The Judgment Day never began and never will end. An eternal inquest is being held, and every principle, opinion, belief and theory is being tested, valued, measured and given its award. This process goes on, unmarked by time or other limitation.
But from our own conscious and local standpoint, the present era, as compared with any past period, is preeminently judicial. Everything is being brought before a real, though invisible tribunal.
It is not easy to comprehend the unique quality of the opening years of the twentieth century. Superficially viewed, there seems to be a general breaking up of foundations, a fluidizing of solids, a shattering of time honored fixtures and religious heir-looms, rather than a solemn judicial proceeding. But there are both. The scope and inclusiveness of the present searching inquiry is unbounded. The sheep are passing to the right hand, and the goats to the left.
The scene may not be so sensuously dramatic as that which literalism has delineated in prose, enshrined in poetry, and spread in glowing color upon canvas, but it has a deeper truth. There is no gathering of small and great in a vast semi-circle, before an august Throne, from which doom is formally proclaimed by a great, though limited and local Judge, but the investigation is deep and the sentences righteous.
Who can stand in the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican at Rome, and gaze upon Michael Angelo's representation of the Last Judgment, and not be thrilled by the literal and terrible realism so graphically portrayed? That great picture, with its many groups of life-sized figures, some in whose faces are depicted the sublime triumph of a heavenly ecstasy as they mount upward, some held by the pains of purgatory struggling for release, and others hurried into the boat which is to convey lost souls to their place of eternal torment, translates in terrible form, the ruling thought of an era, literal, severe, repressive and intense. The very atmosphere was loaded with intolerance, and every discoverer, inventor and seeker for Truth subjected to persecution, and often death. We gaze at such indexes of past states of human consciousness with amazement and surprise. They are the silent witnesses of former opinion that was held and imposed with most terrible earnestness and intensity. With the wide progress of human evolution, we have drifted away from such a judgment day, for it is outlawed and relegated to the rubbish heaps of the past.
The new tribunal is located in the human mind, and it is not less but more divine on that account. It is far truer and more vital than the deliverances of past intellectual logic, belief and dogma, all of which have been partial and capricious. It is now seen that the grand and supreme test of every principle or system is, does it fit the constitution of man? To this judgment bar, everything must be brought. Here is the rational, moral and spiritual test—all in one. Past mental activity has been so purely objective, that all its measurements have been shifting and uncertain. Things have been judged merely by other things, without being brought to the touch-stone of Truth.
Every institution must stand or fall, in proportion as it comports with human nature and need. This alone will show its value, and so fast as the proof is made, it must pass to the right hand or the left. All principles, opinions and systems, rather than persons, are summoned before the Bar of God which is set up in Man. The mistake of the past has been in looking for it outside. It has been, "lo here," and "lo there," while the Kingdom of Heaven, and the necessary verdict that leads to it are within.
Note more specifically some of the trials which are taking place. Take first, our boasted modern civilization, and bring it to the judgment bar. Said Lessing: "This is not an enlightened age, but an age becoming enlightened." We have had long spells of dark stormy weather, with here and there a rift in the clouds, through which glimpses of the clear azure could be seen, but as a whole the horizon has been threatening and uncertain. There are yet wars and rumors of wars, and human interests, really unitary, appear in antagonistic colors and aspects. We call ourselves an enlightened and Christian nation, but such an estimate is superficial, and cannot be maintained in the inner court to which appeal must be taken. While on the smallest, or personal scale, it is not longer regarded as ethical or regular to settle differences by brute force, yet when these are multiplied a million fold, and a nation, instead of an individual is involved, it is regarded, not only as permissible, but as a duty and it takes on a glamor which is miscalled patriotism. The real issue may be dim and sentimental, or even entirely mistaken, but Church and State, as a rule, still regard a final settlement on the animal plane as justifiable. The greater and more subtle force of moral ideals is lost sight of, and psychic waves of animalism roll over the area of nations, lifting men off their feet, and sweeping them along like driftwood. To threaten war and call hard names, wins "the applause of the galleries," and there will be no lack of it until another general evolutionary step is accomplished. But sometimes advance is made through the mighty surges of action and reaction.
It may be suggested that there are faulty boundary lines to be rectified, wrongs that should be righted, and brave peoples who are striving to throw off tyrannous yokes and gain their freedom. If so we can aid them more effectually than by the sword, or by threats of the sword. Even from the low standpoint of worldly wisdom, more can be accomplished through diplomacy and friendly mediation, than by threat and bluster, for when passion rules, wisdom, even of the lower sort, takes its departure.
Antagonism, whether personal, sectional or national, is destructive in its tendency and cannot be made otherwise. The very primal laws of the human constitution so proclaim it. For persons to antagonize each other, is mutually disastrous, because in the nature of things, the law of oneness and attraction is the fundamental basis of all true life and action.
What has made the "Sermon on the Mount," the most important statement of vital principles in the world? Not the place, time or manner of its enunciation, nor even the personal authority of its author, but the fact that it scientifically is in accord with man's nature and everlastingly true. It is not a mass of religious sentimentality, nor merely a statement of moral doctrine, but a living ethical and spiritual verdict, having a universal scope.
Conventional civilization stands condemned before this judgment bar of truth. Nothing can change this decree but a general lifting of its motives and forces from the seen, sensuous and external, into the realm of man's deeper and higher nature and selfhood begin to feel their quickening impulse. The tribunal of truth now affirms that potential spiritual unfoldment is stored at the soul center of every human unit. Illimitable powers have been involved and are only waiting to be quickened into full and harmonious expression. What a change of the present curriculum does this involve! Like everything else, educational methods must come to judgment, and very much that is now regular and institutional will be relegated to the left hand. The sheep and goats will go each to their own place, and that even by specific gravity.
Again, the educational methods of the past, when tested by their human adaptability, are found to be wanting. The prevailing ideals have included the gathering and crowding into the mind of a great mass of facts, events and opinions, the vast majority of which have no genuine value. A thousand things that may be abstractly true, are meaningless and valueless when collected in unrelated and incongruous accumulation. The true object of education is to make men and women, and not mere walking encyclopedias. Good citizenship rather than technical intellectual expertness is what the world of today most needs. The intellect is surfeited while the intuitional, ethical and spiritual nature is left barren and void.
But a coming change is already manifest. The child-nature and educive capacity are beginning to receive some merited attention. Its innate possibilities are seen to be illimitable and they do not need repression, but unfoldment. Constructive ideals, like living germs, are being sown broadcast, and even the so-called higher grades of education.
The inner court will impose a condemnation upon the sensationalism of the modern daily press as decisive as that now pronounced upon unsound meat and decayed vegetables. The very seeds and sprouts of every noxious mental weed will be detected and laid bare and they will wither in the sunshine of vital truth.
Turning to another great department of human experience, what are the deliverances from the tribunal of truth regarding manifested disorder, and disease, mental and physical? That they are the work of man's own hands, or more exactly his misdirected fears, emotions and expectations. His distorted and negative states of consciousness, altogether form a busy factory from which new products of abnormity are continually finished and turned out. We invoke and erect mental specters and disorders on every hand, and then fall victims to the enemies of our own fashioning.
The testing which is now going on in human judgment, regarding the true causes and remedies for disorderly conditions of mind and body was never before so exact and thorough. The seers and philosophers of all ages have virtually agreed in regarding man, distinctively as a thinker. He is not a mere bundle of bone, sinew, flesh and nerve, although he at present possesses these things, for his own use. He is much more than a passive instrument whose office it is to be played upon by physical sensations, discords and inharmonies. A feeling that he is material, in his being, has put him into slavery to his own physical organism. He has thought himself into weakness, fear and disorder because he has been unaware of the creative power of his own imaging faculty. He has therefore surrounded himself with a self-made environment of discord and gratuitously given it dominion. Limitations that we have set up, we can push back, for they are no part of God's economy. The divine heritage of every human being is health, wholeness and harmony, of mind and body. These reside potentially in every "image of God," or as Paul defines it "temple of the Holy Spirit." To increasingly command them involves the possession of a cultivated sense of an intrinsic oneness with omnipresent divinity. In unmistakable tones the tribunal of Truth is voicing its verdict, and a separation to the right and left, on this vital principle is taking place. The conventional externalism of the past, which regards man primarily as a body and tries to patch him up with outside panaceas has been weighed in the balances and found wanting. Cultivated sound thinking, inspired with a spiritual and creative optimism produces mental and physical sanity and harmony.
But every unfoldment in human experience is tentative, gradual and evolutionary. The new will displace the old, only so fast as the laws of man's constitution are correctly interpreted. The potencies of mind for the healing of human ills will be utilized only so far as their scientific adaptability forces its supreme convictions into the human consciousness. Thinking must be reformed, and distorted mental pictures, appearances and evils displaced by pure mental ideals, firmly held. The creative power of mind must change its habitual activity, from the negative to the positive side of man's nature. The fruits though very gradual in appearance are sure of manifestation.
Does someone ask, could the general power of thought "add a cubit" unto the stature of the race? Much in that direction, provided the universal appropriate thinking were begun two or three generations previous. Could one, by mental and spiritual forces, ward off a cold, fever or an attack of dyspepsia? Often yes, but to make it much surer the cure should rather be prevention, built up by months or years of higher and more positive thought beforehand.
Man's supreme need is the recognition of his own divine quality. He is God's highest form of outward expression. But instead, sensuous man has ever been separating himself in consciousness from the Eternal Spirit. The allegory of Adam and Eve hiding themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden carries a deep meaning. This separation in consciousness has fruited in leanness, unrest and disorder. Without its great normal, spiritual and even scientific complement, human activity and expression become desert-like and morbid.
Wealth, power, material development and civilization, although well in themselves, have made the whole mental horizon materialistic, thus shutting out the divine intimacy and completeness and tending to render human friction universal. The God-voice in the soul of man, though still and small, is a judicial utterance distinct in its teaching and its leading must be followed if man would truly discover what he is. No other guidance can fill its place. When its warm influx is lacking, man only hibernates in the confines of a cold, earthy and negative existence. He must penetrate beneath the self-made crust of his superficial sensations, until he discovers the primal principles of his own being, and his oneness with and place in the Universal. He must gather up the fragments of truth which lie in scattered confusion about him, and bring them together and fill them with organic unity and life. There is ever before us a great valley filled with dry bones, like those over which the Prophet Ezekiel prophesied. They must come together, bone to bone, and sinew to sinew, and breath must enter in and there will be life. Nothing less than a spiritual quickening and unfoldment can make mankind wholly alive. Until we gain a higher and truer perception, we grope our way among shadows and unrealities, and are unable to explore more than the lower fragment of our own legitimate domain and heritage.
We are summoned by the judgment bar of truth to higher standards and responsibilities. Evolutionary processes lift us to new planes of possibility, privilege and duty. Thought, feeling and conduct must be readjusted, in order to pass to the right hand, in the light of the searching which characterizes the beginning of the twentieth century. The stuff of which character is made, is being fused and tested in a continuous life-trial, and only the pure metal will remain unharmed and unconsumed.
The "books" are always open, and these comprise our own thought creations, whether idle or otherwise, and by their quality we are acquitted or condemned. The universal scrutiny will leave nothing hidden. It searches all dark corners and brings to light the accumulated rubbish of ages. The heaps of chaff that have accumulated on the threshing-floor of racial activity, will be blown away by the relentless winnowing of the awakened spiritual intuition.
Said one of the Hebrew prophets, "God will search Jerusalem with candles, "signifying that truth will unsparingly ferret out error, and bring it to naught. This spiritual testing touches every phase and department of human life and expression. Nothing is exempt. A great beam of search-light is turned upon the foundations and cornerstones of institutions, whether ecclesiastical, social, civil, literary, educational or industrial, to reveal their quality. The Cathode rays of recent discovery are a fitting illustration of the penetrating rays of Truth, as they pierce every covering and lay bare the true inwardness of all things. There is nothing hidden which shall not be revealed. Every idle thought is brought to judgment, and beautiful and pure volitions will have their corresponding fruit and blossom. Again, the Bibles, and all the sacred writings of the world are brought into the range of this great spiritual search-light. The grand records of lofty human experiences, aspirations and inspirations, stand out in living characters, to be known and read of all men. They comprise a history of the living consciousness of the seers and prophets who have had a cultivated intimacy with the Divine Mind, and who have dwelt upon the highlands of spiritual attainment and outlook. They present in high relief the visions of the "pure in heart," who have seen God, and translate the supernal knowledge of those who know the "mind of Christ." They interpret the intrinsic divinity of man, and show him to be the normal expresser and embodiment of the infinitude of unmanifest good which is waiting to fill all the channels of manifestation.
The light of the "Spirit of Truth," when cast upon the sacred literatures of the world also divides the gold from the dross, the eternal from the incidental. Inspiration inheres with scientific accuracy in degree in the things that inspire. The inspiration of any book, literature, prophet or person resides in their uplifting power.
The light of Truth, while revealing the beautiful outlines of every spiritual entity, dissolves the literalism, penetrates husks and shells, revalues tradition and circumstance, and demonstrates the specific gravity of each and all. The Bible of Christendom is rescued from the position of an instrument, upon which, through literalism, the discordant music of many and unlike creeds can be discoursed, to that of a vehicle which conveys harmony, unity and life. Idolatry is subtle, and that phase of it which magnifies the letter of scripture, while losing its spirit, has widely prevailed. The book is honored in proportion as its eternal and intrinsic elements are discriminated and wrought into human life. It has lessons to be learned, and warnings to be heeded, while also its progressiveness, fallibility and purely human elements must be intelligently recognized. The brightness of the modern search-light rescues the Bible from the fetichism, externalism and false glamour which have been unwittingly centered upon it. It lifts it into its true and rightful dignity, as an inspirer of life, and an educational force in the unfoldment of a spiritual manhood. The seers and sages of olden times are not literally authoritative, but rather aids and teachers in the high art of soul-development. They encourage us by their successes, and point out their failures for us to avoid. If they were a special order their teaching would possess but little significance for us. But they are our brethren, a part of the great human solidarity. Their revelation of God to us is through their own lives and experiences. We must therefore conclude that the "higher criticism," and the newer interpretation of the Bible have been of untold value in bringing to light its supreme practical use and value.
Again, as everything, "small and great," must appear before the judgment bar of Eternal Truth, the Church, as an institution can claim no exemption. Says Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, "The Word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart." Here is graphically symbolized that penetrating test to which all institutions, creeds, rituals and ceremonies must be subjected. To what degree do they reform and transform the thoughts and intents of the heart? In what measure do they unfold a higher and diviner consciousness? In what degree are they, as Jesus affirmed of his own words, spirit and life?
Every ecclesiastical institution must render up its account at the great inquest of Truth. How does it meet the deep demands of the human constitution for strength, harmony, beauty and more abundant life? How many meaningless forms, external observances and usurpations still find place, and even nourishment, under the cover of institutional sanctity? To what extent has truth been recognized and cherished for its own sake? How much has human life been enriched, rounded out and quickened in its course God-ward? What is the real value of institutional religiosity, in the promotion of pure thinking and the development of life and love? Is it in any degree responsible for the prevalent idea of a mechanical salvation, or a way of pleasing God through a round of formal observances and requirements? Does it mean more freedom and normal growth for all man's complex nature? What saith the Spirit unto the churches?
But if religious institutions are weighed in the balance of truth, and "found wanting," where shall those of a civic and political nature appear? Reputable, conventional and time honored standards are under challenge. What about the outworking of those moral and social results for which humanity is wearily waiting? Where is that wise conservative statesmanship which rises above partisan heat, bluster and chicanery, which the country and the world so sorely need at the present time? Where is that calm and temperate equipoise which is so needful as an antidote, amidst all the self-seeking and sensationalism of modern civilization? Where is that high romantic and idealistic fiction, that might be such a powerful vehicle to carry home the influence of noble and inspiring thinking and living? Alas! overshadowed by a deluge of debasing realism, which becomes commercially valuable in proportion as it gets lower in motive and more subtle in refined sensuality. What of a conventional slavery, whose bonds of custom, fashion, form and social legislation, stifle the free impulses which the soul feels in the direction of its own progress and unfoldment? What of a sensational press, which pours forth an endless flood of false or morbid mental pictures which crowd their unlovely features into immature and receptive mentality. All must come to judgment. Everything must pass through the winnowing process and the chaff will be consumed in the day of trial. There seems to be delay, but judgment is already here. The axe is "laid unto the root of the trees." Souls will not be lost, but as the things to which they cling go down, there will be age-long friction and fiery trial.
One more great idol, that of modern materialistic science, must come to trial. All truth that is scientific, is the handmaid of religion, and will pass to the right hand. But all that pseudo-science, which worships the creature rather than the Creative Spirit, which seeks human salvation in mere external improvement, which finds in matter, self causation and potency, rather than general design and unity, with all that science "falsely so called," which tries artificially to improve upon divine perfection, is condemned already. All this not by any vindictive mandate, but by its own intrinsic hollowness and limitation. It sets up its own outermost boundary lines, and in the nature of the case cannot go beyond them. It limits its own vision, and is color-blind to spiritual verities that are near—yes even within—because they are not of the sensuous realm. But the judgment day which we have attempted to outline is not an assize of doom, darkness or fatality. It is kindly, helpful and not vindictive. Its whole purpose and outcome are to make manifest the good. The " left hand" is the abode of negation, or that which lacks the divine basis of reality and truth. It represents the nothingness of that which has seemed evil. It is the educational background where we subjectively build up appearances, specters and imaginings only to finally learn that they are men of straw. It is the evolutionary realm of darkness, without some slight acquaintance with which, we could not distinguish and appreciate the light. It involves that necessary freedom of choosing in the absence of which there could be no intelligent moral character.
But the educational value of negation does not require that the bitter cup be drained to the dregs. We all have tasted it in sufficient degree to form the basis for a judicial training. To escape the sentence or its age-long harshness we must quickly accept its verdict and come into at-one-ment. Still more, by such a relation we gain its irresistible momentum and have its endorsement. But fighting against it, is a fight against the Universal.
The "judgment day" is a time of hope and satisfaction. Only through its thorough sifting could we find the reality of the good, and the hollowness of its relative opposite. It gives the only complete revelation of the Divine Mind. It tends to bring into manifestation the inner, intrinsic and eternal Christ—that supreme truth which had its fullest expression in the personality of Jesus. It is not limited to one local, historic "Son of God," but is working out a universal sonship. It provides for an everlasting increase of spiritual illumination. It will even transform the bodies of men into living "temples of the Holy Ghost," and this not merely in some mystical and symbolic sense, but in practical and concrete expression. Truth translates the former magic of miracle and supernaturalism into the subtle and silent working of orderly law.
The searching light of truth reveals a great gulf between the lower and higher planes of consciousness. It can be passed over only through a radical change in motive, standpoint and relation. The character of the Adamic domain is fixed, and all sojourners there are under the reign of disorder and materiality. Mind and body are honeycombed with an earthy and tomb-like mortality. The dwellers in this realm live in physical sensation and are colorblind to the principles of real being.
The blazing light of the inner tribunal makes it clear that true life comes through openness toward God. The traditional faraway God is not a "Present Help." God is in us and we are in him. The spiritual domain is not some dim, distant and future possibility but the living reality of today.
Nature is no longer a "common and unclean" environment, crude and unresponsive, but the vital expression of divine love and beauty. The high viewpoint of the subjective judgment-seat enables us to discover that all realities are at the right hand, while falsities and appearances go to the left. The verdict brings a spiritual flame which will consume the "wood, hay and stubble " of our own soul-structure, and so if we carelessly identify the ego with the unreal we invite the condemnation of adverse judgment. Such a verdict is no light and unimportant opinion or superficial supposition.
With the passing of the old idea of a formal and dramatic assize, we have been inclined to go to the other extreme and so have come to minimize the tremendous significance of spiritual quality and character. It will be a sad and terrible calamity to find ourselves out of harmony with and virtually fighting against the Universal. The fact that penalty is natural, and ultimately corrective, rather than arbitrary and vindictive, does not render it easy to be borne. The left hand is still the abode of misery and woe. Our punishment comes from the divine in us rather than from the divinity outside. How terrible to be at odds with one's own nature! How abnormal to be out of joint with ourselves! Powers perverted, capacities vacant, intuitions denied, aspirations turned down, inner and consequently outer darkness, material props broken, the hollowness of formality exposed, the spiritual self unclothed, the things which have filled our consciousness snatched away, and we thrust as strangers into a strange land!
Are we unacquainted with our spiritual selves? If so, every law, force and principle in the whole cosmos stands at our inner tribunal and pleads with and for us to come into conformity with the moral order.