Who, that has eyes to see and mind to appreciate the visible wonders of the mystery of life, is a stranger to the beautiful phenomenon of the birth of a moth or butterfly? Crushed and awry it emerges from "a sleep and a forgetting," out of its strange self-constructed prison. One by one, with a quiver and a thrill, each upper and lower wing, each feeler, and each slender foot responds to the new life that is opening before it: slowly the delicate beauty of its soft, furred garment is stirred by the breeze and expands beneath the light, until its bonds are all loosened, and with a joyful tremor it rises into purer air and higher sunlight.
So it is with Reality. The human ideas drawn from that Unity which, now and again, has been proclaimed to mankind, have been encompassed and bound up in cocoons, so to speak, of every kind and quality. Hidden under the accumulating dust of centuries they lie within their coverings, crushed, dwarfed, stunted. But, when the time is ripe, slowly they emerge and with struggle and striving unfold to a wondering world as New Ideas. Their beauty grows, and their vital Truth impels them until no bonds can hold the strong wings of their power, and, detached from every semblance of disguise, the New Idea wings its way back to Light, and merges into the undying and Eternal Reality, which is its Alpha and Omega. But this New Idea is not perfect in its Oneness until every smallest bond that arrested its freedom is loosened, and it has returned whence it came to be absorbed and then reflected as Itself.
Figuratively speaking, this present age is strewn with such chrysales that have come to the end of their long sleep and are ready for the bursting. Many, void of their life, are tenderly laid—mere shells as they are on the shrines of vain imaginings, watched by yearning humanity in expectation of the vitality which can revisit them no more.
Once upon a time there lived in China a wise man who was called "The Old Child," because his philosophy was the philosophy of simplicity.
Listening to the murmurs of questioning and unconvinced voices, one could well desire a return of that philosophy with its practical illustrations.
Krishna, Buddha, Lao-tze, Confucius, Plato, Christ, Mohamet, all mystic and spiritual teachers since the world began, originally preached—One. Their professed followers have seized the truth then given to them, and have divided, dissected, and meted in out in parcels, ticketed with their own values.
These are the deformed, warped and stunted ideas of which I am now thinking; conceptions, given in their purity, that have lain in bondage for centuries, and are even now in different stages of emancipation; held back in many instances from the liberty of true spirituality by some thread of attachment to things mundane and material—bringing down to the eyes of the natural man that which is only comprehensible to his spiritual perception. For the more our ideas are raised to the spiritual plane the more nearly do we approach to that Unity which alone constitutes Reality.
As the great man whose mortal shell now rests in the rocky Matoppos had his ideal of Unity for human peoples, and worked so largely towards that end by his single earnestness of purpose, may we not hope, each one by his earnest aspiration, even if our solitary power is feeble viewed alone, to attain that ultimate Unity in things spiritual which seems so far off, and yet is near to every one of us.
What is simpler, less complicated than—One, and the ideas the word evokes? Yet, it is precisely here, round this simple nucleus, that modern divergence is emphasized, and simplicity reduced to confusion or hidden away under a multitude of words.
There is one point in the teaching of Christ about which no careful reader of his words can express any doubt, and that is his own subordination to the Supreme—The Father. Even the title Good Master he forbade his followers to apply to him. "There is none good but One," so plainly solicitous was he that his disciples should refrain from exalting him above that standing which he claimed, "The Son of Man." Again he clearly told his followers that that standing, in connection with the Supreme, was attainable by all, "Though strait is the gate and narrow is the way and few there be that find it." This great and fundamental idea in its simplicity is the root of all ancient spiritual teachings in their original purity. In this present day it is struggling hard to return to the light, but in some cases there is a sentimental tendon, a fiber of emotional enthusiasm that holds it back from progress and prevents its emerging from the Chrysalis of prejudice and superstition into the clear Heaven of Divine Unity.
Jesus Christ, who bore in his humble, un-pretending human form a ripe and perfected spirit full of grace and truth, imbued above all with the knowledge that the Father dwelt in him, held out that same perfection, that same glorious knowledge as an attainable prize to the lowliest of his followers. They were to seek the Kingdom of God which was within them. He came to his fellow men as the highest manifestation of the Universal Spirit of Good. The spirit that dwelt in him was, and is, the Spirit of the Supreme—the All-Father. Can we not take this simple truth as he gave it? Is it obedience to his words, or is it a step towards the Unity of Faiths to say "Oh Christ, hear us"? Even the most liberal-minded writers on modern divinity express themselves much as in the following quotation:—
"He who has attained to this higher faith in the risen Christ, is so taken possession of by him, so pervaded by his spiritual presence, that his individual being becomes altogether secondary and is hid with Christ in God." Here, first, Christ is endowed with Omnipotence and Omnipresence, whereas he said "My Father is greater than I." "Call not me good Master," and second, there seems to be an unnecessary mystical complication which holds a screen between the yearning soul and the Giver of all highest gifts.
If these are permissible readings of the teaching of Jesus Christ, what argument remains against those worshipers of other gods that they who are called Christians designate heathen deities? If the followers of Christ, swerving from his simple teaching given in comparatively recent times, are justified in exalting him to equality with the "One Good,"—which he expressly deprecated— why should not the Hindus so exalt Krishna, the Buddhists their Buddha, and the Chinese the three Pure ones? In every case the nucleus of the object deified was a man, but a man so imbued with the power of The Supreme, that he was privileged and inspired to teach and lead his fellow-men to the Great Knowledge, and then, his work completed, and his spirit freed from its earthly bondage, only his words, his deeds, his memory remained. His followers yearned for his human presence, for his voice to gladden and encourage them, for the touch of his healing hands—and so it came to pass as years went on Fancy and Imagination dressed memory in myth and tradition, and the emotion and sentiment, which created these, grew from hero-worship to deification.
Now is there any reason for making an exception in any particular case?
On the other hand, if we return to the simplicity of teaching at every human fountain, will it not unfold to us—Christians, Turks, Brahmins, Hindus, or Mohammedans—the One-Immutable, Eternal, Ever-present. If we, of all creeds and races, return to our simplicity, if we strive to guard, purify, and perfect that Temple of our body where the Great Spirit deigns to send a reflection of inscrutable Being, that it may lift us to a higher level, shall we not find above the confusion of all creeds—true Unity—the Fatherhood of God, The brotherhood of Mankind?
To say that by the words "Christ spirit" is meant the spirit that is in Christ the God-man, does not meet my argument. It confines fulfilled aspiration to those who limit the Supreme Good to that small space of time in the world's history which only commenced 1902 years ago; and yet Christ told the Jews "Before Abraham was I (that is—the manifested spirit) am." This narrow reading places a barrier between the races of our little world—with their humanly developed religions, and establishes for each one a divergent road. A direct ray of pure sunlight falling on a prism breaks into all the colors of the rainbow. You may admire the tint you prefer, and surround yourself with it, but so broken and divided it is not true light. Universal Good as coming direct to all the children of Mankind is like the pure ray. or is there any reason why different people should not dwell with love and reverence on the life and words of different Teachers. Indeed, it seals the bond and awakens wider love and fellowship. This Great Knowledge taught to mankind since the world began is the One Reality to hold above all forms of religion, and above all the human instruments who from time to time have been privileged to bring these glad tidings of great joy. They were messengers found worthy, at different intervals of the world's history, to declare the True Knowledge that, overwhelmed by priest-craft and human inventions, was waning from the minds of men. So, honored, and so confessed, these men tower above their fellows and point the way, but all humanity receives the promised good proclaimed by them, not at their hands, but direct from its Great Source without intermediary. This alone is Unity. It permits of no monopoly in any direction.