The nature of man is complex. In the ascending evolutionary scale his physical organism stands upon the fifth great plane, having been preceded by the elementary, chemical, vegetal, and animal subdivisions. He is now evolving a spiritual faculty, which is regarded as a sixth plane or state of consciousness, and has within him the germ of a seventh, as a final supreme attainment. The sixth order or sense is also denominated the intuition; and the seventh, the divine, or Christ-plane, where man meets God and becomes at one with him.
Some of the esoteric systems of the Orient find seven elements in Man, in the following ascending order: first, the physical organism; second, the vitality; third, the astral body; fourth, the animal soul; fifth, the intelligent or human soul; sixth, the spiritual soul; seventh, the divine soul, or God-consciousness. Other systems count but five grades or planes in the human economy, making the distinctions a little broader than those just enumerated.
But in this work, as no study of occultism or theosophy is proposed, every practical purpose will be subserved by a consideration of the three great planes of human consciousness, with which all are familiar. They may be defined as the sensuous nature, or physical consciousness; the intellectual talent, or reasoning consciousness; and the intuitive faculty, or spiritual consciousness. This trinity forms the individual unity, the soul of man, or, more correctly, man.
Consciousness may be described as the relation of the ego to its immediate thought-environment. The occupant of a three-story house may use either floor as his permanent abiding-place, or may move about, dividing his time between them. The human ego has the freedom and range of its threefold kingdom, circumscribed and limited only by the growth of habit and inclination. The lower or sensuous realm is not evil, but intrinsically good in its own order and place. For all normal and wholesome purposes the ego does, and should, visit and occupy the lower story of its nature, for such occupation is lawful and orderly. But the infinite wisdom and beneficence of the Creator, in the economy of man, as elsewhere, provides for a regular and beautiful method of progress, and this must be observed in order to a harmonious and perfect fruition. It is provided, that in the various departments of human consciousness, the ego must make constant progress in its residential preferences, from the lower towards the higher, otherwise arrested development, inharmony, disease, and finally inversion, take place. If the occupant become enamored with the sensuous attractions and delights of the lower apartments, or even linger too long midway, losing through inertia or habit the earnest desire to go higher and "gain a residence," a course of degeneration sets in.
The ruling daily and hourly consciousness is all the time building up the soul-structure with material of its own quality. The great majority of the human family are strangers in the supreme zone of their natures, and remain persistently below, until forced upwards by the discomfort and decay which they invite by arresting development. Many who rarely mount above, are almost unaware of the existence of their upper, sunny apartments, or at least have no appreciation of their beauty and healthfulness.
The great distinguishing feature of the sensuous consciousness is that it practically views the material body as the self. This radical mistake is the great ground-current which galvanizes into life and activity all human miseries, abnormities, and diseases, mental and physical. If the ego roams in the murky atmosphere of this low plane, which is impenetrable to the sunlight from above, a host of negative phantoms shadows, and specters take on veritable reality and overwhelming power. In the measure that consciousness lives, moves, and has its abiding-place among the hollow forms of sense, it relates itself to, and depends upon, the external system which we call Nature, and therefore falls into subjection to outward environment. This constitutes the "natural" or Adamic man, or, as denominated by Paul, the carnal man. In his constitution are located sin, disorder, and all inharmony. When the ego is aroused and lifted to the realm of the spiritual life, into the presence of the divine image within, there comes the possession of a legitimate supremacy over sense-relations and material thralldom.
The overcoming of disease is not the chief and primary object in the aspiration to spiritual consciousness, but only incidental to such a new order of relationship. The divine spirit is an educator; "He will guide you into all truth." As man listens to the voice within, the outer chorus of discordant noises is hushed, and there come peace and harmony. This is the Christ-principle, "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Man's way to find God, and all God-like wholeness, is through the Christ in himself. The church early lost the apostolic life and healing power, because of the substitution of ecclesiastical and external authority for the inward oracle and divine illumination. She exchanged transcendent power, vitality, and all their outward expressive attestations, for external ceremonialism, pomp, and ritual, and was thus shorn of her primal strength. She still clings tenaciously to the local and historic inspiration and experience, therefore her life is in the past. If life were ever inspired it should be inspired now, for the Christ spirit and quality are as truly living as when incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth.
The illuminated spiritual consciousness does not disparage any legitimate intellectual pursuit, or undervalue scientific, artistic, or industrial professions and occupations, but rather ennobles, gilds, and refines them. All that is true in nature, science, religion, and inspiration, is in perfect accord, for all the different sides of Truth supplement and indorse each other. They are parts of God's one great revelation of Himself and His methods, but each appears in the color and garb of its own plane of expression.
Religion may be defined as a life characterized by spiritual consciousness and right thinking. Holiness (originally wholeness) is the natural result and attestation of the spiritual life. Religion of this vital quality restores, because it bestows abundant life. Religion considered as belief, dogma, ritual, or as outward conduct, has no such power and vitality. The Master said, "No man cometh unto the Father but by me;" that is, through the Christ principle or quality within. Every human child of God possesses the divine germ, and with its unfoldment there come all potency and possibility.
How can we make a practical application of these grand forces, of the possession of which we are so often unconscious? In what "matter-of-fact," everyday procedure can one unfold the divine within him and realize its fruition? How can a weary traveler on the highway of life, who is carrying a burden of mental or physical inharmony, anxiety, and discouragement, leave them behind and gain veritable harmony and illumination?
Thought discipline and control is the key which unlocks spiritual storehouses of strength and attainment; and earnest desire and aspiration—which is "prayer without ceasing"—is the motor which furnishes power and intensity. Whenever the thought is not occupied with one's daily duty or profession, it should be sent aloft into the spiritual atmosphere. There are quiet leisure moments by day, and wakeful hours at night, when this wholesome and delightful exercise may be engaged in to great advantage. If one who has never made any systematic effort to lift and control the thought-forces will, for a single month, earnestly pursue the course here suggested, he will be surprised and delighted at the result, and nothing will induce him to go back to careless, aimless, and superficial thinking. At such favorable seasons the outside \ world, with all its current of daily events, is barred out, and one goes into the silent sanctuary of the inner temple of soul to commune and aspire. The spiritual hearing becomes delicately sensitive, so that the "still, small voice" is audible, the tumultuous waves of external sense are hushed, and there is a great calm. The ego gradually becomes conscious that it is face to face with the Divine Presence; that mighty, healing, loving, Fatherly life which is nearer to us than we are to ourselves.
This is "the secret place of the Most High," and here we receive tokens from the One "in whom we live, and move, and have our being." There is no verbal petition for material favors, for, "all things are yours;" but there is loving communion, harmony, and gratitude, and they are mingled with a divine overflowing. There is soul-contact with the Parent-Soul, and an influx of life, love, virtue, health, and happiness from the Inexhaustible Fountain. There is growing at-one-ment, and something of the divine beauty and perfection is photographed upon the human soul. The divine in man sees and feels its affinity and likeness to its Great Source, and there is intimacy and companionship. Eternal and transcendent Truth flashes its pure and gentle light into the chambers of the soul, and there is no mistaking its divine features and vestments. The living Christ within, who perhaps has been hidden by external forms and dogmas, is revealed; and the ego exclaims, in the language of Thomas, " My' Lord and my God!" This is the true "Mount of Transfiguration," and on its summit Law, Prophecy, and the Logos meet in loving communion.
The light and inspiration from the "Mount" in the soul-center flash their vitality outward, and every nerve and tissue in the physical expression feels the divine thrill. Their harmonious vibrations directly dissipate mental and physical morbidity and disease. The process is not miraculous, but orderly, scientific, and in full accord with the laws of man's constitution. These experiences are possible to every soul, and their fullness may be realized in proportion to the measure of earnestness and aspiration.
Truth is not a code of moral legislation, intellectual formula, or medical lore imposed by outside authority, but a disclosing of God's features and methods within the human consciousness. We miss the divine overflowing because we have lost our spiritual plasticity through the sharp mechanical lines of external formalism. As the physical organism is only soul made manifest, the highest good of the inner is the salvation of the outer. The soul-man being the natural head must insist upon regulating the affairs of his own household. The usurpation of the flesh-man (who is only a claimant, and no man at all) lies at the foundation of all human infelicity. It is the "Fall," which is an ever-recurring mistake, rather than a matter of local history; a soul-education, purchased more or less dearly, according to the measure of understanding. Said Browning:—
To try the soul's strength on.
The serpent of the lower self desires a knowledge of good and evil. As everything objective is intrinsically good, evil can only be known subjectively and experimentally. All is good, and the seeming otherwise is the result of distorted and inverted vision, which produces a morbid consciousness, and this externally manifests itself in deformity and disorder. The whole cosmos, without deviation, is friendly to man—as a soul—all apparent unfriendliness being located in the perverted vision of the flesh-man. When this "pretender" is willing to occupy his normal and secondary place, the whole order of nature is also friendly to him. The material man is not man, but only man's instrument and expression. The supreme human necessity is a ruling consciousness of the true self as spirit, here and now. Man is everywhere laboring under the delusion that he is now a fleshly being; but, though using a corporeal instrument, he is as truly spirit as he ever will be."
Man by man was never seen;
All our deep communing fails
To remove the shadowy screen.
Man's wrong consciousness and false thinking are expressed in disorderly externals, and he therefore believes that he is ill. He is divine and cannot be ill. His disease is a beneficent chastisement which kindly comes to drive away his only enemy—his own false consciousness—so that he will "come to himself." It is the hunger, thirst, and cold that will finally cause him to turn back to the Father's house for sustenance and shelter. It is wise to return before wandering into the "far country" and taking the severe lessons of husk-food and famine, which are necessary when consciousness clings to its dark and damp basement.
The recognition of all life and energy as God in manifestation, is an uplifting and healing state of consciousness. To behold Him immanent in all nature, and incarnate in all humanity, transmutes and purifies everything that is common and unclean. It makes perfect ideals operative and present. With such a conscious environment all our lines of relationship bring only messages of the good. We cease to recognize abnormity, until it finally vanishes from our consciousness and becomes non-existent to us. Discords become only preludes to harmony, and God appears as infinite and perfect Love, beneficent Law and Intelligence. This brings heaven (harmony) into the present life as a possible condition.
The noblest and most helpful thought that we can possibly bestow upon those about us, is the realization that they are divine incarnations. They are "quickening spirits," innermostly children of God. To see and firmly hold them in such a light is the strongest and purest "mental treatment" that can be given for their restoration to wholeness and harmony.