The great work of spiritual evolution in the individual as in the race, is continuous but not uniform in its visible progress. As the growth of a world from the primal nebulous condition to fitness for human habitation is through storm, upheaval and friction, so the evolution of the spiritual ego is often marked by paradoxical manifestations, and sometimes the greatest progress is made through a seemingly backward movement. From superficial observation and sensation there is often reason for discouragement. The hard experience in which one just now may be submerged, perhaps covers the whole horizon. Under the stress of present conditions it may be far from easy to take the true and broader view so as to behold the smaller provisional trial as a real and necessary part of the larger progress.
If one is trying to bring the higher life into outward expression, and even if after years of substantial success in the main, there come an unexpected eclipse, remember that shadows are but temporary. What though there be an upheaval in mind, body or estate, it is only a readjustment for the gathering of new forces. If there has been previous restoration and some higher development, such a phenomenon is only evidence that the good work already begun needs to be still further deepened. Perhaps one has long cultivated spiritual hygiene, and become quite secure in his conscious freedom from psychical and physical inharmony. Owing to some unwitting lack of higher adjustment, or former error, sub-consciously preserved, there comes a recurrence of old conditions which were supposed to have been outgrown. Be assured, they have returned only with beneficent and kindly purpose.
Certain questions naturally follow from superficial observers. Has too much been expected of the higher therapeutics? Do these reactions indicate that its results, as generally claimed, are not well founded? In reality the reverse. From the surface below, truth upon the higher plane often seems paradoxical. But it is never in opposition to spiritual law. The facts may be freely admitted. Any cause that cannot face inquiry and confront honest investigation is unworthy of the attention of seekers after truth. If the exponents of any philosophy become unduly dogmatic, it is time to make a readjustment and set the compass anew. If the metaphysical movement has practical value, it can bear criticism and invite the attention of the world to its claims and accomplishments.
When deeply and correctly interpreted, any such recurrent experiences of disorder do not invalidate but rather endorse and enforce all the rational claims of the New Thought. They are later and deeper refinements which show the necessity for individual work, and may indicate some degree of past neglect. Men cannot become careless and disregard the higher law and yet be entirely happy. But the law is really more kindly to us than we are to ourselves. During the spiritual evolution of each individual, there are seasons when foundations must be re-examined and various crises met. There is an inner tribunal by which we are judged, and its mandates when deeply interpreted are in reality as beneficent as they are superficially severe. The judgment gives its subject a necessary testing and seasoning. Is it severe and unfortunate? No, only good. It is the divine purifier, and to so recognize it, and bid it do its work will finally reveal it as a friend. To resist and count it as evil will multiply its severity. It is really the operation of the Spirit, coming to confirm and consummate its work. "Our God is a consuming fire." But only the "wood, hay and stubble" are burned, while the higher and real self remains intact.
Every hour of suffering, if rightly interpreted, eliminates some of the false material which has been built into the human structure, leaving less in stock. Selfishness in its myriad forms dies hard. It is so deeply ingrained that only a recognition of the real goodness of the refinement will mitigate the seeming severity of the process. Pain is not ideally good or to be sought. But when actually in evidence, one should interpret its beneficent and higher mission in order to realize its developing and uplifting power. The later and deeper refinements will then be but the harbingers of a resurrection to a higher plane with greater opportunity and usefulness. Only that restoration of mind and body is ideal and complete which builds its foundations deeply and divinely.