In all ages there have lived seers, prophets and men of genius, who have professed to find in life a deep, esoteric meaning, unappreciated and unrecognized by the restless throng of human beings, who crave only amusement or entertainment. Individuals of these rarer types are often accounted eccentric, by their less aspiring fellows, because they are uninfluenced by motives and considerations that appeal to the average man.
How one can be serene in the midst of tumult and strife; contented when surrounded by poverty and deprivation; and even, perchance, feel an increased sense of satisfaction as his material resources and creature comforts diminish,—these things are fairly incomprehensible to the ordinary mortal. Such superiority to conditions seems to him sufficiently erratic to warrant the conclusion that his unfortunate brother has gone daft, and is a menace to society, or, at least, a proper subject for charitable consideration.
Evidently this deeply contented state of mind is not derived from outward conditions; its presence must be attributed to an inner consciousness of which the superficial man has little knowledge. Some men, indeed, in their heart of hearts, long for this "peace that passeth understanding," and yet they are so deceived by appearances of things which appeal to them on the lower planes of consciousness, that they fail to reach this goal, the supreme end of existence.
All manifested forms of life exhibit the characteristics of variety and unity. Everything we perceive may be considered either as a unit in itself, or as constituting a part of some other unit. Whether we attach greater importance to variety or unity in the things we recognize, whether we are more forcibly impressed by the one or the other consideration, depends on the attitude we assume toward that which we contemplate. The uncultured mind, which relies chiefly on the physical senses for information, is generally so bewildered by the complex phenomena of the spectacle it witnesses, that it does not succeed in comprehending its unity—the spiritual idea it represents,—a characteristic which is at once evident to the more highly organic type of mind.
Every man's first acquaintance with the world is made through separate impressions, which of themselves afford no suggestion of relationship. Only as he begins to be conscious of his own individuality or organic unity does he discover unity in the world around him. Perception leads from the many to the one, from variety to unity; expression leads from the one to the many, from unity to variety.
To gain the spiritual consciousness, to live "as seeing the invisible," one must, first of all, be filled with a single, deep desire to know the Truth; without such an incentive, every attempt will prove vain. He must also be ready to completely renounce opinion, prejudice, willful propensities, narrowness and all merely personal considerations, whether of thought or impulse, that can in any way interfere with the attainment of a higher state of consciousness. The mental soil, being thus purged, in a negative way, of those forces which impede, choke and dwarf the realization of spiritual ends, and being rendered receptive to truth, is ready for a fresh growth of emotions and thoughts. As seeds of various kinds are constantly scattering abroad over every available tract of the earth's soil, springing up, and growing into plants, each according to its own species, so in the inner life, the same irresistible impulse of growth and propagation is encountered. Seed-thoughts of every description are distributed broadcast throughout the realm of mind, and find lodgment in every unoccupied nook and cranny; but wherever the field is preoccupied by a vigorous growth, so that they are unable to take root, they perish. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." As the outer world of nature "abhors a vacuum," so does the inner world of thought. Wherever a mental vacuum exists, thoughts of all descriptions rush in promiscuously to fill it. A horde of nondescript, ill-defined sentiments and impulses—mental weeds—is always ready to enter in and take possession of the undisciplined mind, run riot, and scatter ruin and desolation. Thoughts are seeds of emotions; and emotions dominate the world of psychic beings.
Having, then, resolved to pursue the spiritual life, it only remains for us to discover the best means for its advancement. How can its growth be encouraged and accelerated most effectually? In a general way, by surrounding ourselves, as far as possible, with an atmosphere calculated to nourish the germs of spirituality; by bringing ourselves within the reach of influences that conduce to their unfoldment. Every means that tends to draw our thoughts in that direction, should be eagerly welcomed.
He who avails himself of the advantages offered by every accessible medium of spiritual perception, is certain to find the richest and fullest appreciation of life. Every vision of beauty, every thought of truth, every impulse of good, every aspiration for a larger, more real life, is evidence of the presence of a deeper Self, the infinite, God-self within.
One may grow to recognize its presence more clearly by cultivating greater intimacy with nature, a more ardent desire for the real and substantial, a more positive love of right, and a more sincere devotion to the service of humanity. Every man's capacity for realization enlarges with the using. Faithful employment of faculties already developed, not only tends to increase their scope and efficiency, but it also opens up the way for the appearance of others previously latent.
One may increase his power of discernment by occasionally retiring into the inner recesses of his Being for self-communion; by seeking the solitude of nature; by becoming familiar with the best available art and literature; by coming into touch with the great, active world of human interests. Above all else, he needs to cultivate originality,—to learn to think for himself, so that he may know what is real at first hand, by coming into direct contact with the soul of things. His mind must be permeated with the atmosphere of reality. He need not rely on others to search the hidden depths of consciousness for truth that he may discern as well. In these and many other ways, he will come by degrees to realize his deeper selfhood.
In the present stage of human development, nearly every man's life is passed, to a great extent, amid outward associations so unfavorable to the promotion of spiritual consciousness that he needs, at frequent intervals, to come into the immediate presence of the Infinite, in order to obtain renewed strength and ideal energy to dispense in the practical affairs of life. By persistently dwelling on the spiritual aspect of life, one may, in time, accumulate sufficient reserve power to render him equal to any emergency. Every man who desires to realize a deeper selfhood, finds it necessary, in the beginning at least, to repeatedly and persistently emphasize the fact that such a Self does in reality exist in him, even though buried beneath a tangled web of disorderly thoughts which obscures, and threatens, if not swept away, to obliterate the image of the Ideal. It may be that he will succeed only after repeated trials, in permanently establishing and maintaining his standpoint in a realm of consciousness deeper than the finite, so that changes in the transient world of events, circumstances and opinions, will not disturb his peace of mind.
From time immemorial, seers have recognized an inner Presence with which they could hold communion, and have found in it the source of wisdom, knowledge, power, joy and peace,—in fact, of all that is real and enduring in life. In moments of purest spiritual consciousness, when our vision penetrates beyond the barriers of finite thought, and human consciousness blends with the Divine, its existence becomes an axiomatic certainty.
The entire outer world, a structure infinitely complex and varied, from a finite point of view, is resolved, in the mind of the thinker and seer, into a consistent expression of the one Self, in whose life all live, in whose thought all think, in whose activity all act, in whose freedom all are free.
The possibility of one's knowing anything outwardly, depends on the vital connection of the outer expression he perceives, with the life within him. He recognizes an outer world, because of this union.
The ultimate source of all expression, the original impulse of all outgoing life, is derived from the deeper Self—the Self which, in every man, is concealed behind the surface indications of a personal mask.
The further we drop the plumb-line of intuition into the depths of consciousness, the more fully is our essential nature revealed, and the more clearly evident become design and purpose in the cosmos.
Two classes of people are to be met with everywhere:—those who seek to manifest the real things of the deeper Self, and those who live in the semblance of things, in sensations, opinions, sentiments, independent of any conscious relation to a deeper Self. All lives are rooted in eternity. As they draw sustenance from the spiritual realm, they develop and come forth into manifestation in the finite realm of phenomena. The expanding germ within a seed, overcomes the most formidable obstacles in its struggle to reach the sunlight. The position in which the seed is planted may cause it to grow downward at first; but the inexorable law of its Being leads it ultimately to seek the air and sunlight that its life demands. Within every human expression is a germ of Divinity, which will come to light whenever encouraged by environing circumstances. The flower is concealed within the bud, until conditions are favorable to its expansion. Each experience leaves an impression on the mind. Every person is building, even though unconsciously, an inner life, around which the outer show is the temporary staging; and when it is torn away, that which he has built inwardly will stand revealed. By consciously co-operating with the Divine in our nature, thinking and acting along the lines it indicates, the development of our lives will be spontaneous and harmonious. As all living things are from the Infinite, their normal growth is toward the Infinite; as the Infinite is the source of life, it is also its destination.
The life of the deeper Self is manifested in beauty, truth, goodness and harmony. Through their influence the real Being, which lies beneath every finite, human mask, may be appealed to, until it responds in some degree, at least. The man who has supposed himself to be a mortal creature, obeying the quickening impulse from within, aspires to realize his essential nature, the Divine and Eternal. This is the tale of evolution; as the Divine reaches down to the human in revelation, so the human reaches up to the Divine in realization.
The deeper Self speaks many languages; but every attentive, appreciative listener finds the same story in all, however much they differ in forms of expression.
Ranged around the absolute center of life are numerous spheres of expression, each with a circumference or surface of its own, and differing from all others in its mode of expression, the character of its phenomena, the guise in which ideas present themselves. During the process of human evolution, four such independent world-orders have come to light, gradually, one after another. They may be designated the world of Nature and Art; the world of Religion; the world of Philosophy; and the world of Music.
Within one or another of these worlds, every one may cultivate the acquaintance of his deeper Self—the Universal Self, so as to come immediately into the presence of the Infinite, which, to the uninitiated inquirer, seems enshrouded in unfathomable mystery. Thrice happy is he who has obtained access to the soul-realm by all these entrances, and is able through all alike to commune with the Infinite.
Two of these worlds, Nature and Music, are perceived by the faculties of sight and hearing, respectively; the other two, Religion and Philosophy, are discerned intuitively, without the intervention of external sense-mediums peculiarly adapted to reveal them. Both the inner and the outer sight and hearing are susceptible of cultivation, and need equally careful training.
As the deeper Self is manifested outwardly in Nature, so it is manifested inwardly, to the "mind's eye," as it were, in Philosophy. As it speaks outwardly in Music, so it speaks inwardly, through the voice of conscience and the moral sensibilities, in Religion.
Poets have always sung the praises of Nature. The natural world sustains a close relation to the world of Philosophy—of pure thought,—as an embodiment of ideal visions. In "Music and Morals" Mr. Haweis has described the peculiarly intimate associations existing between the world of Religion—the moral sphere,—and the world of Music, which embodies emotions.
In dealing with deep soul-experiences all terms are hopelessly inadequate to convey one's meaning intelligibly. Words can only suggest to another person such experiences as he is already acquainted with.
The world of Nature and Art (except Music, which is entitled to rank as a world of itself) is one of beauty; through it Absolute Reality is manifested as the Beautiful.
The world of Philosophy is essentially one of truth; through it Absolute Reality is manifested as the True.
The world of Religion is essentially one of goodness; through it Absolute Reality is manifested as the Good.
This trinity of spiritual qualities has stood from time immemorial as the foundation of all ideal expression.
To these three worlds there must also be added the world of Music, which is considered in the following chapter as the world of harmony; through it Absolute Reality is manifested as the Harmonious. The latter world reveals the Eternal Nature through no essentially new attribute, but, in a measure, through all the foregoing so finely blended that they appear inseparable, so far as the general effect produced, is concerned.
The normal human mind is capable of recognizing three dimensions of space. The natural world consists of ideas presented outwardly in conformity to this conception of spatial relations.
In the order of evolution it is this world into which every man is first born; i. e., it is in it that he attains to self-consciousness as a human being. He gradually awakens to a knowledge of himself, discovers what manner of man he is, by finding his own nature revealed in this outer order. The natural world conforms to certain models or types which are pre-existent in the mind; therefore it is symbolical of the inner life. It is an embodiment, a projection as it were, of ideas latent in the mind, waiting for some suggestion to call them forth and give them shape in actual expression.
Plato conceived this world to be the "diversified appearance of Ideas," which the soul, having known in a pre-existent state, previous to its birth into this relative sphere, is able to recognize, in some measure, in all things, but, in most instances, in a confused and obscured manner; so that the earthly life is a process of recollection or re-discovery of the essential nature of things.
The man who aspires to a higher life, who earnestly desires to become acquainted with his deeper Self and more fully conscious of the spiritual Essence of things, the perduring basis of all manifested life, will seek every opportunity to commune with the Infinite as it is reflected in the starry heavens, the ocean, the woods, the mountains, flowers, birds, insects and countless myriads of exquisitely formed creatures too minute to be visible to the naked eye. The genuine lover of Nature breathes in and absorbs her spirit whenever he comes into her presence. He sees with a vision deeper than the physical. Seers and poets almost invariably have been enthusiastic devotees of Nature. Even Jesus was frequently constrained to retire from the discordant suggestions of public life, and go apart by himself into the mountain solitudes, where he found the Infinite revealed outwardly in perfect beauty. Every man enlarges his appreciation of the real, by living in the presence of Nature and becoming familiar with her language.
In the course of human evolution, man received in the world of Nature his earliest inspiration and incentive to bring into active expression the deeper things of life. The charm of natural landscape impresses, in some degree, even the rudest type of mind. It arouses not alone ecstasy, but awe, reverence and devotion, as well. The savage is conscious of the presence of a Great Spirit, however crudely his ethical and religious standards reflect the divine ideal. Evolution in the religious, as in the natural world, has been so gradual as to be scarcely perceptible from generation to generation. The religious instinct in man first assumed the guise of superstitious fear, and led him to worship the heavenly bodies, natural forces, wild animals, and images designed to personify invisible powers, which his fancy clothed with attributes utterly abhorrent to the more refined instinct of a later period. Each individual mind, and each race, from primitive man to the highest type of the present day, has entertained some characteristic conception of the Supreme Being. Ethical standards vary according to the measure of goodness men are capable of appreciating. As the world of Nature appears to each observer an embodiment of beauty to the extent that he has "eyes to see," so the world of Religion reveals to every individual just as much divinity as his power of discernment enables him to feel. Every man's God and every man's religion reflect his ideal of life.
The world of Religion comprehends those phases of life which concern the attitude of the individual man toward other beings. Its mode of expression, like the natural world, represents the Absolute Essence of things, differentiated in variously related centers. The Supreme Being, fellow men, and hosts of inferior creatures, appeal to the individual, prompting emotions of reverence, love, sympathy, compassion. When man first begins to realize something of the higher consciousness, to know that he is more than a superior animal, and that the human creature is nothing less than a crude, embryotic expression of divinity, the idea of Deity begins to dawn upon him, as his conception of the supreme excellence. He idealizes the noblest traits and attributes he is acquainted with in humanity, and pictures them to himself in an imaginary form which he enthrones, after the fashion of earthly potentates, as the sovereign ruler of the universe. The character of this image alters with the thought that projects it. Every man's conception of the Supreme Being seems to him exactly to correspond to the Eternal Reality. The materialistic mind finds only a materialistic God, and the vindictive mind, a God of vengeance; while the spiritual seer discerns a purely spiritual God, transcending the most exalted ideal which the finite mind is capable of conceiving—a "God of the living"—beyond its power to image, and discoverable only as an immanent Presence by those who seek to manifest the divine life. A spiritual type of religion discards perfunctory worship and refrains from judging by the artificial standard of conduct.
It encourages men to reach out and up spontaneously toward the ideal fountain of goodness, as plants grow toward the sunlight. It offers, as an incentive for living, the enjoyment of freedom, not the sufferance of restraint. Work that seemed irksome when performed reluctantly, under the forced demand of duty, proceeds without friction, and is esteemed a privilege when undertaken in the spirit of freedom. Nature manifests in superabundance the freedom of the creative Spirit. So also, to him "that hath ears to hear," Religion speaks, in broadest accents, a language of freedom. Not everyone is privileged to enjoy a life of freedom in the world of Nature, under the most satisfying conditions; but everyone may retire at frequent intervals, be it only for a moment, to the inner realm of the soul, where, at the heart of the universe, the finite meets the Infinite, in simple, undisguised spiritual intercourse, untrammeled by the conventional dictates of dogmatic theology.
The prophet rather than the priest is the exponent of that which is most real in Religion, for he proclaims the supremacy of the Spirit over the letter.
Closely allied to the world of Religion is the world of Philosophy or pure thought, in which life is viewed introspectively. All that we know of the internal characteristics of things is revealed in this way; for by outward observation, we become acquainted with externals alone. Through an inward sight (sometimes designated the sixth sense) we perceive life interiorly, just as, by the outward vision, we perceive it exteriorly. Looking outward from any position, we see only those things that meet our gaze; and so it is with the things we see inwardly. What we see there is determined by our viewpoint—the attitude we assume toward the inner world. We decide, by our choice of attitude, what things shall lie within our range of vision. In the natural world one may invade dismal swamps and penetrate gloomy thickets, or he may visit more attractive localities, where the scenery is enchanting and inspiring. So in the thought-world, each one may select his own ground, and on his choice the quality of his experience will depend. He holds the key to his inner, as to his outer world, in his ability to choose his view-point, and to change it at will.
The seer, rather than the scholar, is the exponent of that which is most real in Philosophy, for he exalts the spirit above the letter, and esteems wisdom more than learning.
The evolution of consciousness may be traced upward through each of these four worlds until the point of spontaneity, or soul-freedom, is reached. It is only on the lower planes of consciousness that the absolute Essence of things appears to be resolved into endlessly differentiated phenomena.
The ideal unity of these worlds becomes clearer as we follow the various paths that converge toward a common, cosmic center. The beautiful, the good, the true, and the harmonious, all lead us to be conscious of a Principle which transcends all spheres of manifestation. Enthusiastic devotees of Nature, the Fine Arts, Religion, Philosophy, and Music, find revealed, each in their respective spheres, the same Absolute Reality. The different forms simply represent particular modes in which it is manifested. The ideal human life calls for such all-around development as is afforded by intercourse with the Infinite through every possible avenue of spiritual discernment. One is in danger of growing ill-balanced by exclusively following any special bent. The pursuit of a "hobby" tends to warp and deform one's life, until its poise and symmetry are destroyed. The hermit, the religious fanatic, the morbid mystic, the musical monomaniac, are illustrations of this tendency. The ideal life reaches out in all directions, and is open to influences from all sources. Its various talents are unified, as the colored rays of the spectrum blend in the white light. Many scholars and business men who regard an occasional sojourn among the mountains or at the seashore as quite indispensable, almost entirely ignore the benefits they might also derive from contemplating the universal aspect of life through other channels. Speaking comparatively, how few people enjoy the invigorating, stimulating atmosphere of the thought-world! How few cultivate the spiritual vision by which the ideal world is inwardly perceptible! How few, too, seek recreation and strength in the revitalizing world of Music!
As we probe beneath the plane of phenomena, we enter a realm of pure ideas, discernible by the spiritual faculty, but not by the senses or the intellect. In dream visions we are sometimes aware of the presence of ideas which are intangible and indescribable because they are not clothed in forms recognizable by the lower faculties. In waking moments, also, we are sometimes conscious of ideas too elusive to be embodied in words. The ideal substance of things is capable of formulation in all modes of expression. The same essential ideas appear in different guises. Certain descriptive adjectives apply equally well to phenomena of all worlds of expression.
We characterize natural objects, emotions, thoughts and tones alike, as broad, deep or substantial, brilliant or subdued, sharp, rough or dull.
We are conscious of harmony in Nature, and of beauty in Music.
These four worlds by no means comprise the possible scope of spiritual revelation; on the contrary they suggest an inexhaustible variety of modes by which the Infinite may radiate in finite expression. Thus far in human history, but little even of the surface of life has been explored by man. He must continue to discover new modes of manifestation, as the domain of knowledge includes wider areas. Already, in this age of discovery and inventive application, unexplored worlds are beginning to loom up, just beyond the range of his perceptive powers, only awaiting the development of new faculties through which to reveal inconceivable splendors. For acquiring knowledge outwardly, we are now dependent on a few scattered series of vibrations, each series being of very limited extent. We can perceive light—ethereal vibrations from 460 to 725 trillion per second; heat—similar vibrations within another comparatively limited compass; and sound—atmospheric vibrations within a very narrow range. Above, below, and between these series which stand out like scarcely recognizable oases in a vast desert, all seems void. Yet what wealth of hidden resources these gaps imply for creatures who may have developed responsive faculties capable of perceiving vibrations at intervening rates! Even more restricted are our means of acquiring knowledge inwardly. Recent discoveries in telepathy and other fields within the vast domain of the occult, suggest well-nigh inconceivable advantages that may be enjoyed by beings whose faculties for perceiving the correspondent vibrations of finer sentiments and emotions have been sufficiently developed. Even now, we sojourn on the borderland of an infinite realm that is waiting to be possessed by man.
"We know in part and we see in part;" but how insignificant are these occasional fragmentary gleams compared with the transcendent glory that may be experienced by beings who are capable of appreciating something of the perfect unity of life as an unbroken whole!