The world is bound in the fetters of the seen. A sensuous and pessimistic cloud darkens and benumbs racial progress and aspiration. Human thought and action are conformed to traditional standards and gauged by external models and maxims.
Life, which is intangible and invisible, expresses itself through organisms, though it is not the result but the cause of organization. All the potency of the universe is resident in spirit, which through orderly energy builds up symmetrical forms. The things around us that seem so solid and enduring are thin shadows cast by that subtle spiritual energy which forms their only basis. The earth itself is one grand cemetery, made up of disintegrated forms, while the great current of life which formerly vitalized them still flows on unspent and undiminished. That which at present is in manifestation, and which our eyes behold, is but an infinitesimal part of the grand Whole. Where is the dust that has not some time been molded and fashioned by living energy, and that in different shapes repeated,—
The globe are but a handful to the tribes
That slumber in its bosom
—William Cullen Bryant
Says Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians, "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
All physical organisms are built by their invisible residents and not for them. Materialistic science, after much assumption and persistent experiment, has been forced to utterly abandon the theory of spontaneous generation, the attempt to evolve life out of dead or inorganic matter. The doctrine of Biogenesis, which teaches that life originates only in previous life, i3 abundantly established. Still further, every kind and quality of life organizes itself in that special form of embodiment which exactly corresponds to its nature. The form of a tiger, in every detail, perfectly expresses the tiger life and disposition, and that of a lamb is fashioned by its lamb-like characteristics. Life—animal, human, or divine—is ever carving its own animated statues, and through immutable law sets them up with perfect correspondence and adaptability. The human mind rears its own noble form, molded and polished in every feature by the unconscious constructive thought and specification of its resident architect. Its outline, vigor, and utility are developed or impaired by the favoring or disfavoring mental states of its owner. The general recognition of the fact that all primary causation is mental or spiritual, would be of untold value to humanity; but even the church has been so materialistic that it has mistakenly located an important part of the causal realm in matter. Physical philosophy has thereby logically concluded that molecular changes in the gray matter of the brain were the causes of variations in mental conditions; a remarkable instance of the confusing of cause and effect. Immortal mind subservient to the change of position of a few particles of dust! The same materialistic logic causes men to search in the clay of their bodies for the cause of physical or mental ills. Life cannot be reinforced by any mere manipulation of the dust, which is only its outermost circumference and shadow. A changed expression comes from a changed expresser. In order to move a shadow we must change the position of the object which casts it.
Materialism is the bane of humanity. Its malaria has subtly enveloped philosophy, science, theology, therapeutics, religion, creeds, and ethics. Its sordid, hypnotic dream is the fatal spell which holds the world in thralldom. Its great current of selfishness, avarice, pride, and conventionalism sweeps the multitude along by an irresistible momentum. Pseudo-science avers that mind is only an attenuated and highly developed form of matter, nothing more, and thus leaves men "without God and without hope in the world." Pessimistic fiction joins hands with it, and lends the artistic skill and charm of its creators to echo its cold mechanical conclusions, and thus enlists the imagination in its unholy warfare. The living, pulsating cosmos becomes a dumb mechanism,—a dead, blank, fatalistic negation.
But turning to a truly scientific interpretation of phenomena, we find that color, form, solidity, extension, and other so-called properties of matter are, in their essence, sensuous limitations. Some years since it was announced with a flourish of trumpets by an eminent materialistic scientist, that all potency was contained in matter, but a correct statement would locate it in mind. Mind is the potter, and matter the clay. The seen world is only a sensuous veil covering unseen reality. The visible is a painted canvas which represents the landscape, but the invisible is the living scenery itself.
A proper discrimination will divide the unseen into two distinct economies,—one in a sense material, though invisible, and another which is purely spiritual. The first may be said to include force, attraction, cohesion, electrical and chemical energy, the inter-planetary ether, and perhaps other imponderable agents. The higher realm of pure spirit includes the One Infinite Mind and its individualized, human expressions and their attributes. Immutable law provides that all energy and expressiveness have their rise in causal planes which are higher than those of their phenomena, and we infer that all primary causation is located in the realm of spirit. The next lower, or the invisible material world, is the residence of secondary causes, and forms a connecting and intermediary link; and still below is the seen, which is the crude and entirely passive ultimate. Is there a corresponding chain of sequence in the individual economy? Does the ego telegraph its commands to the various bodily members by means of electrical energy? Such is the accepted doctrine of able scholars.
It is not within the scope of this work to philosophize regarding the intermediary realm, for that technically lies within the boundaries of physical science. Some of the researches in this department however are of intense interest. Among the deductions of modern investigation, it is claimed that what we call matter is in reality only "points of force;" that the atoms of which bodies are composed never touch each other, and that the inter-planetary space which was formerly supposed to be a mere vacuum is filled with an ether more solid than steel. The "rhythmic hypothesis" leads to the supposition that various systems, economies, and civilizations may exist together, be amidst and pass through each other, without either being aware of the proximity of the other.
Are the spiritual bodies of our friends and neighbors—yea, and of the race—who have passed on, all about and among us continually? Such a conclusion seems probable from analogy, science, revelation, and intuition.
Unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep.
It is far more reasonable to believe that on the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elias were disclosed to the sharpened spiritual perception of the disciples, than that they came from a far-away paradise. When Elisha prayed that his servant's eyes might be opened, "he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha." They were already there, but the vision was conditioned upon the spiritual perception of the young man.
Our notional materialism confers substantiality upon gold, silver, iron, houses, lands, railroads; but as they are not real forces, we are guilty of unconscious idolatry. They are nothing until acted upon by the unseen; but a thought-wave, idea, or doctrine can transform nations.
We are constantly misled by identifying ourselves with our sensuous nature. Men carelessly, and even jocosely, speak of those who have passed on, as ghosts, shades, phantoms, specters, and apparitions. But much more exactly such definitions would fit the visible body, which with scientific exactness may be called an unsubstantial appearance. Men say, we do not want abstractions; give us terra firma. Yet but for the subtle force of the unseen, the earth itself would disintegrate and dissolve into mere vapor.
The universal cosmos is an expression of divine thought and energy from within, not from the exterior. Every human creation is mentally produced before it takes on material form. A locomotive is the thought of an expert mechanic embodied in iron, steel, and brass. Nature is a living, pulsating, divine energy, expressed to us upon a plane which is fitted to our sentient perception. We can follow back lines of causation, step by step, until we are overwhelmed with a sense of the Great Primal Energy—God—who is the basis of all things. This ultimate, when translated to us, is Love, which we may regard as the one universal principle, on the plane of the spiritual universe, corresponding to gravitation in the intermediate realm.
The human soul contains an unseen universe within itself. Man is a microcosm, though the statement has been regarded by many as poetic rather than scientific. It is also exact to affirm that he can cognize nothing objective except its counterpart and correspondence exist within him. If one, through conformity to law, regulate his universe within, so as to bring it into harmonious relations with the universe without, he is in at-one-ment with the divine order. In the macrocosm the spiritual realm is dominant and supreme. If the microcosm be otherwise, because of the dominance of the seen, it becomes discordant and chaotic. Every soul universe is gradually taking such color and quality as will perfectly manifest its inmost consciousness.
In the spiritual domain there are various spheres of attainment which the Christ denominated as "many mansions." The divine forces of involution which have eternally radiated from God are gathered, individualized, and evolved into increasingly compact forms in their upward return towards the Father's House. Divine involution is the basis and inspiration of human evolution. If the life principle had not first been involved into the acorn, it could not be evolved into the oak. The potential "sons of God” have been upon a journey into a far country, but their inherent heritage only becomes manifest during their return towards the Paternal Mansion. To human sense the upward course is a narrow, thorny path, but to spiritual discernment it is the King's highway.
Said Edwin Arnold, "Where does nature show signs of breaking off her magic, that she should stop at the five senses, and the sixty or seventy elements? Nothing but ignorance and despondency forbids that the senses, so etherealized and enhanced, and so fitly adapted to fine combinations of an advanced entity, would discover art divinely elevated, science splendidly expanding, bygone loves and sympathies explaining and obtaining their purpose, activities set free for vaster cosmic service, abandoned hopes and efforts realized in rich harvests at last, regrets and repentances softened by the discovery that although in this universe nothing can be forgiven, everything may be repaid and repaired. To call such a life Heaven, or the Hereafter, is a temporary concession to the illusions of speech and thought. It would rather be a state, a plane of faculties, to expand again into other and higher states or planes; the slowest and lowest in the race of life coming in last, but each, everywhere finally attaining."
Man is not hedged in, for he has God-like prerogatives, and his spiritual native heath is within the limits of the divine nature. The whole unbounded universe is his, subject only to the developed capacity of his own openness to receive his inheritance. The declaration of Paul that, "all things are yours," though positive, has been given little significance.
Space, time, locality, and other sensuous phenomena are but provisional forms of thought. The soul during its long process of spiritual evolution utilizes for a short time its bodily instrument as a disciplinary and educational agency. But, by homage to the form instead of the substance, man has bound himself by unnumbered limitations, and turned his back upon his princely heritage. He has loaded the simple and natural Christ-religion with superficial traditions, and is struggling under dead weights, which he has placed upon his own shoulders.
If we would listen intently we might hear the divine voice within assuring us that God is our life; that spirit is the only substantial entity, and that love is the only law.
In order to build our microcosm of divine and enduring substance, we must invoke a mental environment of the real, the good, and the lovely; for thought is constantly furnishing our building material and placing it in the structure. The most ideal of all attainments is the development of the power to "see God." We first learn to behold Him in Nature, which reveals Him as Creator and Father. By the next step we are able to behold the divine image in humanity around us, which is the degree of the Son, or incarnation. The third and highest attainment is God dwelling in our own consciousness through a recognized oneness, and this may be denominated the degree of the Spirit. These form a trinity of recognition, or three aspects of the Eternal One. Everything in and around us thus becomes a living revelation of God.
In conceiving of the spiritual world we are too much inclined to identify it with a future life it is there, but also here. It is that rich, divine realm in which our souls live, move, and nourish themselves, both here and hereafter. It is the outflow of the superabundant life and love of God upon which we feed and grow. All nature is an object-lesson showing the wisdom and beneficence which pulsate in the invisible counterpart behind it. Our spiritual vision must be sharpened so that we can penetrate through forms and veils and behold the warm exuberance beneath. The spiritual faculty within is always in touch with God, and is the organ through which we commune with spiritual spheres. The intellect may reason about God, but only the intuitive perception can see and feel Him.
We may not suppose that of necessity one gets deeper into the spirit-world by the act of laying off the material organism. There is an outer and an inner, a spiritual and unspiritual, there, as well as here. True spirituality on either plane is only gained by earnest aspiration. It is often thought that when the body, with its clogs and limitations, is laid off, great spiritual progress can be made at a bound; but orderly development can only be gradual in any condition. Form, locality, climate, and plane have little to do with soul-progress, which is only made by a growing illumination in its divine center. Life, love, and truth must be earnestly sought for their own intrinsic sakes. The earthly, selfish, and groveling thought currents must be checked and overcome hereafter as well as in the present embodiment. Sinful and debasing mental states will still build up structures of their own correspondences, and only by slow and difficult processes will they be demolished or transformed. The base will attract the base to them, each after their own kind and quality. Men, there as here, will dwell in their own evil natures, pursuits, loves, and companionships until the discord becomes insufferable, and the burning hunger can no longer be satisfied with husks; then amidst self-inflicted suffering they will turn and climb the toilsome ascent back toward the ever-open Father's House.
The present is the time to "walk in the spirit." "Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." The external life is changeful and tumultuous because the internal, divine life is not yet unfolded. A spiritual glow at the soul-center sends its invigorating energy outward into ultimates, and thereby corrects and clarifies the domain of illusions, shadows, and disorders. Harmony can be found only in the unseen.
The real universe to each one is that which is built of thoughts, mental states, and imaginations. No evil can ever harm us except as we build it into our world with our own hands.
Let us ascend the mount of spiritual vision, and with intuitive eye glance at the broad outlook. Upon one hand we behold a glorious landscape, made up of the fertile meadows of living, spiritual consciousness; masses of color composed of the flowers of brotherly love; shady groves, where every tree is an elevating thought; the luxuriant foliage of good works, mountains of pure spiritual aspiration, crystal streams of altruism, all lying upon the shore of the great, shimmering, boundless sea of divine and human oneness. We may roam in these meadows, bask in this sunlight, gather these flowers, drink of these fountains, and revel in this scenery. Our divine heritage confers upon us creative energy, and such a domain is of our own invoking and uprearing.
But, on the other hand, our moral freedom makes it possible for us to erect—even ignorantly or carelessly—a negative world, unseen, but subjectively real. Shall we glance at it? Pestilential morasses exhale the miasma of selfishness; the gnarled trunks of its slimy trees are twisted and bent with envy and sensuality; its mountains are volcanoes, out of whose fiery deeps are belched forth showers of evil imaginings, burning passions, and appetites; its turbid streams are stagnant and clogged with avarice and ambition, and its very atmosphere is clammy with materialism and fetichism. The wolves of malignant thought prowl within its desolate shades, and the serpents of cunning deceit and earthy instinct disport themselves in its damp recesses. Are we unconsciously building a habitation in such a subjective universe? When the present dream of sense is ended and we leave the material plane, our thought world will be our real world. As a mason sets brick after brick in a growing structure, so we are building thoughts and mental states into our unseen abodes. Only as divine and unchanging material is built into the house that we are constructing will it be able to endure the floods and tempests which are impending.
If man's ego or personality has not been wrought into the enduring part of his being, how much remains of him when he leaves the mortal form behind? Every idol, whether wealth, ambition, sensuality, and even the lower selfhood, will be stripped away, and how then will the soul recognize itself? Only that will remain which cannot be "shaken." The lower spheres of the unseen world retain the essence of earthiness and mortality. Men will continue to chase unreal phantoms and to embrace shadows, until a starving condition of their lean souls will constrain them to turn and seek that which is real.
Does animalized individuality possess a surviving personal consciousness, or must the life-force—which in its essence cannot be destroyed—be turned back to make another trial in some other form or condition?
In the disintegration of the dogma of an arbitrary hell imposed from without, we must beware of minimizing the peril of one which is self-made, that will burn out the dross as unsparingly as it is separated in a refiner's crucible. So far as we identify the ego with the body and the "carnal mind," we shall be lost, and that by law, immutable, and even beneficent.
A character religion is far more searching in its test of foundations than is a religion of dogma. It penetrates to the thoughts and intents of the heart. It goes beneath externals, and deals directly with the inmost springs of being. If one is taught that salvation is based upon righteousness which is outside of himself, he is not inclined to use much care in the examination of his own superstructure. In no degree can ordinances, creeds, and sacraments fill the place of spiritual attainment.
We may dwell beneath the visible seething surface of things, and thus link the ego to the unchangeable. The unseen, the ideal, and the spiritual will then stand out in high relief in our consciousness, until we are molded by them. The whole invisible realm in and around us is surcharged with spiritual potency and life. If we open the portals of our being, it will flow in and inspire and invigorate.
Has fill'd his urn where these pure waters rise,
And once more mingles with us meaner things,
'Tis e'en as if an angel shook his wings.
We are living in an eternal fountain of strength, and yet are weak; we are encompassed with good, and yet behold evil; health is in infinite supply, and still we groan with pain and disease; order and symmetry are ours, but we are filled with discord and confusion: and all because we abide in the seen and transitory.
The exact nature of the future unseen universe has not been disclosed. Can Revelation and spiritual discernment give a faint hint of its glories? Paul declares that, "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." Saint John "the divine," in the Apocalypse, by means of symbolic imagery paints a picture of its splendors limited only by the power of human language.
Can we, through the telescope of spirit, catch a glimpse of a pure soul, who after a quick and unconscious transition lands upon the delectable shore? A new but real universe is unveiled. Gathered to welcome the new initiate are the dear friends and neighbors who already are citizens. Hands are clasped, and a warm unison of love thrills through reunited souls. Everything which has been lost is found. Parents fold long-absent children in fond embrace, and brothers, sisters, and dear ones are restored and welcomed. The newly arrived celestial candidate is taken by the hand and introduced to grand spiritual activities, and his willing powers enlisted in unexpected and delightful ministries of loving service. Amazing opportunities for spiritual advancement open before him. What wonderful visions! What restoration and compensation! What a succession of far-reaching vistas! How many mysteries explained and questionings satisfied! What a blossoming of new beauty, color, and fragrance, of which he has been all unaware! How many new spiritual senses unfolded! What journeys of exploration, untrammeled by the limitations of time and space! What an expansion of knowledge! What a golden sunshine of love revealed to the enraptured gaze as rapidly as its brightness can be endured! What grand missionary tours to planes below to carry help, guidance, and instruction! What illimitable cycles of spiritual progression stretch out and wind upward towards the Great White Throne!