There is a notable twofold characteristic of this our age—we might almost say: of this our generation. It is on the one hand a tremendously far-reaching interest in the deeper spiritual realities of life, in the things of the mind and the Spirit. On the other hand, there is a materialism that is apparent to all, likewise far-reaching. We are witnessing the two moving along, apparently at least, side by side.
There are those who believe that out of the latter the former is arising, that we are witnessing another great step forward on the part of the human race—a new era or age, so to speak. There are many things that would indicate this to be a fact. The fact that the material alone does not satisfy, and that from the very constitution of the human mind and soul, it cannot satisfy, may be a fundamental reason for this.
It may be also that as we are apprehending, to a degree never equaled in the world's history, the finer forces in nature, and are using them in a very practical and useful way in the affairs and the activities of the daily life, we are also and perhaps in a more pronounced degree, realizing, understanding, and using the finer, the higher insights and forces, and therefore powers, of mind, of spirit, and of body.
I think there is a twofold reason for this widespread and rapidly increasing interest. A new psychology, or perhaps it were better to say, some new and more fully established laws of psychology, pertaining to the realm of the subconscious mind, its nature, and its peculiar activities and powers, has brought us another agency in life of tremendous significance and of far-reaching practical use.
Another reason is that the revelation and the religion of Jesus the Christ is witnessing a new birth, as it were. We are finding at last an entirely new content in his teachings, as well as in his life. We are dropping our interest in those phases of a Christianity that he probably never taught, and that we have many reasons now to believe he never even thought—things that were added long years after his time.
We are conscious, however, as never before, that that wonderful revelation, those wonderful teachings, and above all that wonderful life, have a content that can, that does, inspire, lift up, and make more effective, more powerful, more successful, and more happy, the life of every man and every woman who will accept, who will appropriate, who will live his teachings.
Look at it, however we will, this it is that accounts for the vast number of earnest, thoughtful, forward looking men and women who are passing over, and in many cases are passing from, traditional Christianity, and who either of their own initiative, or under other leadership, are going back to those simple, direct, God-impelling teachings of the Great Master. They are finding salvation in his teachings and his example, where they never could find it in various phases of the traditional teachings about him.
It is interesting to realize, and it seems almost strange that this new finding in psychology, and that this new and vital content in Christianity, have come about at almost identically the same time. Yet it is not strange, for the one but serves to demonstrate in a concrete and understandable manner the fundamental and essential principles of the other. Many of the Master's teachings of the inner life, teachings of "the Kingdom," given so far ahead of his time that the people in general, and in many instances even his disciples, were incapable of fully comprehending and understanding them, are now being confirmed and further elucidated by clearly defined laws of psychology.
Speculation and belief are giving way to a greater knowledge of law. The supernatural recedes into the background as we delve deeper into the supernormal. The unusual loses its miraculous element as we gain knowledge of the law whereby the thing is done. We are realizing that no miracle has ever been performed in the world's history that was not through the understanding and the use of Law.
Jesus did unusual things; but he did them because of his unusual understanding of the law through which they could be done. He would not have us believe otherwise. To do so would be a distinct contradiction of the whole tenor of his teachings and his injunctions. Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free, was his own admonition. It was the great and passionate longing of his master heart that the people to whom he came, grasp the interior meanings of his teachings. How many times he felt the necessity of rebuking even his disciples for dragging his teachings down through their material interpretations. As some of the very truths that he taught are now corroborated and more fully understood, and in some cases amplified by well-established laws of psychology, mystery recedes into the background.
We are reconstructing a more natural, a more sane, a more common-sense portrait of the Master. "It is the spirit that quickeneth," said he; "the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." Shall we recall again in this connection: "I am come that ye might have life and that ye might have it more abundantly"? When, therefore, we take him at his word, and listen intently to his words, and not so much to the words of others about him; when we place our emphasis upon the fundamental spiritual truths that he revealed and that he pleaded so earnestly to be taken in the simple, direct way in which he taught them, we are finding that the religion of the Christ means a clearer and healthier understanding of life and its problems through a greater knowledge of the elemental forces and laws of life.
Ignorance enchains and enslaves. Truth—which is but another way of saying a clear and definite knowledge of Law, the elemental laws of soul, of mind, and body, and of the universe about us—brings freedom. Jesus revealed essentially a spiritual philosophy of life. His whole revelation pertained to the essential divinity of the human soul and the great gains that would follow the realization of this fact. His whole teaching revolved continually around his own expression, used again and again, the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven, and which he so distinctly stated was an inner state or consciousness or realization. Something not to be found outside of oneself but to be found only within.
We make a great error to regard man as merely a duality—mind and body. Man is a trinity,—soul, mind, and body, each with its own functions,—and it is the right coordinating of these that makes the truly efficient and eventually the perfect life. Anything less is always one-sided and we may say, continually out of gear. It is essential to a correct understanding, and therefore for any adequate use of the potential powers and forces of the inner life, to realize this.
It is the physical body that relates us to the physical universe about us, that in which we find ourselves in this present form of existence. But the body, wondrous as it is in its functions and its mechanism, is not the life. It has no life and no power in itself. It is of the earth, earthy. Every particle of it has come from the earth through the food we eat in combination with the air we breathe and the water we drink, and every part of it in time will go back to the earth. It is the house we inhabit while here.
We can make it a hovel or a mansion; we can make it even a pig-sty or a temple, according as the soul, the real self, chooses to function through it. We should make it servant, but through ignorance of the real powers within, we can permit it to become master. "Know ye not," said the Great Apostle to the Gentiles, "that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"
The soul is the self, the soul made in the image of Eternal Divine Life, which, as Jesus said, is Spirit. The essential reality of the soul is Spirit. Spirit—Being—is one and indivisible, manifesting itself, however, in individual forms in existence. Divine Being and the human soul are therefore in essence the same, the same in quality. Their difference, which, however, is very great—though less in some cases than in others—is a difference in degree.
Divine Being is the cosmic force, the essential essence, the Life therefore of all there is in existence. The soul is individual personal existence. The soul while in this form of existence manifests, functions through the channel of a material body. It is the mind that relates the two. It is through the medium of the mind that the two must be coordinated. The soul, the self, while in this form of existence, must have a body through which to function. The body, on the other hand, to reach and to maintain its highest state, must be continually infused with the life force of the soul. The life force of the soul is Spirit. If spirit, then essentially one with Infinite Divine Spirit, for spirit, Being, is one.
The embodied soul finds itself the tenant of a material body in a material universe, and according to a plan as yet, at least, beyond our human understanding, whatever may be our thoughts, our theories regarding it. The whole order of life as we see it, all the world of Nature about us, and we must believe the order of human life, is a gradual evolving from the lower to the higher, from the cruder to the finer. The purpose of life is unquestionably unfoldment, growth, advancement—likewise the evolving from the lower and the coarser to the higher and the finer.
The higher insights and powers of the soul, always potential within, become of value only as they are realized and used. Evolution implies always involution. The substance of all we shall ever attain or be, is within us now, waiting for realization and thereby expression. The soul carries its own keys to all wisdom and to all valuable and usable power.
It was that highly illumined seer, Emanuel Swedenborg, who said: "Every created thing is in itself inanimate and dead, but it is animated and caused to live by this, that the Divine is in it and that it exists in and from the Divine." Again: "The universal end of creation is that there should be an external union of the Creator with the created universe; and this would not be possible unless there were beings in whom His Divine might be present as if in itself; thus in whom it might dwell and abide. To be His abode, they must receive His love and wisdom by a power which seems to be their own; thus, must lift themselves up to the Creator as if by their own power, and unite themselves with Him. Without this mutual action no union would be possible." And again: "Everyone who duly considers the matter may know that the body does not think, because it is material, but the soul, because it is spiritual. All the rational life, therefore, which appears in the body belongs to the spirit, for the matter of the body is annexed, and, as it were, joined to the spirit, in order that the latter may live and perform uses in the natural world.... Since everything which lives in the body, and acts and feels by virtue of that life, belongs to the spirit alone, it follows that the spirit is the real man; or, what comes to the same thing, man himself is a spirit, in a form similar to that of his body."
Spirit being the real man, it follows that the great, central fact of all experience, of all human life, is the coming into a conscious, vital realization of our source, of our real being, in other words, of our essential oneness with the spirit of Infinite Life and Power—the source of all life and all power. We need not look for outside help when we have within us waiting to be realized, and thereby actualized, this Divine birthright.
Browning was prophet as well as poet when in "Paracelsus" he said:
Truth is within ourselves; it takes no rise
From outward things, whate'er you may believe.
There is an inmost center in us all,
Where truth abides in fullness; and around
Wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in,
This perfect, clear perception—which is truth.
A baffling and perverting carnal mesh
Binds it, and makes all error: and, to know
Rather consists in opening out a way
Whence the imprisoned splendor may escape,
Than in effecting entry for a light
Supposed to be without.
How strangely similar in meaning it seems to that saying of an earlier prophet, Isaiah: "And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand and when ye turn to the left."
All great educators are men of great vision. It was Dr. Hiram Corson who said: "It is what man draws up from his sub-self which is of prime importance in his true education, not what is put into him. It is the occasional uprising of our sub-selves that causes us, at times, to feel that we are greater than we know." A new psychology, spiritual science, a more commonsense interpretation of the great revelation of the Christ of Nazareth, all combine to enable us to make this occasional uprising our natural and normal state.
No man has probably influenced the educational thought and practice of the entire world more than Friedrich Froebel. In that great book of his, "The Education of Man," he bases his entire system upon the following, which constitutes the opening of its first chapter: "In all things there lives and reigns an eternal law. This all-controlling law is necessarily based on an all-pervading, energetic, living, self-conscious, and hence eternal, Unity....This Unity is God. All things have come from the Divine Unity, from God, and have their origin in the Divine Unity, in God alone. God is the sole source of all things. All things live and have their being in and through the Divine Unity, in and through God. All things are only through the divine effluence that lives in them. The divine effluence that lives in each thing is the essence of each thing.
"It is the destiny and life work of all things to unfold their essence, hence their divine being, and, therefore, the Divine Unity itself—to reveal God in their external and transient being. It is the special destiny and life work of man, as an intelligent and rational being, to become fully, vividly, conscious of this essence of the divine effluence in him, and therefore of God.
"The precept for life in general and for everyone is: Exhibit only thy spiritual, thy life, in the external, and by means of the external in thy actions, and observe the requirements of thy inner being and its nature.”
Here is not only an undying basis for all real education, but also the basis of all true religion, as well as the basis of all ideal philosophy. Yes, there could be no evolution, unless the essence of all to be evolved, unfolded, were already involved in the human soul. To follow the higher leadings of the soul, which is so constituted that it is the inlet, and as a consequence the outlet of Divine Spirit, Creative Energy, the real source of all wisdom and power; to project its leadings into every phase of material activity and endeavor, constitutes the ideal life. It was Emerson who said: "Every soul is not only the inlet, but may become the outlet of all there is in God." To keep this inlet open, so as not to shut out the Divine inflow, is the secret of all higher achievement, as well as attainment.
There is a wood separated by a single open field from my house. In it, halfway down a little hillside, there was some years ago a spring. It was at one time walled up with rather large loose stone—some three feet across at the top. In following a vaguely defined trail through the wood one day in the early spring, a trail at one time evidently considerably used, it led me to this spot. I looked at the stone enclosure, partly moss-grown. I wondered why, although the ground was wet around it, there was no water in or running from what had evidently been at one time a well-used spring.
A few days later when the early summer work was better under way, I took an implement or two over, and half scratching, half digging inside the little wall, I found layer after layer of dead leaves and sediment, dead leaves and sediment. Presently water became evident, and a little later it began to rise within the wall. In a short time there was nearly three feet of water. It was cloudy, no bottom could be seen. I sat down and waited for it to settle.
Presently I discerned a ledge bottom and the side against the hill was also ledge. On this side, close to the bottom, I caught that peculiar movement of little particles of silvery sand, and looking more closely I could see a cleft in the rock where the water came gushing and bubbling in. Soon the entire spring became clear as crystal, and the water finding evidently its old outlet, made its way down the little hillside. I was soon able to trace and to uncover its course as it made its way to the level place below.
As the summer went on I found myself going to the spot again and again. Flowers that I found in no other part of the wood, before the autumn came were blooming along the little watercourse. Birds in abundance came to drink and to bathe. Several times I have found the half-tame deer there. Twice we were but thirty to forty paces apart. They have watched my approach, and as I stopped, have gone on with their drinking, evidently unafraid—as if it were likewise their possession. And so it is.
After spending a most valuable hour or two in the quiet there one afternoon, I could not help but wonder as I walked home whether perchance the spring may not be actually happy in being able to resume its life, to fulfil, so to speak, its destiny; happy also in the service it renders flowers and the living wild things—happy in the service it renders even me. I am doubly happy and a hundred times repaid in the little help I gave it. It needed help, to enable it effectively to keep connection with its source. As it became gradually shut off from this, it weakened, became then stagnant, and finally it ceased its active life.
Containing a fundamental truth deeper perhaps than we realize, are these words of that gifted seer, Emanuel Swedenborg: "There is only one Fountain of Life, and the life of man is a stream therefrom, which if it were not continually replenished from its source would instantly cease to flow." And likewise these: "Those who think in the light of interior reason can see that all things are connected by intermediate links with the First Cause, and that whatever is not maintained in that connection must cease to exist."
There is a mystic force that transcends any powers of the intellect or of the body, that becomes manifest and operative in the life of man when this God-consciousness becomes awakened and permeates his entire being. Failure to realize and to keep in constant communion with our Source is what causes fears, forebodings, worry, inharmony, conflict, conflict that downs us many times in mind, in spirit, in body—failure to follow that Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world, failure to hear and to heed that Voice of the soul, that speaks continually clearer as we accustom ourselves to listen to and to heed it, failure to follow those intuitions with which the soul, every soul, is endowed, and that lead us aright and that become clearer in their leadings as we follow them. It is this guidance and this sustaining power that all great souls fall back upon in times of great crises.
This single stanza by Edwin Markham voices the poet's inspiration:
At the heart of the cyclone tearing the sky,
And flinging the clouds and the towers by,
Is a place of central calm;
So, here in the roar of mortal things
I have a place where my spirit sings,
In the hollow of God's palm.
"That the Divine Life and Energy actually lives in us," was the philosopher Fichte's reply to the proposition—"the profoundest knowledge that man can attain." And speaking of the man to whom this becomes a real, vital, conscious realization, he said: "His whole existence flows forth, softly and gently, from his Inward Being, and issues out into Reality without difficulty or hindrance."
There are certain faculties that we have that are not a part of the active thinking mind; they seem to be no part of what we might term our conscious intelligence. They transcend any possible activities of our regular mental processes, and they are in some ways independent of them. Through some avenue, suggestions, intuitions of truth, intuitions of occurrences of which through the thinking mind we could know nothing, are at times borne in upon us; they flash into our consciousness, as we say, quite independent of any mental action on our part, and sometimes when we are thinking of something quite foreign to that which comes to, that which "impresses" us.
This seems to indicate a source of knowledge, a faculty that is distinct from, but that acts in various ways in conjunction with, the active thinking mind. It performs likewise certain very definite and distinct functions in connection with the body. It is this that is called the subconscious mind —by some the superconscious or the supernormal mind, by others the subliminal self.
Just what the subconscious mind is no man knows. It is easier to define its functions and to describe its activities than it is to state in exact terms what it is. It is similar in this respect to the physical force—if it be a physical force—electricity. It is only of late years that we know anything of electricity at all. Today we know a great deal of its nature and the laws of its action. No man living can tell exactly what electricity is. We are nevertheless making wonderful practical applications of it. We are learning more about it continually. Some day we may know what it actually is.
The fact that the subconscious mind seems to function in a realm apart from anything that has to do with our conscious mental processes, and also that it has some definite functions as both directing and building functions to perform in connection with the body, and that it is at the same time subject to suggestion and direction from the active thinking mind, would indicate that it may be the true connecting link, the medium of exchange, between the soul and the body, the connector of the spiritual and the material so far as man is concerned.
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More Articles by This Author Ralph Waldo Trine
- Lived from September 6th, 1866 to February, 22nd 1958
- Born in Mt. Morris, Illinois
- Most popular book is In Tune With the Infinite
- Was an early leader in the New Thought movement.