—Richard Hooker, 1553-1600.
What is the most important discovery of modern times? Some would answer, the art of printing, which, in its present marvelous stage of progress, scatters its winged pages "as thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks of Vallombrosa." Others would mention the wonderful utilization of steam, by the power of which the material forces of the world are a thousand times multiplied for the convenience and comfort of mankind. Still others would point to the unnumbered applications of electricity, the successive discoveries of which burst upon us almost as rapidly as its native flashes repeat themselves through the murky darkness of a summer evening thunder-storm. No; it is none of these. Of vaster moment than all these great achievements is the growing recognition of the fact that Law is universal.
What is Law? One eminent writer defines it as "an ascertained working sequence or constant order among the phenomena of Nature." Another calls it "the universal reign of a fixed order of things." Webster describes is as "any force, tendency, propension, or instinct, natural or acquired." Such definitions, though technically correct, are freighted with a cold, mechanical import which almost seems tinged with fatalism.
The theologian discourses upon Natural Law as a code of material legislation, infinite in detail, which, once for all, was put in force by the Deity, and then left to assert itself and punish its transgressors. Atheists and materialists, while admitting its orderly regularity within the physical domain, conceive it to be but the blind operation of inherent forces and tendencies.
Law is the uniform and orderly methods of the Immanent God. Natural Law, which pervades the material, mental, and spiritual kingdoms, is God in manifestation. But a short time ago, and the most intelligent observers limited the province of law to the more apparent operations of external nature. It was the prevailing opinion that the movement of the earth and other planets through space, the ebb and flow of tides, the growth of trees and plants, and the obvious multiform operations of gravitation and cohesion, mainly or wholly composed the realm of invariable tendencies and courses of phenomena. Scientists regarded everything immaterial as beyond the pale of law; theologians looked upon the spiritual domain as above law, or supernatural; and the world in general believed in special providences and in every-day suspensions and variations in trains of orderly sequence. The most intelligent and reverent thought of the present day concedes the omnipotence and omnipresence of Law. If it be but another name for God in orderly manifestation, any lesser concept would dishonor and limit Him by the implication that He was self-contradictory and lawless.
And bids it trickle from its source,
That law preserves the earth a sphere,
And guides the planets in their course.
There is no space, place, nor condition where there is exemption from Law's imperial dominion. The crystal dew-drop, the gentle zephyr, the shimmering wavelet, the fleecy cloud, and the resplendent sunset, all are just as they are by the mandate of Law. The graceful proportion and peculiar shade of every leaf, flower, plant, and tree are specified by Law. The rain, the cyclone, the earthquake, heat and cold, all scrupulously observe the Law. The fashion of the bird's wing and the insect's foot is regulated by Law. Plagues, pestilences, and famines come by Law. Orders of animals, birds, fishes, and reptiles appear upon the face of the earth, run their course, and disappear in accordance with the behests of Law.
But higher than these, man thinks, wills, imagines, and develops, mentally and spiritually by Law. Institutions, governments, civilizations, and religions, all owe their histories, peculiar development, and success or failure, to their relation to Law. Pain, joy, blessing, and all other kinds of consciousness, are ordained by Law. Even signs, wonders, and miracles are within its all-embracing boundaries, though the keen search of science may yet have failed to discover their footsteps.
Is, then, this all-comprehensive Law mechanical, merciless, tyrannical? Are we the helpless victims of a universal system, every detail of which is unavoidable and inevitable? No; not victims, but victors. While the discovery of the universality of Law is the greatest human accomplishment of the nineteenth century, there is a kindred truth which even its closing decade has not brought into general recognition. It is the universal beneficence of Law. Law is infinitely intelligent, perfect, and beneficent. It requires more than a superficial glance at the subject to reach such a conclusion. It is a legal part of Law that friction, pain, and penalty shall result from its violation. Penalty is the shock that we feel when we come in collision with it. Speaking exactly, Law itself cannot be broken. If we transgress it, the Law remains intact, but we are broken. It is best that it should be so. If Law could in any degree be bent to conform to our variable wishes or standards, the moral and physical universe would become chaos. Penalty is not calamitous and from without, but rather inherent, subjective, corrective, and therefore good.
Even human statutory penalties for the violation of imperfect legislative codes are only intended to be corrective and preventive, both for the criminal and society. The vindictive element which formerly manifested itself in punitive stripes and tortures—in the spirit of an eye for an eye—has largely passed away, except, perhaps, a lingering remnant in that form known as capital punishment.
Pain, whether physical, mental, or moral, is penalty, and comes from the bruises which we receive from avoidable collision with Law, but the Law itself sustains not the least fracture. It continues its smooth, harmonious course without deflection or interruption.
Pain appears like an armed and vindictive enemy, but it is really a friend in disguise. If we look beneath its mask and recognize and accept it, it takes us by the hand and gently leads us back from the thorny thicket through which we are plunging at the behest of passion, ignorance, or weakness, into the smooth path which Law has made perfect for our resistless progress. Law is our judge, and pain the judgment. The cure for suffering is the recognition of its friendly mission, which makes its judgment accepted and confessed. When its beneficence is understood, and its errand interpreted, it becomes transformed into an angel of mercy. Paul's "thorn in the flesh” at length became a positive element of strength. If we struggle against penalty, and insist that it has been missent, or that it descends upon us from any outside source, it grows in intensity. Judgment denied, enforces its stern demands. If passion, animalism, and selfishness were not warned off and held in check by prospective penalty, how soon the otherwise beautiful human economy would become a wreck.
A correspondence of more profound depth and intensity is found in man's higher nature. The severe judgments of sin, materialism, and moral debasement are pain and remorse, mental and physical. These monitors rise up and eloquently appeal to men to turn about and come into harmony with Law. Judgment unheeded and defied at length becomes hell. While the old theological monstrosity of a God-made hell is a myth, we actually go to work and kindle hells of our own. When man's nature becomes disordered and perverted, the Law kindly incites a hellish condition to goad him, so that he may turn, and not forever drift away from the harmony of God and Law, and thus destroy himself. Hell is a necessity. Its punitive flames are fanned by heavenly love and beneficent law, and not by the anger of a wrathful Deity. The "consuming fire” purifies. If sin did not inevitably carry penalty on its back, men would keep on sinning forever. The greater the distance that the prodigal sons of God get away from Him in consciousness, the more intense the self-inflicted penalty which will finally turn their faces back towards the Father's house.
If Law be but a synonym for God in outward expression, it is obvious that its economy is altogether wholesome. The perfection of Law shows an infinite breadth of both wisdom and love. Said Marcus Aurelius:—
It is only when our selfishness and ignorance foolishly antagonize the Law that to our distorted vision it seems baneful. Through dark and superstitious periods in the past, beneficent Law seemed so unfriendly that men erected it into a great evil Personality, and cringed in terror before it.
We may make Law our infinitely powerful ally. The man who utilizes steam or electricity in accordance with their own laws multiplies his physical accomplishment a thousand-fold. On the contrary, if he disregard their orderly methods, and strive to impose his own notional theories upon them, he will receive the judgment of penalty. As we render ourselves plastic to the healthful persuasions of Natural Law, and parallel her lines instead of crossing them, we enlist the potentiality of the universe in our service. Disregarding her, we "kick against the pricks," but through her cordial co-operation we may accomplish "all things." "Hitch your wagon to a star!" God's wise moral economy provides that His human children, made in His own image, should utilize His methods; and an intelligent recognition of this great boon makes man princely in power and Godlike in character. No longer being a slave to Law, he can—through her instrumentality—not only be free himself, but also command divine prerogatives and privileges.
But it will be objected, and with great plausibility, that there are natural laws which are hostile to man, and utterly beyond his control; as, for instance, those that produce earthquakes, tornadoes, and tempests, which often sweep physical humanity out of existence. From a material standpoint, these are evil, but the truth lies deeper. What is their significance, and what their relations to mankind? Convulsions of nature are throes, or growing pains, in the progressive development of the physical universe. The phenomena of cataclysms and deluges are but incidents in the great onward sweep of cosmic evolution.
As to their relations to man, they cannot harm him at any point. True, they may blot out his physical expression, but in reality that is no intrinsic part of him. From the "body" standpoint, material dissolution is the king of evils; but man is not body, and the physical point of view is false. Only by a general degradation is our flesh-consciousness identified with the ego; and it is this mistake, and only this, which clothes physical calamities with their terror. Reasoning from the basis of the real, evils can only be evils from their subjective moral quality. A stroke of lightning deprives a man of bodily expression. The man is intact. His means of material correspondence are removed; but morally he is no worse, and therefore no evil has befallen him. The change is in his relations and environment; not in himself, nor in his veritable I am, the consciousness of which forms his real being. That is a false and debased sense of life which makes it to consist of physical sensations. Such is animal life, but man is a "living soul." Only when we rise to the standpoint of the Real is our ordinary distorted view of that evolutionary step across an imaginary line called death clarified and corrected. The term evil is only applicable to a condition of subjective absence of good. None but thorough materialists can deny the validity of these premises and deductions. The beneficence of Law is, therefore, not disproved by any apparent hostility of what are known as the forces of Nature.
Plagues and pestilences result from violations of Law, or rather from the lack of recognition of the power and utility of higher laws with which man can ally himself to overcome and banish such calamities. While Natural Law is never suspended, there are mental and spiritual laws which rule and neutralize the power of those which are below, and man's divine sonship gives him dominion in the subordinate realm. One raises a pebble from the ground. Thus the law of gravitation is overcome by the higher law of the human will, though not for an instant is the earth's attraction lessened or suspended. Tree-life is superior to gravitation, and therefore the sap rises and overcomes it.
Spiritual laws occupy the highest rank in beneficence and potentiality, and, therefore, are primary and supreme among causative forces. The intellectual economy is inferior in rank, being expressive and resultant. The physical realm is a still cruder manifestation of the immaterial forces which have their source and play in unseen productive agencies. We speak of the "laws of matter," but matter has no laws of its own. It merely expresses the quality and shaping of what is back of and superior to itself. It is but a printed page, which has no meaning except as interpreted from beneath the letter.
Man must discern the fact that he is a sharer and an heir of the Divine Nature, and that with such an heritage he may assert his birthright of authority over the economies around and below him. He learns to govern, mould, and give quality to his own nature, and also to grasp and utilize the forces of the spiritual world from whence the innumerable lines of Law radiate and gather their potentiality. This knowledge, of itself, constitutes such a wonderful acquisition that the Christ affirmed that he that is least in the kingdom of heaven—the understanding of spiritual law—is greater than John the Baptist, who represented prophecy and morality. Even the least in the domain of the Real is of far more value than great accomplishment of inferior quality.
Noting the universality and beneficence of Law, and the transcendent importance and potency of Spiritual Law, it may be profitable to trace a few of its innumerable applications, and also to look at its relations with Providence, prayer, and freedom of the will.
Providence is within the limits of Law, and there can be no special providences unless there be special and capricious laws. A providential event may be as beneficent,—nay, more so,—if it come in an orderly manner, than if it were the outcome of partiality or lawlessness. If it were possible to bend Law to our notional desires instead of conforming ourselves to its infinitely wise shaping, tbe motive for such a chaotic act must be supreme selfishness. Shall man presume to change the universal order to accommodate the distorted partiality of his baser self? Can he improve upon Infinite Wisdom?
Whenever man's consciousness rises from the selfish animality which darkens the basement of his being, and looks out through the spiritual altitude of his nature, he instinctively feels the kindness of established order, and knows that "all is good." Law is not only supremely powerful, but it is ever waiting to serve us.
In view of the immutability of Law, what is the province of prayer? Is not any petition that would strive to change the divine order superfluous? If God's economy is already perfect, is it not an implication upon His wisdom to beg for its revision? The strained use of the prayer of petition for special material favors is standing evidence of the selfish materialism of humanity. If God be Infinite Love and Wisdom, and knows better what we need than we can know, how can we presume to counsel or enlighten Him? Can we ask even for needed spiritual blessing, expecting a change on His part in response? We misapprehend the nature of prayer. His Spirit is already omnipresent, awaiting our recognition, and how could it be more?
Is there, then, no place for prayer? Yes; for "prayer without ceasing." Prayer is communion, aspiration, oneness of spirit. It is soul contact with the Parent-Mind, the reception of the Immanent God into the every-day consciousness. In its loftiest form it is a living recognition that the Infinite Love has already bestowed every possible gift, so that there is absolutely nothing to ask for. But there is unbounded utility in true prayer on the human side, to bring such a stupendous fact into our consciousness. As by such aspiration we come into oneness with God, we command a thousand-fold more blessing through spiritual law than would be possible if we possessed infinite power to bend the divine will, linked with our fallible wisdom to determine the manner of bestowment.
In proportion as men feel themselves to be "sons of God," they can wield divine forces and legally make them ministries of blessing. Take a case of physical ailment, for the recovery of which there are two possible forms of prayer. One, that God in answer to petition would change on His part so as to send forth a special influx of healing power. Such a response would imply changeableness, improvement, and existing imperfection on the part of God which our importunity would correct. The second, recognition that Unchangeable Good has already done everything necessary, and that it remains for us to come so close to Him as to be able to bring the divine ideal into outward expression, through and in accord with Law. A knowledge that physical wholeness is natural—as the external manifestation of spiritual forces already at our disposal—would powerfully aid in bringing lawful and potential wholeness into actuality. As "sons of God" we may learn to command orderly supernal powers, and through them to make visible such complete demonstrations as shall show answers to prayer from a Deity who is "without variableness or shadow of turning." Every possible prayer for what is truly the best is eternally answered, and the result is in readiness for us to bring into conscious manifestation. We need not beg good of a Father who is Infinite Love, but we must open our souls and quicken our spiritual vision to the perception of the infinitude of lawful gifts already our own. The grand mission of prayer is to bring us subjectively into harmony with God by the recognition of His presence in the soul. It is not a form of words, though it may be audibly expressed. In its essence it is loving intercourse with the Presence which besets our spirits "behind and before."
By infallible Law one grows into the likeness of his mental delineation of the Deity which he worships, for it forms his highest ideal of perfection. The more complete one's concept of God, the more divinely shaped will be his standards and attainments. To instruct or implore a God who is susceptible to change or improvement reflects its vacillation and imperfection upon the petitioner. The prayer of communion and aspiration unfolds the divine self-hood, and reveals the road to the utilization of Law, and the apprehension of truth, that through them men may acquire dominion which is princely in its richness. Such spiritual wealth is the natural heritage of "sons."
The universal cosmos, visible and invisible, has a rhythm, to discover the harmonious vibrations of which is man's high privilege and prerogative. Paul knew this when he affirmed, "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." This was a reference, not merely to the historic Jesus, nor to any special bestowment of power, but to such a perception of God's orderly methods as enabled him to command them. These constitute the essential Christ which Jesus outwardly manifested.
Let us concisely state a few fundamental applications of Law that are of the highest importance and utility, but which humanity is slow to recognize.
Love is the high consummation and fulfillment of all Law. It casts out fear, discord, and imperfection. To minister is Godlike—Christ like. Giving out spiritual and material good fulfils divine order, and, therefore, benefits the giver as well as the recipient. In proportion to one's bestowment upon others his own being is enriched. Giving and receiving are found to be but the different sides of one whole. Ministry is the motive power of spiritual advancement; for the law of love reaches down, rules, and overcomes adverse laws which are below itself.
The laws of mental delineation are also of supreme importance in the human economy. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." One unconsciously grows into the likeness of his favorite mental specifications, and finally becomes the expression of his ruling thought. Evil, if brought near, examined, and analyzed, grows more realistic as it is dwelt upon; and this is true even when the sincere purpose is its opposition. As darkness is the mere absence of light, so evil displaced by good fades to its native nothingness. Good is positive because it is Godlike and lawful. The objective vitality of evil is gained from the reflection of subjective consciousness. If we had nothing wrong in ourselves as a correspondence, we could never recognize the same quality in others; and if such a condition were general, the Christly law of non-resistance would have unlimited sway. "Thinketh no evil," is to give it no breathing space. Pessimism is unwholesome because it multiplies bad conditions and galvanizes them into life. One always finds what he looks for. Recognizing only the best in humanity, it is thereby subjectively and objectively emphasized and brought into manifestation. The sensational and realistic delineation of criminal details in journalism and fiction multiplies crime and criminals. One who commits a physical assault is speedily arrested and punished by society; but the assaults of dime novels, police-gazette literature and illustrations, upon youthful and plastic mind, are vastly more deadly. The exhibition and depiction of objective depravity arouse and stimulate its subjective correspondence.
As to be hated, needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
Nature is optimistic, and as civilization recedes from natural standards towards artificialness it tends toward chaos and decay. We may reverently affirm that God is perfect and infinite Optimism.
The throes and penalties which appear inherent in the material nature of man are the necessary incidents, experiences, and goads in the great process of spiritual evolution. Intrinsic growth in the individual and in society is through pain and confusion, these being the effervescence of good and evil,—the conflict between the divinity and the animality in dual human nature. The maledictions of the imprecatory psalms of David were directed against the adverse forces of his own lower nature, and not against foes without.
The immutable law of correspondence in physical expression would be of supreme utility to the race if its potency were generally recognized. The human body being but a literal transcript of the mind, physical inharmonies can be rectified through mental and spiritual lawfulness; but as the process is complex and gradual, the correspondence is not superficially apparent.
Those significant and well-defined laws which govern thought are also but lightly appreciated. Thoughts are powers, and even when unexpressed they go forth armed with influences for good or ill upon other minds. The molding power of thought currents, and their utility or abuse as regulated by Law, are more truly corner-stones in the scientific Temple of Truth than are the orderly methods of gravitation, cohesion, or any other observed phenomena of the physical world. Large thought-space bestowed upon unworthy objects or propensities confers dominion upon them. Even an utter nonentity may thus crowd the whole field of vision, and be galvanized into supreme reality. The sensualist dwells in a sensual atmosphere, and to him the whole world has a corresponding hue. The whole objective universe takes on the color and quality of the subjective status of the beholder. If there be a barren waste within, the external world will be a veritable Sahara. All visible actions and occurrences are but the inevitable sequences of stored-up aggregations of thought. High thinking, cultivated and encouraged, elevates the consciousness and transforms the thinker. Thoughts being substance, each current delineation that is poured into the great reservoir of unconscious mind adds a tinge of its own color. Every sequence is not a matter of chance, but of Law.
Rich outward environment does not bring harmony and contentment, even though the world believes the reverse, as indicated by the mad race for power, wealth, and position. Material attainment, however marvelous, will never usher in the “Golden Age." The wealth of invention which has so wonderfully augmented man's physical accomplishment during the past fifty years has conferred no additional happiness. The greatly broadened scale of material comforts only increases and intensifies his sullen discontent with his lot. Humanitarians who confine their efforts to the amelioration of physical conditions alone, only touch the surface of human misery. If everyone were housed in a palace, dissatisfaction, rivalry, and restlessness would still be the rule.
The intellect may be cultivated, and the tastes refined to the utmost, without in the least quickening the moral pulse or lifting man into a higher and more harmonious consciousness. When well-rounded spiritual and moral character becomes the goal of mankind, and the search for harmony is made within rather than without, ideal conditions will become manifest. By invariable Law the spiritual realm of man's nature is serene and perfect, and the ego must climb into its delectable atmosphere in order to inhale the divine ozone.
Everything that lives grows into the likeness of its environment. Man can invoke either the true or false, and surround himself with it as if hy magic. By and through Law, he is a creator, and can build subjective worlds, and ere long the objective sphere takes on their quality. Materialistic science has fancied that it was exploring the whole realm of logical truth, while in fact it has hardly raised its eyes above the lower and cruder side. A study of the influence of unexpressed thought is as truly scientific as a research in microscopy or electricity; and the logical sequences of different subjective mental states are of far greater practical interest than an inquiry into the principles of chemistry or bacteriology.
A study of health is vastly more profitable than a study of disease, because every mental delineation presses for outward structural expression.
Religion teaches that Love is the sum total of the moral code, but science has yet to discover that Love is the grand focus where all the infinite lines of Law converge. It is already apparent to the spiritual vision of keen observers that Love is the highest Law; but the fact will gradually dawn upon humanity that in the kingdom of the Real, Love is the only Law. The law of attraction which is omnipresent in the material cosmos may be regarded as an exact correspondence of the universality of Love in the pure realm of all-embracing spirit. The colors of the rainbow, when blended, form the pure white light; and so, however complex and heterogeneous law in its thousand aspects may appear, its final translation is Love. In its ultimate, Love sees only love outside of itself. It finally becomes incapable of beholding anything besides, because all else is composed of subjective falsity. Only the Real will glorify the field of its delectable vision.
Tennyson beautifully expresses this thought:
And one far-off, divine event,
To which the whole creation moves.
Love in its lower forms is educational. Personal, paternal, filial, and even conjugal loves are the training-schools of that broader, perfected, impersonal Law of Attraction. The grand climax of the welding of Law and Love will only be reached when it blossoms into universal recognition as the One Force of the Universe. Then will be realized the scientific exactness of the declaration that “God is Love." Such a subjective recognition, whether here or hereafter, is known as Heaven.
And joy and moan,
Melt into one,
There Past, Present, Future, shoot
Triple blossoms from one root;
Substances at base divided
In their summits are united;
There the holy essence rolls,
One, through separated souls.
All lesser and lower conditions lack perfect lawfulness, and are but mirror-like reflections of different degrees of unlawful consciousness. All other characteristics ascribed to God are subjective images projected and magnified. The "consuming fire” of pure Love may wear a terrible aspect to those who are persistently law-less, and that aspect is called hell. Such distorted vision kindles purifying internal fires until falsity is consumed, and this brings God—the Real—into recognition as "All in all."