The eons of the past have been occupied with a struggle to bring forth man. That great effort is still in progress, for he is not yet completed. Generic man, or the human ideal, is, and always was, potentially complete; but in actualized existence and expression he is ever more becoming.
This is an era of remarkable progress and discovery. But the most wonderful of all the new accomplishments is man's discovery of himself. Only through evolutionary interpretation has this been possible. Without such a divining-rod he had no way to measure his own proportions, or to estimate his relations, and therefore had no idea of his size and importance.
The new philosophy has proved to be a universal clew; but, though we may follow it faithfully, we shall never arrive at its end. Only in its light can phenomena be translated, whether organic, inorganic, vegetal, animal, human, intellectual, or spiritual. It is the new mental telescope; and only through its lenses can be discerned the universal trend and specific aim of the cosmic economy. As before noted, its whole end and purpose—that "for which the whole creation groaneth and travaileth"—is the bringing forth of man.
In a very realistic sense, evolution has created a new heaven and a new earth, and, in fact, made all things new. Take all the so-called sciences, and they would not now recognize their likenesses, as faithfully taken two score of years ago. Geology, botany, zoology, astronomy, biology, in fact cosmology, which embraces them all, are to us new creations. All the theories, systems, textbooks, and authorities extant, that have been formulated without the light of this all-inclusive philosophy, are worthless lumber, warped and decayed. They are as incongruous as the Ptolemaic system of astronomy.
In this special study we are not to take up, technically, the details of material evolution; for these have been ably formulated by modern exponents from Darwin to Drummond, and to do this would require an especial equipment to which we lay no claim. Our purpose is rather to interpret the spirit, trend, and meaning of this great philosophy, as we follow its clew among the higher aspects, and to trace its all-inclusiveness in man.
Lifted from its blind materialism, evolution may be simply defined as the divine method of continuous creation; or, in more specific terms, as God's way of making ideal man—or the man that is finally to be the full expression of himself. To accomplish this grand work taxes the entire cosmic resources.
Evolution is not to be reconciled to the various fragmentary systems, dogmas, and opinions that have been built up into disconnected structures in the human consciousness of the past; but these must all come before its judgment-bar, and receive its righteous verdict. The truth—to just the degree that it is contained in them—will not only be electively made manifest, but put in orderly and connected form. Before tracing, a little in detail, some incidents that have occurred during the interminable human march to the present vantage-ground, we must establish a very radical and significant premise.
Evolution, as conventionally set forth, has been grossly materialistic. It has dealt with mere figures, rather than the numbers which they represent; with sensuous forms, instead of the molding force which shapes and rules them. The materialism of Darwin still lingers largely with most of the recent exponents of the new philosophy. But though their attention has been almost exclusively centered upon outward forms—which are only indexes—yet even such superficiality has been indispensably useful as a stepping stone to the deeper reality. A knowledge that recognizes progress in beauty, complexity and perfection of form, leads to an understanding of the advancing orderly shaping force, which is thus given outward expression. Visible forms are only symptomatic of the molding reality that is back of them, the quality of which they are striving to express. They are the printed characters which tell a great truth. It is admitted that forms are endowed with a quality called life or soul; but this has been regarded as an incidental property resulting from organization. Mere fortuitous combination was thus looked upon as a creator of life. Cause was mistaken for effect. Definitely stated, it is that matter evolves itself, or that it could be both actor and material acted upon. Darwin embodied it in his famous aphorism, "All potency is contained in matter."
Sensuous science has made an effort to eliminate divinity from nature and man, or at least to crowd it back to the most remote protoplasmic energy. Secondary gods have been set up, and labeled "natural selection," "chemical affinity," "inherent energy," and "resident forces," in the attempt to make a great orderly, unitary Intelligence unnecessary. It has virtually assumed that matter grows in and of itself. In its conflict with theology, science has almost out-dogmatized the dogmatists, by teaching a practical though unadmitted atheism.
On the other hand, the ranks of traditional literalism have become exceeding thin, and few remain who still hold that a deific fiat suddenly created all things from nothing.
There is an impassable gulf between evolution and all special dispensations. Every link in the endless chain of events is firmly attached to the ones which precede and succeed it. If the established order has ever been abruptly broken into from without, upon any plane whatsoever, then evolution is a myth. God reigns in and through orderly law, and is never self-contradictory. When reverently followed, a true evolutionary philosophy leads up to the conclusion that all phenomena are the manifestations of one Infinite Mind.
True evolution, in its essence, is the name of a law of progress, rather than of a series of seen forms. The life, mind, or soul, of whatever grade, is always the cause, and not the result, of organization. The real progression is in the ascending quality of mind or life. Each step is a successive state of internal character, and its visible form is only its sensuous translation.
It is not matter, per se, that progresses. The same physical material appears, disappears, and reappears in higher or lower combinations, as the case may be. It is passive clay grasped by the hand of a molder. The elements which today make up the body of a dog or tree may have figured long ago in the material organism of a seer or philosopher. There was no ascent or descent in the material, but only in its user. All progress is in the unseen. Your body is not you, but only your outpicturing index. The seen figure is not the progressive reality, but just the well-fitting clothing which shows the quality and taste of its present owner. The human ego picks up material, and erects it into an animated statue, in perfect correspondence to its interior quality. If he drop the material, and it be utilized by a horse life or mind, it at once assumes the corresponding equine expression in every detail. There is no exception to this rule. In the deepest sense, the real tree is the tree-life, and not the temporary material which it has grasped for outward expression. True, we may study and admire the latter, but it is unprofitable to invert the relation. A piece of marble, or even a clod of earth, has a kind of life. It will be increasingly evident that all true evolution is metaphysical.
In the great cycle of creative development, the Divine life, first involved into the lowest conditions, is at length, through a series of grand steps, gathered, organized, individuated, and evolved into "sons of God," in which form, with ever-growing reciprocal affection, the return is made to the "Father's House."
Realizing now distinctly that progress is located entirely in the quality and complexity of life, mind, and soul, of which the ascending outward forms are only indexes, we emerge from the thick fog of materialism into the clear sunlight of the true, progressive reality. Visible shapes are only the printed text which is to be read and interpreted. We cannot afford longer to mistake mere numerals on the blackboard for the realities of number for which they stand.
It will then be understood that, in noting some of the steps and processes which man in his lower estate has passed over, we are dealing with his unseen but real self, rather than the wayside inns along the road, in which he has been temporarily sheltered. The promise and potency of coming perfected spiritual man was assured from the beginning of the involution of divine energy into the lowest elemental conditions. The protoplasmic quickening that lies at the foundation of all things stands for and is a definite prophecy of man as finally complete in God's image. The Spirit of God, moving upon and involving itself into primal conditions, is the eternal conception and gestation which will continue until archetypal man shall be born into full expression.
What interminable struggles and efforts, and evolutions upon evolutions, all working for "one divine event to which the whole creation moves"! Based upon the prodigality of expenditure, what infinite value must be placed upon man, always bearing in mind that he is soul, and not body!
How such a comprehensive view puts us in universal touch and fellowship with all forms of life! Everything is not only our friend, but our consanguineal relative. Each has been a kind of abiding place along the great highway over which we have passed.
What a leap upwards was that from the inorganic to the organic! But the same omnipresent divine life binds the rock into form that thrills through the soul of an archangel. Mollusk, fish, reptile, and mammal—these grand subdivisions, each again many times subdivided, all these, form the rounds of the ladder upon which we have been climbing.
The tremendous ascent is a many-graded school, and the supreme lessons to be acquired are self-conscious individuality, and a developed recognition of oneness with our source.
The psychic nature of man was potentially present in the very clods of the valley. Every lesser grade of life made its supreme contribution, and passed it along to the next in order. All in turn have been melted in that vital crucible whose contents is being cast into man.
The road to a spiritual self-consciousness has been hewn through a great forest of expressive forms, each of which has been pushed aside for its more able successor. The clod becomes a vegetable, the vegetable an animal, the animal a man, the man a self-conscious spirit, and the spirit a god. We must ever bear in mind that all this progress is in positive quality of life, and that each of the rising forms is only its outward symbol. It is like a banner which shows the rank of the force which is marching behind it.
All the motives, mysteries, riddles, and potentialities of the universe find their solution and focalized climax in man. The world is, because he is. He is its reason and explanation. All things are concerned in his coming and becoming. Humanity is the universal goal, toward which, from all directions, there is a supreme effort. From the primal cell upward, everything has this tendency, aim, and transcendent purpose. Man is eternally begotten by the one Omnipresent Life, and is forever being born. The fingers of God, who is Spirit, are all through the cosmos, shaping the life or mind of every atom and molecule, and impressing upon it its grand destiny.
Our family kindred reside on every terrace that is stretched between the amoeba and Shakespeare, the reptile and Emerson. Each atom and molecule has magnetic polarity, and its polar star is humanity. The tree is coming man not yet loosened from the ground, and the fossil long ago passed on his best contribution and is resting a while. The evolutionary vesture is a robe, woven without seam, from bottom to top, from protoplasm to seraph.
Man is not only poetically, but scientifically, a microcosm. In the profound deeps of his being, in orderly arrangement, are sun, moon, fixed stars, comets, mountains and valleys, trees and flowers, quadrupeds and birds, with all variations and possibilities, terrestrial and celestial. Man is in the universe, and the universe is in him.
The memories and traces of our brutehood still linger with us, and all our friction comes because we lose our equilibrium by lagging behind the normal onward trend. Any man who loses his soul is the man who has not found it. The great command which rings down through the ages is, "Forward!" and our failure to fall into line is responsible for all abnormity.
As suns, with their worlds and satellites, float in the free and fluid ether, so all sensuous matter rests upon its spiritual base. Mind slumbers in the pebble, dreams in the plant, gathers energy in the animal, and awakens to self-conscious discovery in the soul of man. The psyche of the lower form, involved from the One Life and Mind, for the great purpose of education through evolution, at length learns its great lesson, and takes its degree. Adam could name all the animals out of his own past qualitative experiences. Evolution may, therefore, simply be defined as experimental education.
An endless caravan is traveling on the "King's highway," and each section is laboriously toiling up the gradual, spiral ascent. But from the deceptive materialistic standpoint many things seem to fall away, and drop out of the procession. Forms dissolve, shapes disappear, things are said to die, buds and leaves and blossoms wither and fade; but the unseen life, which for a while held them in form, resumes its march in yet sweeter and more noble configurations. Conservation is the universal law, therefore nothing real can be lost.
The animal psyche is tethered to a little circle of instincts; but the human soul, although on the present plane connected with expressive materiality, mounts aloft and abroad in ever-increasing range. Not until the ever-expanding psyche has reached the human estate can it turn around and look inward upon itself, and discover the engraved pattern of divinity.
To bring human expression up to the full normal standard requires innumerable eons of frictions, polishings, and experiences. All lower conformations are but a stammering prophecy of the becoming ideal. There is a re-birth in every death, so that the conventional demise of one order is far more exactly the advent of the next.
Man is to be the personal expresser of the one Creative Spirit; so that purposeful evolution is a multiplying of self-conscious, divine personalities. The upward spiral stretches from infinite involution to infinite evolution. The God-energy stores itself in the humblest forms; and as the oak is potential in the acorn, so man is wrapped up in everyone of them. The process of ripening is orderly on all planes.
When man discovers that God is in his being, he feels an impulse to give him manifested expression. Life is a great gulf-stream, sweeping away from divinity, and bearing everything on its bosom, but only to finally float all back in perfected form to their primal source. During this great cycle, individuation and voluntary God-likeness are developed.
All creation is through thought, or, more exactly, each thought is a creation. Looking back upon the great cosmic economy, at first sight it seems blended, confused, and even chaotic. Evolution takes this seeming complex entanglement in hand, and through an orderly discipline erects its eternal masterpiece—completed man. But this purposeful outline and ideal is not yet filled out. Man always lived, and moved, and had his being in God, but must needs be created in low form, or distanced from the Deity in consciousness, in order that he might discover his true rank, through the process of working his way back. In reality, he has never been away from the "Father's House," except through his dream in sensuous matter, and material embodiment. "The Word became flesh" in order that flesh might finally become "The Word."
Having thus briefly traced the outlines of the great evolutionary cycle, let us turn for a little to consider a few of the laws or methods through which we may accelerate the process of our own unfoldment. On all the inferior planes, progress comes from a pushing from behind, and is accompanied by friction. Lessons are difficult, acquirement slow, and seeming mal-adjustments many. The wheels of progress groan and creak upon their axles, often hardly moving, or even appearing to move backwards.
But when the plateau of spiritual understanding is finally reached, man, through the knowledge of law, begins to aid powerfully in his own advancement. He learns the uses of ideals, and places them in front, where, like great magnets, they draw him onward. He finds the highway smoothed and made easy before him, and glides along without the jarring and grinding of his former movement. He becomes a conscious creator, which only means that the divinity within him has come to self-recognition. Unconscious creation is always slow and labored. It grinds its way among obstacles, as a glacier presses forward into a valley, crowded by the huge mass from behind. This continual friction in the human economy results from ignorance of law, and its fruits are dis-order, dis-ease, mal-adjustment, arrested development, decay, and premature material disembodiment.
We have spoken of matter as mere passive material which is grasped by various grades of life for formal expression. We have also said that there was no dead material, and that everything possesses some quality of life. How can this seeming inconsistency be reconciled? Live material is sufficiently passive for all purposes of utilization. All life is positive in degree; but it is law that, of whatever grade it may be, it moulds and uses those forms which are less positive than itself. Therefore man's physical organism is composed of myriads of inferior organisms, and his mind of an aggregation of the subordinate mentality of the past. We have not only left behind us on the evolutionary highway all the lower and simpler qualities of existence, but we also have brought them with us, and have them in us.
Man cannot go out beyond himself, for the universe is contained within the circumference of his being. In him potentially exist celestial harmonies and hellish flames, heavenly ecstasies and demoniacal orgies. He has the equipment to play saint or sinner, devil or angel.
We may now consider more definitely how man, having arrived at that plane of the conscious possession of creative power resident in his own volition, can supplement the universal trend in perfecting his own expression. He has come to the point where he understands himself, because he observes the forces that evolution has employed in bringing him up to his present altitude. What may be called the law of uses is a vital principle, and its scope is universal. If we neglect to exercise any talent, power, or quality, it soon falls away from us. Nature, in the widest sense, always casts away all her useless material. She refuses to nourish all drones, until they finally die from inanition. If, however, we wish to eliminate the brutish forces that still lurk within us, we need not destroy their energy, but turn it into a higher channel. In every past step of biological progress, organs which have served their purpose drop away; but it must not be forgotten that they are always supplanted by a more worthy successor. But the legitimate use of a talent actually feeds it.
The eternal climb through the ages has come from an ever-present inherent craving, not only for more, but for higher and better and richer. Demand always brings supply, and it is entirely adequate. Potentiality is limitless; and it invites you to help yourself, and take what you want. But if our wants are not centered upon that which is superior to present attainment, their supply only puts us back, to again learn a lesson more dearly than before, which really belongs to the past. There is a universal desire for happiness; and happiness means harmony, or rather harmonious development.
If an arm be not used, it at length becomes paralyzed; but the lack of use is more deeply located than might at first appear. It is in the neglect of the thought, or a disuse of the will-power, which moves the arm. The paralysis is, therefore, really in the mind, or in its lack of self-assertion. The arm has only expressed the condition that is back of it.
All advancement is in intelligent, qualitative thought; and visible progress of form is such thought, in uses poured through embodiment. It is only mind-art that produces material, artistic expression. The outer form is necessary on its own plane, but the inner and immaterial entity must insist upon a faithful correspondence. The body, therefore, must not be denied, but affirmed. Denial of it is suicidal. The degree of perfection in embodiment corresponds to the positiveness of the life, mind, and spirit which permeate it. All flesh is malleable stuff, and belief shapes it to its own specifications. Belief should, therefore, be enlarged, enriched and perfected. Its precise view of objective things is of secondary importance, but its estimate of itself is of transcendent import. The mind is a self-begetting and self-creating unitary force. It is always drawing its own proportions, and taking its own photograph. To exercise a true mind-art in securing harmony of outline is the divinest employment of the law of uses.
Thought-energy is the primal and universal force, and executive will is the king of all motors. It rallies all less positive forms of life into conformity, and quickens every normal function into wholesome activity.
The upward ascent of man gives him an ever-increasing breadth of outlook. Like some bold Alpine climber, he rises above the lowland fogs and mists into the clear azure; and at length the lesser peaks which he has left behind, and which before seemed formidable, melt into insignificance. Day by day the mysteries of nature are resolved, and the murky medium into which he has been vainly peering becomes transparent. The subtle mechanism of the universe is laid bare, and the fine links which connect it with mind are felt and interpreted. Unfoldment being a universal law, the upward mental and spiritual climb of man is immutably guaranteed.
One of the present great distinctive features of the evolutionary rise is, that racial solidarity is coming to the surface of human consciousness. Mankind is like a great tree, the branches and leaves of which—all springing from one root, and nourished by the same sap—spread themselves forth that they may feel the glow of the sunlight.
While there is but One Life, it appears broken into a vast number of disjointed fragments, but without any loss of individual responsibility; each belongs to the race, which, as a whole, would be incomplete without him. Everyone seems, to himself, finited and separate; but in reality each life is like a bit of color in one great mosaic design.
The coming ideal is universal brotherhood. This will not be attained by any external panacea, or legislative expedient, but by a fusing and unifying of heart and desire.
One may think that he thinks for himself, but more exactly he is borne along by great thought-currents in which he is immersed. He is not much more independent of his fellows than is a piece of driftwood of its surroundings in the rapids of a mighty river.
It is true that the great thought movements have their individual articulators, who seem to be leaders; but they are really the visible signs of some general trend. They are not commanders, but focalized embodiments of forces which are back of them.
The great sea of human mentality rises and falls, ebbs and flows, in huge tides, and not in detached drops. A perfect network of invisible ties binds men into a great solidarity. The thunder of the rhythmic march of the great mass drowns the light footfalls of the few who would mark an independent time.
Does this in any degree discourage individual advancement? Rather the reverse; for, in a deep sense, every man is the race. The very foremost pioneer, in his progress toward the human ideal, represents a universal possibility and coming goal. We are thinking, willing, loving, and doing, not merely, or even mainly, for ourselves, but for mankind. Even the seeming hard law of "the survival of the fittest," when fully interpreted, is found to be beneficent; for the fittest are really channels and models for the less fit. Every special individual attainment not only brings up the general average, but is a standing object-lesson and ideal. Service, as a fundamental law, must reach down from the higher to the lower. But, in the past, human personality has been so earnestly engaged in working out its own salvation, that it has overlooked its organic relations.
"Save your own soul" has been the reiterated injunction; but the most ideal salvation is the merging of the own soul in devotion to the general soul. There is not only a common divine incarnation, but, in a very real sense, we live in each other.
We wrestle with "principalities and powers," and that in the presence of a great cloud of interested witnesses. The disciplinary and educational experiences of one are those of all, and the victories of each are a general inspiration. "No man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself." The ever widening circles of a human divine consciousness, as a thought-quality, go out in waves to refresh the whole family of man.
Every human brother, as he pushes on in advance, gives an upward impulse along the innumerable lines which radiate from him as a center. He is a savior who breaks captive's chains, opens prison-doors, and proclaims freedom. The great evolutionary campaign will not be ended until every member of the race has been transformed into a "son of God."
When the basic law of race-solidarity is generally perceived, it will be a privilege for the strong to carry the burdens of the weak, until they finally disappear. The race being an organism, its unity is only rendered complete from the unlike office of its various members.
Many of the conventions of our modern civilization are the results of arrested development. We wander from the great smooth normal highway, into the seductive by-paths of cold intellectualism, material formalism, superficial education, and of a realism falsely called artistic. Artificial walls and barriers are built up between souls, and the living fountains of human love and sympathy are sealed or frozen over. Society, through an unwritten and unspoken legislation, imposes arbitrary laws which are based upon selfishness and worldly policy. Each soul wears a polished armor, which, though unseen, is as cold and impenetrable as steel. Only a thorough recognition of the law of love and oneness can ever melt it away. Human society still feels itself to be a mass of disconnected units, having adverse interests, and each still inquires, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
The law of ministry is not only an ethical obligation, but a scientific means of progress. If all were just equally advanced in evolutionary unfoldment, there would be little opportunity for mutual aid and bestowment. Like the diverse members of an organism, each is necessary to the completeness of the whole. But the crust of our worldly wise conventions must be broken up before we can be free to cling in graceful embrace to neighboring souls.
The higher life is not a mere refinement of what is lower, but an awakening—the glow of the divine image within, which is restlessly waiting for free expressive conformation. But, as before indicated, all frictions, arrested developments, and even mistaken by-paths, have an educational use. Many lessons, to be thoroughly learned, have to be ground in by disciplinary experiences. It seems unaccountable, but it is a fact, that "we generally refuse to learn them in any easier manner.
But such correction, and even punishment—if we choose to call it so—is really the teacher of racial solidarity. Human relationship is so intimate and reciprocal, that the lawful and innocent suffer with and for those who are lawless and guilty. Vicarious experiences are not confined to one historic expression, but are universal. Such a commingling—though having a superficial appearance of injustice—breaks the boundary walls of the smaller or personal interest, and by its educative revelations brings into view the Larger Unit. The righteous man suffers with the malefactor, and the latter finds succor in the former; and such is universal experience, and such is law. What a paradox! Has not Law made a mistake? No; only our selfish concern makes her seem unreasonable.
If each suffered solely for his personal transgressions, it might teach him prudence on his own account; but now he finds that he helps to pay a general penalty, and that his interest is woven into the very warp and woof of the whole social fabric. There is no other true and supreme interpretation of law. The transcendent lesson to come into human consciousness is, that the supreme good of the smaller unit can only come enclosed within that of the greater. In the deepest analysis there are no possible adverse interests. Those which seem so are only superficial.
The Established Order is not only for and within man, but it is man. No true social science, political economy, ethical system, or coherent religion can be formulated except upon the basis that man is One. An individual soul might as easily be split in twain, as for a part of the racial soul to be saved, and the rest lost. The law of the conservation of soul-energy is as exact and scientific as is its correspondence on the lower plane. Only error and falsity are sloughed off, while all that is true is indestructible. The supremest work of every man lies in his efforts towards the unfoldment of the general soul in which he is comprehended.
We are gradually approaching the Kingdom of the Real, where all men will feel themselves to be one because they are united in God. Humanity ultimates in the Universal Soul, but without any loss of individuality. There is to be an eternal welding of Fatherhood, sonship, and brotherhood. When this state of consciousness is reached, one universal heartthrob will send the vital current of love and unity coursing through the veins of the remotest member.