The human economy includes two distinct selves. The baser of these in reality is but a seeming, a claimant; but it may be more convenient to consider its pretensions as having a real basis, which they assuredly possess to the eye of material sense. The senses and the sensuous mind constantly pour in testimony, favorable to the assumptions of the illusive ego. The spiritual perception, whose voice in the great human majority is so faint as to be almost inaudible, brings into the consciousness the true ego in just that degree of clearness which past unfoldment has enabled it to reach. The material self, while not necessarily vile—as measured by outward ethical or moral standards—if dominant, is selfish, delusive, and of the earth, earthy. In view of such a fact, it is quite satisfactory to find that it is a claimant only, rather than the intrinsic reality. Jesus, who through his personality completely manifested the divine self, declared, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing." The human spiritual ego is in at-one-ment with the Christ mind, and therefore divine in its nature and characteristics.
In the early history of the race we find only the animal man, possessing mere sensuous knowledge, and destitute of spiritual consciousness and aspiration. Physical sensation, pleasurable or painful, comprised the sum total of his knowledge and experience. His life consisted of sensuous gratification, and all his energies were put forth upon that plane.
The animal instinct of defense of self, offspring, and friends, led to rudimentary organization, and at length to barbaric social conditions. Patriarchal, tribal, and in process of time still broader forms of government, resulted; and finally ideas of justice and equity were evolved by slow and painful processes. Material development and civilization came in due time, with a gradual unfoldment of the intellectual faculty. By a slow and almost imperceptible transition there dawned upon the fittest, perceptions of the unseen, concepts of a spiritual self, and hopes of future immaterial existence.
The earlier consciousness was only of the body, but there came a gradual evolution of the idea of body and spirit. The former was regarded as far more substantial than the latter, and such is the state of consciousness in which the great majority of the human family are living at the present time. The coming and ideal state of development—the dawn of which is already shedding its soft light abroad—is a spiritual consciousness, of which the body is only a visible expression. The senses will lose their supremacy, and their evidence be discredited, and then it will be found that spirit is the veritable and concrete ego; and this when applied to the present state of existence as well as to that which is in the future. The higher self is not a refinement of the lower, but rather the quickening and germination of a divinely planted seed. The old nature cannot be gilded, whitened, nor refined. It cannot rise above the boundary of its own Kingdom. There is a new generation,—a birth from above,—and it manifests itself in the enthronement of a new consciousness, "Behold old things have passed away, and all things have become new." The soul comes into a subjective recognition of God, and of its intrinsic oneness with Him. The man looks within and beholds God's image, and that constitutes his first real and intimate acquaintance with his Maker. Viewed philosophically he finds this identity explained and confirmed. God cannot be apprehended through anything objective, whether Bible, Church, creed, or ordinance, though these may be aids in opening the spiritual eyes.
When the inner vision is clarified, and the transfer of the conscious ego takes place, the soul is surprised and delighted in its new relations, and with Thomas it exclaims, "My Lord and my God."
Stated scientifically, Law is God in universal manifestation. The evolution of the spiritual self is a gradual and painful process to sensuous experience; for as the spiritual self is developed, the sensuous man—or rather his dominion—is dying by inches. Paul declared, "I die daily." The aggressiveness and expansiveness of the divine self have been well illustrated by the "leaven," and by the quickening of the life-germ in a grain of mustard seed.
So long as the spiritual ego remains latent, the baser self is content to travel the horizontal road of sensuous existence with a more or less active intellectual accompaniment. But at length the jar of a stroke of affliction, or experience of some reverse of fortune, awakens the spiritual ego, and from that time an irrepressible conflict begins. Then the lower self may cry, peace! peace! but there is no peace. The contest for supremacy has opened, and sooner or later it will rage with great intensity. Sometimes a temporary anodyne is administered through the observance of formal creeds, sacraments, and rituals, but ere long their unsubstantial nature is brought to light. The "carnal man" is willing to be refined, to be moral, and even religious, but is not willing to abdicate the throne. In a variety of armors and disguises he disputes every inch of the ground, over and over again. Paul gives many graphic descriptions of his own experience in this warfare. "Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption; to wit, the redemption of our body." He also speaks of the body as being presented "a living sacrifice."
Some time in every one's experience the fact is brought home to him with startling emphasis, that his foes are "those of his own household." Outside enemies are feeble and puny when compared with those that are entrenched within. While they lack the intrinsic reality of a divine basis, to the subjective consciousness they are an armed and malignant host.
Man must pay the penalty for his mistakes, even though he make them through ignorance. He finds to his cost that he has taken the unreal to be real, and counted shadows as substances. He lives so thoroughly in the body, with its selfish passions, feelings, and inclinations, that they fill his field of vision, and seem to be himself. These experiences, though so vivid, have only the basis of a material dream. The selfhood is in a state of inversion. The real ego is smothered and buried until it passes into temporary oblivion.
The Adamic pretension must be disallowed, and "the mind of Christ" put on. The former is the "carnal mind" which is "at enmity with God," and the latter is God manifested in us. The first embraces the material Kingdom wherein is tribulation, and the second is the internal and immortal man which "cannot sin." The carnal is built up into a great structure composed of self-illusions, deceptions, race opinions, fears, and errors, into which we have been born, and by which we are environed; the spiritual is the Kingdom of Heaven "which is within you." The former is the life which is to be laid down or "lost" in order to the saving of the latter, which is the true immortal self. The first is the "natural man” to whom spiritual things are "foolishness," and the last is God-consciousness in the soul, or a realized at-one-ment with the Divine Fatherhood.
Man has two lives, two minds, two memories, and a double consciousness. He has an internal and an external nature. He has looked everywhere outside of himself for God, while he can only truly gaze upon the Father by beholding His image within. When he first feels the persuasive influences of the divine self, he finds that it gently woos his steps directly away from or across his former inclinations. This brings before him a cross which though heavy must be borne. So long as he tries to follow both leadings, or alternates between them, he is crucified. This will continue until the "old man" is put off and the spiritual center illumined, and then the cross fades out and the crown appears in its place. The promised "new heavens and new earth" are not external phenomena, but are new illuminations within the spiritual self.
Many conscientious souls fail to recognize their duality, and therefore live in bondage to the sensuous nature. They observe external morality, but practically their ego is the material self. They are, therefore, subject to all the turmoil, disease, and restlessness that prevail upon the plane upon which they dwell. They look for their “heaven” only in a future state, and expect it as a reward, bestowed through substitution. Thus the spiritual self remains year after year in an embryotic, or at best a rudimentary state. The divine ego all the while contains the germs of wholeness, harmony, love, and peace; but the mistaken consciousness is groping in the basement beneath it. How can the ascent be made, in order that the abode of spiritual sunshine may be reached? By inward aspiration and a settled non-recognition of all that is not divine and spiritual. By steadily gazing upward in thought, as well as in performing external duty, and by shutting evil and negation out of the field of vision. Look within for God, rather than towards a faraway heaven. Think of Him as Infinite Life, Love, and Truth, rather than as an imperial Ruler upon a throne. Let positive oneness and harmony with Him grow and glow in the consciousness. This is grasping the higher selfhood. "As a man thinketh in his heart so is he." He can change his whole moral complexion by the transforming power of thought. Holding God in the consciousness is "Godliness which is great gain." Obedience to divine commands, as coming from a source outside, has in itself little transforming energy. We are possessed by that which we dwell upon, and give large thought-space to that which we love.
The world, and even the church, have been accustomed to associate the spiritual consciousness mainly, and often almost wholly, with the next state of existence; but it should be a present experience and life. Our mentality is so crowded with shadowy externalities that no personal consciousness builds up the selfhood of the higher life. True spirituality is composed of nothing ghostly, nor of that which is thrust upon us after the breath leaves the body, but its essence is present life and love. The act of laying off the physical expression does not change the spiritual character. The higher consciousness is the atmosphere from whence the ego draws its nourishment, both here and hereafter. It is the influx of the overflowing divine vitality, and comprises the realm of eternal substance and reality. If the material part were practically regarded as the shell or the husk, all would be well; for shells and husks are useful in their places, but not wholesome for subsistence.
It is our high privilege to luxuriate in the beauty and sunshine of the spiritual world now. As the ego of the higher life is unfolded, it attracts that which is like itself, and builds its own delectable environment. All our vitality comes through the divine self, even though we are unconscious of its reception. That which is inner finally expresses itself in ultimates. It is the substance of all our strength, health, virtue, and life. As the lungs form the channel for the reception of the oxygen and ozone from the atmosphere, so the spiritual selfhood receives the rich flood of divine life and truth with which the whole unseen universe is surcharged. The Adamic self is as unable to cognize the waves of spiritual influx as is the ear to see, or the eye to hear.
Both the silent and expressed recognition of the divine selfhood in others aids them in bringing it into manifestation. The idealization of our brothers and neighbors as divine egos, while we close our eyes to their lower selfhood and its imperfections, helps to lift them into the real and the ideal.
The higher and lower planes are never mingled nor confused, for there is a "great gulf" between them. The character of the first Adam is fixed. He is the abode of sin, discord, and death. His mind as well as body is honeycombed with mortality. He has physical sensation, but- no real life. He is playing a part and acting a character.
True life comes through openness toward God. The traditional far-away God is not a "Present Help." The fact must come into human consciousness that the soul is in God, and God is in it. Dwelling with such a Presence the world becomes a living Theophany, the soul substantial rather than the body, and nature so transformed that it seems ready to melt into spirit. Character is a solid entity, while wealth, power, and pleasure are ephemeral appearances. Communion with heaven is through inward states, and not by way of tidings and messages from without. We are not souls imprisoned in fleshly tabernacles, but egos possessing powers of expression from within and without. The highest proof of immortality comes not from external evidence, reason, or analysis, but from the fact that man can become thoroughly emancipated from the dominion of the body while still using it. "Our conversation is in heaven;" and that is an internal spiritual life and illumination, rather than a distant locality.
"Take no thought for your body." Our ills come from our subservience to its demands, appetites, pride, and delusive selfhood. It is well in its secondary place, as expression; but when it holds the chief place it becomes an unrelenting tyrant. It will pursue and persecute the fettered soul until the higher part, re-enforced by divine consciousness and oneness, turns and achieves a spiritual victory.
The "last Adam," being in the divine image, is already perfect, and cannot know change or improvement. The false claimant which believes itself to be the ego is the abode of sin and all inharmony. The dominant sense being untruthful reflects its own likeness as in a mirror. To improve the reflection we do not manipulate the glass, but change the object which is reflected. As man begins to feel himself spirit instead of body he grows into spiritual conditions. Here is the whole basis of spiritual healing, both as practiced in the primitive church and since that time. Healing is simply improved spiritual consciousness outwardly manifested. That religion, which makes salvation a plan, creed, sacrament, or substitution, cannot heal, because the physical rather than the spiritual consciousness remains present and ruling. It is not merely the fact that men outwardly are overt sinners, but that they dwell upon the plane of materiality. So long as this continues they will remain in the meshes of its correspondence and subjugation. This is the climate where the damps, miasmas, blights, and disorders of the external world live, move, and have their dominion.
Man has concerned himself but little with the quality of his thoughts, but has been greatly distressed by the phenomena which they directly produce. The infinite utility of spiritual consciousness in shaping expression has hardly yet dawned upon the human understanding. Man has not claimed and manifested the good, because he has thought of himself as "a poor sinful creature," and believed that the good did not belong to him. He has felt that his own little life and ego were independent and not a part of the One Mind and Life, and so has unwittingly shut himself away from the stream of divine involution.
The lower ego sees evil in the light of an entity, and even in the form of a malignant Personality; and therefore the consciousness, from pre-occupation, has no room for the spiritual allness of Infinite Good. There is an appearance of two great opposing principles, and therefore a divided allegiance. This delusion is reflected outward in all directions. Reaching the altitude of the understanding that spirit is the only vital reality, man can be absent from the discords and illusions of the world of sense, even though yet in the midst of them.
Paul declares that "the mind of the flesh" (the baser selfhood) "is not subject to the law of God, neither, indeed, can be." It is this seeming personality that fears God even though He be Love. If heaven were a locality it would be .no other than veritable hell to any persistently base and selfish soul that might be shut up within its confines. This structure of concrete selfishness, which is the seeming I, may well fear the "consuming fire." While the real man cannot be harmed, it will consume that which men feel to be themselves, and therefore they suffer from fear of destruction.
Love, to this "old man" has a terrible aspect, because, as a bundle of carnal tastes, pursuits, and appetites, he instinctively feels that it is his omnipotent enemy. The veritable divine self is ever young and indestructible, but the conscious ego fails to identify itself with it. Paul in his Epistle to the Hebrews declares that "those things which are not shaken may remain." The sin and death in man invite the purifying flames, but he (the intrinsic self) will not be subject to their fury. The immortal in God has a correspondence in man which is also indestructible. In the growing of wheat, the chaff at a certain stage of development is useful and indispensable; but the time comes when it has served its purpose, and then it is burned or blown away. The evolutionary process of the unfoldment of the spiritual self begins with a physical basis which is good, in its time and place. The material body in its normal, subordinate position is not evil, but, on the contrary, is useful and expressive on its own plane. But when it mounts the throne and claims to be the ego, it invites destruction; for it is death, and death must be destroyed. If one is trying to identify himself with' his spiritual ego and has not yet brought the lower self into subjection, he will not fear the "consuming fire," for only by it can he leave behind those things which are combustible. The burning, to him, will not be burning, for looking beneath the surface he will see that its mission is beneficent. The lurid flame of Love will appall the "old man," for to his distorted vision it will reduce him to ashes; but, like pure gold tried by fire, the divine man will behold God in the furnace with him. The stronger the false claimant clings to his seeming life, the deeper the flame will penetrate. It burns him because it is his true friend. When in a paroxysm of terror in the desperation of the life-and-death contest he feels his life ebbing away, he suddenly awakes to the startling revelation that he is saved, "so as by fire." Divine love will not and cannot be baffled. It will threaten and burn until the last vestige of death and corruption shall have been consumed, when the divine unshaken man will be found intact. The blazing flames of Love will spread and burn until they possess and purify every soul, whether that soul be upon the plane of sense or within the confines of Hades.