The Light of Reason
Founded by James Allen, 1902
Editor Mrs. James Allen
Vol. XX. October 1918 No. 10
(Being part of Mrs. Allen’s Address in the Steinway Hall on September 1st.)
Each age each nation add a line to it.
There is a history of mind as well as of men; a history of religion as well as of politics; a history of the growth of ideals no less than that of nations. But the history of the mind has yet to be written. Historians have written the rise and fall of empires; the names and characters, the deeds and words of Kings; the wars and conquests of countries; but the history of the soul of man has yet to be written. We are indebted to the historian Green and to Mrs. Green for a History of the People, but who will write us a History of the Soul of the people, for there is a history of the condition of the mind of men, and the growth of ideals, yet to be written, and it will be one of the most fascinating and interesting books ever issued from the press.
The religious convictions and conceptions of one age are regarded as rank superstition by another. We can no more stand still mentally or spiritually, than we can nationally, civilly, politically or internationally. Man is an evolving being. That which suited him, and was best adapted for all his needs, the childhood of the race, becomes, at last to him, as he grows or evolves, what the kindergarten, which once filled all the needs of the child mind, becomes to the man. Yet it was the highest medium through which knowledge could be imparted to the child. I remember when I first went to a day school I was allowed to sit for hours and play with some brightly colored beads on wire let into a wooden frame. The moment I entered the classroom in the morning my eyes were fastened on those beads, they were just the ideal of my little mind, and when the teacher took them down from the high nail and handed them to me, my whole being was thrilled with satisfied delight. But how soon my mind grew beyond the delight of the colored beads! The days came when I did not care to even look at them, and a pencil and slate were just the one desire of my heart. Now, just in the same way the race has had its childhood, as well as the individual. There is an evolution of man as the Race, and an evolution of man as the individual. At the dawn of spiritual perception, what I have called the kindergarten of the world's religious awakenings, man postulated a God after his—man’s—own image and likeness. If you are familiar with the history of the world, either from sacred, and so-called profane writings, you need not that I should tell you anything of the condition, mentally and spiritually, of mankind in the far away past—the dawn of the known life of this planet. Man, hardly evolved from the animal stage, could grasp nothing higher than a being subject to like Passions with himself. True there was always a Moses—there will always be a Moses for every age,—and if we could go back further into the mists that veil the past before Moses the Lawgiver, we would find that God never left mankind without His Faithful Witness. Older than the Christian or Jewish Scriptures are the writings of the great Chinese Philosopher and Saint, Lao Tze, and he wrote of the great Sages of old who delivered the Law unto their fathers and their fathers before them. India has a spiritual life stretching far, far back into a past so shadowy that it is lost in forgetfulness, yet the word of her Rishas and Sages, her Teachers and Saviors remains today in their Sacred Scriptures, loved and reverenced by the people. It certainly is beyond doubt that man has risen to great heights of spiritual enlightenment in the far away past, not once, but many times, and as many times; has he fallen again into darkness and ignorance. The individual lives his life over and over again in synthesis, as he reincarnates time after time. The human embryo passes through all the conditions of its evolutionary stages from the protoplasm to the man, before it is born a human child. And it is no less so, evidently, with the life of the Race. As races reincarnate over and over again on this planet, may they not have to pass over the ground of racial evolution they passed over before, living in synthesis the experiences of the Race in its many past incarnations, but ever rising on the spiral of spiritual life, and light, and knowledge, each reincarnation of the race finding higher and higher levels, just as each individual leaves off at the end of each life so much the wiser, so much the stronger, so much nearer to the Ideal Man that is to be.
So man, at the dawn of spiritual life as we know the race, postulated a God of wrath, of jealousy, of anger, and revenge. Man could look no higher than he himself had realized. And I should like you to make a special note of that, for it is significant, and will bear thinking about. Man always creates a God after his own image. Instance the Jehovah of the Old Testament. He delighted in blood, the blood of bulls, and of goats, and turtle doves. He was petty in his wrath, and demands that some gentle creature must be slain and its warm blood poured forth in sacrifice before he could be pacified. He certainly in many respects was an improvement on the gods of the other nations, but even He—Jehovah—was at times very delighted if human blood was poured forth upon his altars, either as a mark of great thanksgiving, or as a sacrifice for sin, or as a gift by which he could be cajoled into an indulgent deity, giving them victory over their enemies, and allowing them to help themselves to the spoils of the nations with which they were at war. Witness the murder of Jepthahs daughter as an offering to God in return for bringing her father the victory he asked for. It is true that Jepthah was brought up under the influence of the gods of Ashtoreth and Baal, but there was only a step between the blood of a bull, and the blood of a maiden, and the one was of so much more value than the other that of course Jehovah would be much more pleased and satisfied. But in those dark days when the dawn was about to break once more upon the hearts of men, there was always the Prophet who saw deeper than the priest, and he ever, then as now, cried from the Mount of Vision to the people, told them of God, the Father, the Good, the Infinite Ruler who desired not blood nor sacrifice; but the people heeded not the prophet, but turning a deaf ear to his voice, they ever listened to the priest and went on in the horror of darkness and superstition, offering their sacrifices of blood to appease Jehovah. So, in that age even as in this, the people, steeped in their preconceived ideas, their superstitious, and race beliefs, turned away from the voice of the Seer, the Prophet, who was the mystic, the Idealist of the age, continuing, certainly in fear, to the sacrifices and ordinance of the priest, and the traditions of the elders. "Lord, we have heard with our ears, and our Fathers have declared unto us,"—so still the people cried for sacrifice and blood to satisfy their God, and still the victims were led to the slaughter, that the anger of Jehovah might be turned away from them.
But there was a need. Men were but fearful children, afraid of the darkness in which they moved, just as the little children are sometimes afraid to be left in the dark. And the priest had to hold them in that craven fear, so ignorant and unevolved were they, lest they return again and again to all the abominations of the people around them. St. Paul saw the necessity of fear even in his day, though by that time man had evolved to a far greater light and knowledge, yet the Apostle says,—"and some save by fear, pulling them out of the fire." Now let us come along to our own religious history. Go back to the early centuries after the Norman conquest. See the strong line of demarcation between the secular and the sacred. In those days to be religious at all was to retire from the world of men and things and enter a monastery or a convent. There was no middle path. Pass along to the later centuries when men fought for the Holy Sepulcher, but forgot to fight for the living Christ, and were so depraved and given to lust that nearly all the women of that time had to take refuge in the veil. A man was a monk or a soldier in those days, and the one in that age was as far removed from the other as the poles. Look at the history of England from the 10th century to the time of Elizabeth, were they not centuries of bloodshed, the grossest immorality and indulgences? You have the nun and the monk on the one hand, the profligate, the libertine, and the spoiler, on the other, from the monarch on his throne, down to the masked highwayman, who might be encountered at any moment with his dreaded greeting, "your money or your life." From the 16th and 17th centuries we see a change, they were the centuries of our Shakespeare, of Ben Johnson, of Francis Bacon. Then came that wonderful age of literature, and the dawn of science. But religiously the people were still bound in the terrible horrors of the superstitious of their fathers, and small wonder that at the same time that Shakespeare was writing his immortal works, the whole country was given over to pleasure of the grossest kind, so much so that at last we have the pendulum swinging in the very opposite direction in the advent of the puritan, making it a very sin to smile, to even be happy, and in Scotland even the blessed sunshine must be shut out upon the Sabbath day, lest any child of God should see it, and smile because the world was so beautiful. Perhaps it would be correct to say that the keynote of the 17th century was Power. Men sold their very souls for power and preferment, bribery and corruption were rife. But finding that power was unsatisfying and fleeting, the 18th century begins a mad rush for pleasure and riches. To gain pleasure and riches men and women sacrificed everything, only to find their hearts empty at last and nothing left to satisfy. Then about the beginning of the 19th century comes another change, and men and women seem to have desired comfort above all things. To make a fortune, by fair means or foul was the one thing to be desired. We, who lived in the 19th century, know this to be a fact. To get on in life, that was the great ideal. To "make a living" was the highest ideal of the majority either in or out of the churches. Religiously it was a century of fear, of ritual taking the place of Life, and the worship of ceremony taking the place of human experience. We came to the end of the 19th century, thank God, with all its fear and darkness, and with the dawn of the 20th century man is making the greatest discovery he has ever made—he is discovering himself! We know today that man is not a worm of the earth as he so long believed himself to be. He is not a depraved creature, neither is he subject to sin, disease, fear, hell or death. Man is divine, made in the image and likeness of God, and therefore, as the Christ said to men in his day, "said I not unto you that ye are gods"? We have come to the Dawn of the Day of Liberty and Light, of Freedom and Brotherhood, and the Message of the Age is that every man and every woman has a right to enter into possession and to enter in now. The vital element in the religion of today and the religion of tomorrow is Idealism. We were so steeped in the hard and fast traditions of the past; so blind and hardened were we, so unable to awaken from our long sleep in materialism that nothing short of this terrible war could awaken us, and show us the light of the New Day. The time had come for a new conception of life and its values. But the world was sleeping on, satisfied with its dead religions, its worn out customs, its lifeless sacraments. The cancer was very deep and had entered into the vitals of life, and the knife of the great surgeon has had to cut very, very deeply.
This is no new message, that is, it is not essentially new, though new to the Age. The thinkers of all time from Plato to Paul and from Paul to Emerson have voiced the divinity of man, the kingship and creative power of mind, and the almighty force of Ideals. Paul said, "All things are yours," but did the people believe him? Ask the experience of the centuries. So far from man believing that he had a divine right and title deed to all things, he has believed himself to be a worm of the earth, a vile sinner, a beggar, a depraved creature in whom no good thing could have existence. He was told, and he believed, that this glorious world was but a "howling wilderness," a "vale of tears," and that there was only one thing that need concern him and that was to save his poor miserable soul from hell, and so make sure of at least a resting place in heaven! And he thought he believed it! Yet priest and people clung to this "vale of tears," "this howling wilderness" in a surprising way, seeing that they said that heaven with its golden streets and harps was waiting for them when they left it.
So for ages the negative mental conditions of the people have been creating for themselves our present conditions. What is drunkenness but the uncurbed and uncontrolled desire for excitement and sensation? Very often the outcome of a craving for a false stimulant to take the place of a wasted vitality; a something to fill up the depleted body—depleted through other indulgences and ignorances. Man himself has made all these conditions that we see around us by his own creative thought.
Said the wise man of old, "Surely as I thought, so shall it come to pass," and another said, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." But the message has come to man, it has been ringing through all the Ages, but man could not understand, the glorious message that these things need not be, that he is himself the creator of all these conditions, and even as he has made, so can he destroy. Idealism will remove them. Not all at once, but as sure as the mind of man has been powerful in forming the undesirable conditions in which he finds himself, so is it powerful to destroy them, and to create desirable ones. You are divine. You are the most powerful force in all the universe. You may be whatever you wish to be. You are free to choose, free to think, free to act. When men and women come into a knowledge of their true nature then will come the Golden Age of which prophets have dreamed and poets have sung. It is near upon us now, and many of us will live to see it in its glory. The last thirty years have marked a marvelous speeding up in this direction. When James Allen wrote From Poverty to Power the orthodox folk were up in arms about the book, and to read it was considered a mark of rank heresy. I had to resign my membership of a Christian church because I agreed with James Allen, and read his books. You can scarcely realize it, can you? Today his works are read by all the churches! "Slowly the history of the race is writ!" The message I have for you is a message of glorious freedom, of creative power, your creative power,—of the beauty and joy and blessedness of life for you. I know that there is no death. I know that sickness, disease, old age (as it is usually experienced) is a mistake. I know that life was intended by God to be a beautiful and blessed and glorious thing. I will give you the message faithfully and fully every Sunday afternoon in this Hall. In this first introductory address I can but touch upon the fringe of my message. Will you come to these meetings as often as you can, and as the message is unfolded, will you seek to enter into the spirit of it, and test it by life, your own life, your own living? If you do, then you will find life expanding each day, growing deeper, and higher, and broader, and more and more worth living. All the things that harass and worry you will melt away into the nothingness that they are, and you will know the truth of the word of promise, "Thou shalt decree a thing and it shall come to pass unto thee, and the light shall shine upon thy way."