation. It does not indicate an abandonment of common sense or reason; it is an acknowledgment of the supremacy of a higher element in our nature, a more trustworthy guide, which surpasses the instinct of self-gratification. In our most crucial experiences we trust intuition implicitly to lead us in the direction of the highest good.
But even the very broadest conception of life does not satisfy our supreme desire. The eternal type of life is not only long and broad; it is also deep. It extends in all directions of time. A center and three dimensions, or modes of extension, must be represented in its most perfect symbol; and these requirements are met with in the sphere alone. The point, the line, the surface, are all found in the sphere. It typifies the world, nature's most complete expression.
Truly, the finite in man is "as the grass of the field." Human flesh is cheap, indeed. Looking backward over a past of almost inconceivable duration, we are profoundly impressed by the spectacle of countless myriads of lives flashing into view and disappearing again from sight, like an endless shower of meteors. Even on this insignificant planet, armies of human beings are hurried from sight daily, by war, famine, pestilence, accident, or their own folly and recklessness. From such a sweeping survey, human beings might be accounted almost as valueless as the ants we heedlessly crush under foot at every step.
But are these fleeting phenomena all there is of life? Are they not, rather, like scintillating sparks thrown off by our deeper, Universal life, as it moves majestically on through eternity, altogether unperceived by the materialistic vision? Are they not, in the deepest sense, expressions of a Universal Self underlying and manifesting itself in all appearances?
As the perennial plant sends up fresh shoots in the spring, which grow and flourish, and die at the approach of winter, so the unseen, the real life, manifests itself in these myriad finite apparitions.
Who, in attempting to sound the depths of consciousness, has ever found a bottom to mark the limit of that life he has been accustomed to regard as distinctively his own? And who, after such an attempt, has not been profoundly impressed with a sense of the unlimitedness and the unfathomableness of consciousness? Why, then, should we seek to restrict the scope of our selfhood? What province in the boundless realm of mind can we, as individuals, properly designate as the exclusive domain of any merely personal self? After all, what do we mean by "self"? How varied are the expressions with which we have associated this term, even within the brief period of our remembrance! At one time we may have used it to designate a frail, material body, subject to disease and external forces; at another, a free, spiritual Being, conscious that life transcends the plane of phenomena. For what reality, then, does the term stand? Who can comprehend its full meaning?
These fragmentary, finite lives you and I claim as our peculiar possessions, represent incidents or moments in the life of a common, deeper Self. No finite thought of self can more than faintly reflect the Infinite Self. We are frequently conscious of power that invades the domain of our finite thought from some undiscovered, unexplored region of our Being, and assumes control of the lower faculties. We may, at any time, rise to a plane of consciousness where our commoner experiences are transcended. And by relinquishing our previous standard of selfhood, and accepting a more perfect one, we have satisfactory evidence of a deeper Self within; for the higher type of selfhood to which we aspire, and to which we may attain, is really as much ours as the one we have heretofore entertained.
As we awaken by degrees to a larger consciousness, we become aware that not alone the fraction of past experience we have been wont to distinguish as peculiarly our own, because we remember it as such, is ours, but that all experience, under whatever conditions of life, and through however apparently independent external forms it is manifested, is bound together in the life of one Self. Verily, in the deepest sense, we "live, and move, and have our Being" in that Self.
Every man is conscious of a self in which his separate, personal experiences are so unified that he knows them to spring from a single source. Waking and sleeping, he preserves his identity from day to day and from year to year. But if we readily associate expressions separated in time with one self, it is equally true that we may assume a broader basis by extending our thought so that it shall associate expressions separated in space with one self.
Jesus' thought of self embraced all mankind. He said: "I am the vine, ye are the branches." "Abide in me, and I in you." Paul declared that "we are all members of one body." Jesus' thought was deep and vital, as well as broad; intensive, as well as extensive. Herein, it surpassed the thought of all other great seers. No thought is perfectly harmonious unless it is poised at the absolute center, so that it is in unison with the thought of the Supreme Being. Jesus could say unreservedly: "I and my Father are one," for his thought was in perfect accord with the Divine consciousness. He revealed the eternity, the fullness, and the wholeness of life. "I came that ye might have life, and that, having it, ye might have it more abundantly."
One may be sympathetic, charitable, public spirited, and even philanthropic, without being conscious of the deeper meaning of life. Emotional intensity is superficial, not deep. Joy and sorrow meet in the profoundest depths of consciousness. The deepest sorrow does not call forth tears, nor the highest joy, exultation. It is the finite in us that weeps and exults, while the Infinite remains unmoved—not from stoical indifference, but because of that perfect poise which enables it to appreciate life in its complete significance, without stopping to dwell on each trivial incident. In this way we may stand outside our finite lives and view them comprehensively.
The phenomena of life—sparks, as it were, issuing from real life—so dazzle us that it is with the utmost difficulty that we become acquainted with our deeper Self, the self of more than personal significance. No general appreciation of the eternity of life is possible until educational methods are adopted which are calculated to develop the expansive power latent in every individual. The life and teaching of Jesus must remain an enigma to students of human nature and practical economists, until this attribute of life is taken into account.
The eternal life is not a dream of the future; it is without beginning or end, centered in the eternal NOW.
Outer phenomena are symbols of inner experiences. We are acquainted with matter in solid, liquid, and gaseous states. When any solid substance is exposed to a definite degree of heat, it is reduced to a liquid. Likewise, when the temperature rises to a definite point still higher, the liquid becomes a volatile gas. Through the influence of heat, ice is converted into water, and water into steam. In the solid state it is characterized by rigidity—a tendency to hold unyieldingly to its own. This state corresponds to the cold, crystallized, materialistic, selfish, exclusive, personal type of life which refrains from giving out or relinquishing its selfish life, for fear of losing something it deems its rightful possession. In the liquid state it is characterized by mobility—a tendency to relax, spread out and extend superficially, thereby parting with specific distinctions of form. This state corresponds to the broad, mutual, inclusive, social type of life, which reaches out and sacrifices itself for the common good, never fearing the effacement of individuality or the loss of its own peculiar rights and prerogatives.
In the vaporous state it is characterized by expansiveness—a tendency to move out in all directions and to escape from confinement by bursting asunder the bonds that restrain it. This state corresponds to the spontaneous, eternal life—the life of spiritual freedom that transcends finite limitations.