Though fully aware that the immensity of the title of this chapter is simply overwhelming in its scope and majesty, we will nevertheless address ourselves earnestly and fearlessly in these the closing pages, of a volume intended to be of practical service to inquiring humanity, to the consideration of themes of such transcendent moment and apparent difficulty that their elucidation has been well-nigh the despair of theologians through the course of many centuries. What think ye of Christ? is the ever-recurring question in Christendom; and the replies to this query are so far removed from one another that they range all the way from ''Christ is God" to " I do not believe Christ ever existed." In the fourth gospel the Christ is identified with the eternal Logos, the everlasting Word, which is the active creative force in the universe. There is a distinct philosophic connection between this first chapter of John's gospel and the eighth chapter of Proverbs, for while the gospel speaks of the divine masculine principle (love), the author of Proverbs deals with the equally divine feminine (wisdom), which is said to have been with Him in all the work of creation. Love and wisdom together are necessary to creation; the product of their union is the Holy Spirit, or divine breath which sustains and is perpetually recreating all things. Though there is a beginning and also an ending to the career of any world or system of worlds, creation itself is eternal. We must dismiss entirely from our minds the thought of time when we contemplate the self-existent, the underived essence of life which remains unchangeable, though all things change without or external to it. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever," suggests the principle back of the personality. The physical shape of the Man of Galilee changed as do all other physical shapes, but the abiding ego changes not at all forever. In the esoteric meaning of the term, Christ is the immortal principle of humanity, which, like Melchisedec, King of Salem, priest of the MOST HIGH, has neither beginning of days nor end of life; being without father or mother, he has no family tree, therefore to such as he genealogy can have no meaning.
Modern as well as ancient Hermetists are wont to turn attention as fully to the esoteric as materialists are disposed to direct our gaze to the exoteric side of every question; and though there is a common resting-place for occultists and externalists, it is not often that this is clearly displayed in a treatise written either by a professed Hermetist or by one who writes avowedly from the standpoint of literalism.
Some years ago great attention was called to the productions of Dr. Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, whose collaborated work, "The Perfect Way, or Finding of Christ," is still the accepted Vade mecum of a by no means insignificant company of Theosophists of a distinctive type in London and elsewhere. The chief difference between the teachings of these authors and those of other schools of theosophical thought, is that they approach in language, though not in sentiment, very much nearer the accepted phraseology of the Christian than do the advocates of a more distinctly Asiatic terminology, such as that employed by Annie Besant and others who have spent some time in India and much more time in the study of Hindu or Sanskrit literature. To average Christian ears the terminology of Orientalism, outside of its Christian aspect, is almost unintelligible; therefore, it simplifies matters greatly when addressing a professedly Christian public to use words and phrases culled from the New Testament rather than from the Vedas or Bhagavad Gita or any other unfamiliar, or at least far less familiar, fount of inspiration. The allusions to Christ in the Pauline epistles are, many of them, of such a character that they are positively incomprehensible if applied to a person, while they grow luminous at once when we understand that they apply to a principle. When Paul speaks of Christ being formed within us, and of our being knit together into the mystical body of Christ, if language means anything as there employed, the allusions must be both spiritual and social; but they cannot have exclusive reference to one personality, no matter how divine and glorious.
The personal Jesus may be accepted throughout Christendom as the perfect embodiment and the complete epiphany or manifestation of the divine through the human, both as an exemplar of the race and as a source of spiritual blessing to all who are reachable by the magnetic radiations from the glorified person. But it will in no way interfere with that view to indorse the Buddhist's claim and agree to his assertion that India as well as Palestine has witnessed the perfect expression of the divine, through the human, in the life history of a glorified Elder Brother of Humanity. The acceptance of Christ is far more than belief in historic records, the best of which are sometimes dubious. Christ, says Paul, is to be formed within us. What can such a saying mean, if not that the Christ spirit, mind or temper is fully to possess us, and we by virtue of possessing it are to become divinized? The too great pressure often brought to bear upon honest skeptics to accept a personal Christ as Savior and Lord, coupled with threats of future punishment too dreadful to be imagined in the event of their rejection of this sacred person, has often been responsible for the positively anti-Christian character of so-called free thought, radical and liberal utterances. It was Dr. Pusey as much as anybody or anything that caused Mrs. Besant to drift toward Atheism, while Dean Stanley evoked within her a renewed respect for Christianity, though she could not be brought, even by his graciousness, to re-embrace it. It is no doubt largely a matter of temperament in many cases which decides the acceptance or rejection of the distinctively personal element in the Christian thought, and exactly the same is true when Buddhism or some other system is being examined in place of Christianity. There are some intense natures to whom nothing but a concrete image appears real; unless you concretize, you mystify and bewilder such good people, for they are not able, it seems, to revel in the abstract; they must be reached through the agency of the distinctly personal. Do not let us speak or think slightingly of such, for their wants are great and there must be for them an adapted ministry. The personal thought of Christ reaches and satisfies these and they must be led by it and through it to see beyond it, and when they see more than they at present realize they will know, better than they know now, where to place the personal equation in a synthetic system of philosophy. The indwelling Logos, regarded as the life of humanity, the light enlightening every human being, is a sublime conception; one, moreover, in which all prophets and poets of the highest stamp have reveled with intense delight. When we hear Whittier singing "Long sought without, but found within," we are forcibly reminded of Fenelon and of Mme. Guyon as well as of many other sweet, noble natures whose Christian mysticism was something inexpressibly higher, deeper and purer than the conventional creedism of the average ecclesiastics of their day. Had this higher element prevailed in the Church, in Europe 400 years ago, Savonarola would have been accepted, and Luther would have had no apology for his iconoclasm. The mystic who seeks and finds the Christ within is generally of sweet, simple, meditative nature. To such temperaments the methods of the scholastic theologians are for the most part detestable, because while subtle casuistry delights the intellect it not infrequently offends the heart. The mystic feels, while the casuist argues. One is a poet, the other a lawyer; and though a solicitor or an attorney may be a minstrel, we hardly associate the bard with jurisprudence. There is, of course, nothing incongruous in such a combination, and it would be well for the world if lawyers were seers and poets; but ecclesiastical litigation and sacerdotal wire-pulling are of all legal processes the most odious to the devout soul which takes no interest in defining a dogma, but all interest in inwardly realizing truth. Calvin's condemnation of Servetus simply proved that Calvin, though a fine logician, had utterly neglected the religion of the heart. No passage in the canonical Gospels, can be cited to prove that Jesus taught that salvation consisted in saying, " God the Son," while perdition awaited those who said "the Son of God." However much of abstract truth there may be in a theologic formulary, it has no vitalizing power. Doctrines presented to the intellect, and accepted by it, have no power to reach the heart; therefore, all creeds and dogmas put together are powerless to uplift the human race because love, not belief, is the fulfilling of the law. We do not necessarily love because we believe. "Devils also believe and tremble," is a pat phrase and one that theologians would do well to ponder. Christ in the life is not Jesus in the head, though Jesus in the head does not keep Christ out of the life. There are two of every one of us; we are all conscious of a higher and of a lower self, however ill prepared we may be to define these two selves in any clear and philosophically accurate manner. It is because of these two in every one of us that the opposed theories of creation and evolution provoke so much long-drawn controversy—a contention which can never cease so long as either side lays claim to a monopoly of truth.
Creationists postulate God, while evolutionists postulate something. Back of protoplasmic cells is spirit. Spiritual plasm is the truly first (proto) and life (Bio) plasm. Back of evolution is that which is involved and that which is made manifest through those slow and orderly processes we call evolutionary.
The researches of Lamarck and then of Darwin and Wallace led to certain definite, formulable conclusions concerning the method of the working of the law of evolution, which ancient seers may not have exactly anticipated, but it is the height of ignorance and folly for nineteenth century students to arrogate to themselves and to their age all the knowledge concerning evolution extant on earth today. Involution and evolution are unthinkable apart. It is the spiritual side of the theory of evolution which most strongly appeals to the searcher for inward satisfaction, therefore the revelation of the evolution of Man's spiritual consciousness—which the New Testament conceals beneath the surface of the letter—offers an interpretation of biological phenomena obtainable nowhere else. Paul's doctrine of ''first the natural^ then the spiritual in the order of expression, tallies precisely with the words in the third chapter of the fourth Gospel, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." Then, after Nicodemus has heard this declaration, he is told that he must be born of water and of the spirit in logical sequential order, before he can do more than simply behold, even enter into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus addresses this " Master in Israel " with the pertinent question, "Knowest thou not these things ?" paying thereby a tribute to the Kabala and other secret or sacred sources of information open to the Chief Rabbis, seventy of whom constituted the Sanhedrin, the highest council in Israel.
The Jewish Kabala is not the only phase of Kabala extant, but it is the most accessible, though it is by no means easy to decipher. The books of greater and lesser Concealed Mystery are full of profound theosophy, which those who speak glibly of "Kabala unveiled" will find very much veiled still after all the attempted unveiling. The legend concerning Kabala is that angels, who form a theosophic school in Paradise, reveal to chosen ones on earth what man unguided by these celestial prompters could never find out for himself This tradition is susceptible of more than one elucidation, for though angelic ministration may be an important factor in human enlightenment, the angel within us must not be overlooked while we pay exclusive honor to the angel without. Until we reach a plane of development where we are capable of appreciating direct inward guidance we should gratefully acknowledge our profound indebtedness to counselors without; but the experience of the soul ultimately must be like to that of Mme. Guyon, who returned heart-weary from her pilgrimage to many famous shrines where she had been to seek for Christ. Fenelon, who was her adviser, said: "My child, you have been looking for Christ everywhere except in the place where you are sure to find him. Seek no longer without; look within." It is only when we have grown dissatisfied with what is procurable without that we are ready to turn within; therefore it is madness to seek to hurry the process of spiritual growth, which, if not spontaneous, is unreal and artificial. If we are contented with creeds, catechisms, rituals and ordinances, they are the things for us just now; but if these fail to meet our necessities and our deeper needs are sadly unsupplied, if we are growing in wisdom or are even ready to pay heed to wise counselors, we shall shed no tears and experience no regret, but straightway repair to that inward sanctuary of the spirit where the living universal Christ stands ready to supply all needs and give rest to all the weary. Put the matter in any light you please, it is always and only personal experience that satisfies. Hearsay evidence is never finally conclusive. No matter how unimpeachable the witnesses or how strong the testimony, there is no real peace until one can say: " My own eyes have seen the glory of the Lord, and my own ears have heard the joyful tidings of salvation." To preach a so-called gospel and leave personal experience out is to feed the multitude on husks instead of bread.
Watch the eager throngs who congregate to listen to Oriental teachers and the crowds who frequent spiritualistic "test" meetings. What is the cause of this flocking to hear Asiatics and this clamoring for clairvoyance and psychometry? Psychical Research is born out of soul hunger. People are not sure of anything. Immortality is too uncertain. Religious teaching is either too dogmatic or too vague. The sacerdotalists appeal to authority which is not authoritative, while the liberalists calmly and rationalistically drift into agnosticism and those of gloomy disposition into pessimism. If something like phenomenal spiritism could satisfy the human soul there would be no further seeking when once phenomena of a psychic character had been proved genuine; but the human being as we know him is not capable of resting in phenomena, however valuable such may be as introductory steps to inward realization.
In spite of the fantastic side of Yoga practice, there is in it all a thinly veiled yearning after union with the divine. Why all this talk of "tatwas;" why all this struggling to govern breath, and to attain to the practice of magic, unless below it all there is a yearning after the hidden divinity which at length may stand revealed? There are too many really earnest, pure-minded men and women seeking through these avenues today for any fair observant critic to dismiss the subject with a sneer; or with an empty toss of the head, exclaim: "Oh, only a sensation; another nine days' wonder." Christian Science, Theosophy, Spiritualism, all appeal to the curiosity-seeking on the one hand, and to the desperately earnest "beggars for light" on the other. When we see only the speckled surface of a movement we are apt to say it is nothing but a mushroom growth and will soon be laid aside to make way for a new sensation; but on its deeper side we see that it does more than appeal to our latter-day Athenians, who are forever seeking to regale themselves with novelties. May it not be that underneath all the glamour and confusion of tongues and presentations of ambiguous wonders there is an actual effort being made by the higher self of the race to incarnate itself more fully, so that life shall be no longer the vain frivolous show, or money-grubbing grind, which far too many people make it? The higher self of the race is the esoteric Christ; the unveiling of this Christ is the race's hope of Glory.
So interwoven are we all, so inseparable are our interests, that, as Pythagoras affirmed, "no soul can be absolutely free as long as one of its companions is in bondage." Paul's epistles are wonderfully full of this sentiment, and nowhere is the idea more completely elucidated than in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians, where, after enumerating the many members of the one body, he ends with the declaration, "Even so is Christ." Jesus, in Paul's esteem, was a real, loving, glorified individual who appeared to him personally, and addressed direct words to him on his memorable journey between Jerusalem and Damascus. Jesus was to Paul the head of the company of members of the mystical body of the esoteric Christ, which, like the literal human organism, he conceived to be composed of parts and organs wherein all members have their distinctive, but equally honorable, functions. No socialists have ever improved on Paul's plan; but unfortunately for much avowed socialism, its leaders have altogether failed to realize the sole spiritual basis for a social state which can abide. It is useless to object to leadership. Leaders there are and leaders there still must be, but hereditary leadership is a corruption. The two chief sacraments of the Christian Church, Baptism and the Holy Supper, were originally socializing institutions, and though they certainly had a spiritual significance entirely beyond their external meaning, their influence for good upon social customs was exceedingly significant. All who were baptized, and all who partook of the consecrated elements at the holy table, were accredited members of the primitive Christian commonwealth, which was regarded by early Christians as the nucleus of a world-wide movement for the spiritual and social regeneration of the race. , ."Ye are the light of the world" and "Ye are the salt of the earth" were sentences taken personally by the primitive disciples, who were too ardently enthusiastic in their devotion to the cause for which they were ready to suffer martyrdom to allow any half-hearted allegiance to their Master's counsels.
William Stead has well said that the Coliseum in Rome remains as a tremendous advertisement for early Christianity. Such books as "Quo Vadis?" and "Shall we Follow Him?" and such plays as "The Sign of the Cross," intensely popular of late, show that admiration for the heroic spirit of the early martyrs is by no means dead today.
We are all members of a great spiritual community; we all belong to a universal fraternity; therefore, we are in this spiritual-social body as members thereof. That Russian prince who spoke so forcibly on brotherhood at the Congress of Religions held in Chicago during September, 1893, struck the only genuine keynote to the anthem of universal fraternization, when he exclaimed: " This thought of brotherhood is not the apex, it is the base of the social pyramid;" and then, alluding to the invitation to volunteers to become recruits in an army whose avowed object was the forming of a universal brotherhood, he forcibly replied, " I cannot enlist in an army into which I was born." This sense of brotherhood is primal, and it is indeed encouraging to note how such men as Rev. John Watson (Ian MacLaren) in his "Life Creed," and other noble thinkers, are insisting upon the absolutely universal scope of divine fatherhood and human brotherhood, as against the pitifully narrow conceptions of those misguided teachers who seek to restrict the advantages of belonging to God's family to those alone who accept their narrow dogmatism and pay respect to their contracted ordinances.
It is a very vital question whether we acknowledge universal or only sectional or partial brotherhood, because upon this issue depends the basis of all our conduct to the great bulk of our fellow-beings. We cannot expect people to be better than their ideals, or more loving and generous than their faith permits; therefore, while it may be correct to say, "It does not matter what a man believes, so long as he lives a noble life," it is impossible to believe that what one really believes will exert no influence on life. A clear and unexceptionable statement may be as follows: It does not matter what people believe to any greater extent than belief influences character. To call every virtue "Christian," and then act as though your sense of "Christian" was so. universal that it embraces Jews, Buddhists, Brahmins, Parsees, and all the rest, is simply an evidence that "Christian" is a word very dear to you, and so you employ it as the synonym of all that is truly excellent; but if you call every virtue " Christian," and then proceed to ostracize every technically non-Christian person, and act as though you believed him to be the prey of all the "heathen" vices, you are so bound and fettered by an adjective that it would be good for you if there were no such word as Christian in your vocabulary. There is always danger in pressing a seemingly sectarian term too far; because though you may use it broadly, others are sure to interpret it narrowly, and there are so many words which are entirely super denominational that it is decidedly preferable to select one of those for general usage in place of the hackneyed terms which always engender in some minds the thought of limitation.
When the Oriental Swamis and other visitors from the Far East are announced to lecture somewhere in the United States, or in England, there are sure to be some narrow-minded people who will contemptuously inquire: "What good do you expect to get from those heathens?" The use of the word "heathen," as applied to a faithful Brahmin, Buddhist, Jainist, or Parsee, is fully as objectionable as the use of the word "dog," as applied by a Mohammedan to a Christian, or to anyone who does not subscribe to the creed of Islam. People talk of the " unspeakable Turk " as though barbarity in Europe was confined to the Ottoman Empire, when within recent years barbarities and atrocities have been enacted against Jews in several European countries, to say nothing of parts of the African continent, by fanatics who justify their hatred of the Jew because he is not a Christian.
Though we shall never join those ribald iconoclasts, who denounce Christianity in unmeasured terms because of the abuses practiced in its name, we will endeavor to do justice to much of the sentiment which has provoked such violent outbursts of indignation against a time-honored institution. It is not hatred for virtue, but for vice; not opposition to integrity, but to hypocrisy, which has led the atheistic crew to hurl thunderbolts of contumely and derision at all that bears the Christian name. Victor Hugo, in "Les Miserables," has shown us the exceeding piety and sweet charity of a Catholic Bishop who was a true philanthropist of the divinest type; yet Victor Hugo had so far alienated himself from ecclesiasticism in France that his body could not be buried in the Pantheon (then a church) until the building had been formally de-consecrated or secularized. This separation from the church of a large number of the world's greatest geniuses, and most deeply spiritual minds, is weakening the church immensely, but it is only proving that religion and ecclesiasticism do not always go hand in hand. The phrase, " One holy catholic church!' is large and ample, but how many people believe in it? You are actually obliged to read a Unitarian hymn book to find a correct definition of the universal church, because the phrase is nowhere else so clearly interpreted.
The following lines, by a well-known composer of many exquisite hymns, express the true sentiment of the New Testament:
"One holy church of God appears
Through every age and race;
Unwasted by the lapse of years,
Unchanged by changing place.
Her priests are all God's faithful sons.
To serve the world raised, up;
The pure in heart, her baptized ones—Love, her communion cup."
Here we have the gospel of Jesus supplemented by the testimony of 'Paul, of John, of James and of other apostles, carried through all centuries and countries, and brought up to the living present in a vital application of truth to the actual demands of today. It is utterly impossible for the thinking, growing youth of today to take any other view of the church of the living God than that it is the spiritual incorporation of all who are led by the Spirit of Truth entirely regardless of their outer affiliations or lack of any external affiliation at all.
It is quite possible to accept Jesus as the head of the human race, and therefore take a position consistently Christian, and at the same time to accept thankfully all the joyful tidings brought to light by the most recent studies in Comparative Religion. The mystical body of the Christ is made up of all who are one in spirit—one in love. "The Lord knoweth those who are his," whether they know him or not. The world may be divided into regenerated and unregenerated people, even as there are the educated and the uneducated; but for our part we are not ready thus arbitrarily to classify humanity under these two heads. That celebrated Swedenborgian minister of Philadelphia, Rev. Chauncey Giles, whose published sermons are still proving of great help to increasing multitudes, used to say when addressing someone in whom the fruits of the divine Spirit were gradually manifesting, not "my regenerated friend," but "my regenerating friend." There is a very wide difference between the two sayings. If we were fully regenerated we should have already attained to that state of complete holiness which John and Charles Wesley, and some of their descendants, have regarded as possible here on earth, and which, no doubt, is possible, though the very people who conduct Holiness Meetings and preach Holiness most loudly do not show, as a rule, that they are other than in process of sanctification.
Precisely as generation is gradual, so also is regeneration gradual. No matter how perfect may be the germ and how accurately fulfilled may be every stage in the gestative process which must he between conception and birth, the nine months of gestating life symbolize the progressive action of the Divine Spirit within the human soul. Then after birth twenty years may be passed in infancy, childhood and youth before physical maturity is reached. If the personal recorded life of Jesus be taken as representative, and as pointing the way to perfect spiritual attainment, the doctrine of atonement may be readily understood, and a vast, murky cloud of misconception be removed from a tenet, which, though originally elevating, has become so obscured by the clouds of accumulated error that it resembles today a fine old painting by a great master, which has become so blackened with smoke and disfigured with grime that now, as it is beginning to be restored, we are catching glimpses of its original lineaments, which are fair beyond description and which will shortly reappear in sight of all be holders. Let us not number ourselves among those who fear the results of restoration; neither let us turn from the doctrine, and say we reject the atonement because it has been misinterpreted. The ideal life of Jesus differs from that of other great characters in the Bible, and elsewhere, because' of its extreme comprehensiveness. Jesus grows naturally, as all children ought to grow, increasing in size and wisdom as he advances in age, then when he is thirty years of age, old enough to commence a public ministry, having conquered temptations in his own practical experience, he leaves the desert or place of seclusion where he has been preparing for his ministry to the masses, and goes everywhere into all walks of life, associating with all sorts of people, leveling all artificial distinctions, working faithfully to democratize society on the basis of man's acceptance of one God as the Father of all, and the necessary corollary, universal sisterhood and brotherhood. Whether the Gospels are historical or not, they represent Jesus as treating women with fully as much respect as he shows to men; not in any spirit of gallantry or chivalry, but addressing them as the intellectual equals of their brothers, thereby discountenancing every one of those ignorant superstitions and forms of slavery against which the best thinkers of today are vigorously protesting. Jesus goes everywhere and does everything; his methods of teaching and healing are as diverse as human needs, therefore it is true that so eclectic, so composite is the portrait of the ideal man, that you can, if you will, support any system you prefer most by reference to gospel precedent. But how are you going to support it? is the question. Are you doing violence to the narrative by extracting an isolated incident and building up a system on a text, or are you ready thankfully to allow that there is some good to be done with every method, though no method avails on all occasions? It is pitiable to hear some people who think themselves "advanced" attempt ludicrous, belittling and revolting explanations of some of the most beautiful and suggestive narratives of healing in the entire gospel repository.
Take, for example, the account of Jesus making clay of dust and spittle and anointing therewith the eyes of the man blind from birth. In that history we have a fine suggestion of the atonement. Saliva is a common product of the human body possessed by all and shared by animals as well. Dust is the very substance of the common soil, accessible alike to rich and poor—to high and low. The object lesson is where the healer—who is invariably also a teacher—mingles the two, making them one; thereby signifying that health and sight are ours only when we have made peace between what our own natures generate and contain, and the great world around us. Then, when the lesson has been learned, a bath must be taken in Siloam's pool, i. c, in that particular place to which you are directed by the power that heals you; then after bathing in Siloam, as Naaman bathed in Jordan, you receive sight, as the Assyrian captain parted with his leprosy.
The two cases resemble each other; they are analogous, but not identical. The young man whom Jesus treated, in the instance just referred to, was the unsophisticated youth who had not yet come into the knowledge of truth, therefore he was not a sinner. Lepers are they who by reason of transgression have corrupted their flesh, and to them the words go forth in thunder, "Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you."
Atonement means conciliation and reconciliation. It is the work of the atoner to bring together for the first time those who have not yet met each other; it is his blessed mission also to reconcile those who have become estranged. The atonement is accomplished in two ways, viz.: by moral suasion and by silent spiritual appeal, that is the way of influence; also by mathematical demonstration of truth to human understanding, that is the way of example.
Consider the atonement in the following lights: First, our relation to God; second, our relation to each other; third, the relation of the two selves in every one of us. First as to our relation to Deity. We may have been living without a sense of God and yet in no sense in conscious or willful opposition to Divine Order. We have been born once, but not twice! We have seen earthly but not heavenly things; we are like Nicodemus, who comes to Jesus by night, seeking and ready to receive that fuller light concerning life, without which we may be nominally, but never really, "Masters in Israel." Then we all know that we often have a sense of alienation from all that is divine; we have groveled in sensuality, or we have sinned grievously against charity. There were times in the past when we felt ourselves near to God and at peace with the MOST HIGH, but now we are estranged from the Eternal Parent and we think God is angry with us. Our errors have caused a smoke or mist to arise murkily from ourselves and blacken the air all about us, and though we can say with Samson: "Total eclipse, no sun, no moon," the sun and moon are just as bright as though we had not blinded ourselves by our transgressions. Here comes in the imperative need for stating the true doctrine of atonement. God never changes; the Infinite is absolutely immutable, but God seems to change whenever we change.
Jesus never told people to do other than put away their own errors, so that, the scales being removed from their ^yQS, they might see God as a result of their own purity. Did Jesus purify them; did his blood cleanse them? Not by proxy; not as a substitute, and not merely as an example, but in accordance with the changeless law of intercommunication, which makes it possible for one who is lifted up to draw others unto him. Almost at the expense of vulgarizing this intensely sublime subject we feel it necessary to indulge in an almost coarse allusion to personal magnetism so as to make this branch of the subject vivid.
It is now a matter of oft-repeated experiment that one person can so treat another that though the healer takes absolutely nothing of the disease of the patient upon himself he is instrumental in destroying that disorder. It is a hideous thought, and one that is utterly barbaric, that Jesus was contaminated with sin or that he bore disease in his own person. He destroyed sin; error was annihilated through the electric agency of the force emanating from him which extirpated it. Can you not realize how, if your own blindness or deafness is shutting out from you a vision and a song which are perpetual, if some potential healer could dissolve for you the scales over your eyes and the wax in your ears, the landscape and the melody would start into original being for you as an immediate consequence of the successful act of healing? Daylight has come to us, directly we know that changes are wrought in man while God is changeless.
Now, to the second point, viz,: Man's relation to man. The thought of the need of atonement is again twofold, for there are many cases where not only individuals but whole tribes and even nations are practically unknown to each other. The poet struck home very close to truth who wrote the lines:
"If we knew each other better
We should love each other more."
The story of Balaam, when read with unprejudiced eyes, is a singularly fine illustration of this verity. Balak wanted to hire Balaam to curse Israel; Balaam, being totally unacquainted with the descendants of Jacob, imagines, no doubt, that they are a very iniquitous people, and feels toward them precisely as some ignorant but well-meaning people feel toward modern Jews, because they have foolishly swallowed the contents of anti-Semitic literary tirades.
Balaam sees the tents of Israel outspread, and proceeds to bless this honorable people whose peaceful agricultural tendencies and devoted home life contrasted very pleasingly with the less civilized conditions which Balaam had seen exhibited elsewhere; and even when Balak finds it impossible to induce Balaam to curse Israel, and he says, "Neither curse them at all nor bless them at all," Balaam answers that he cannot refrain from speaking the word which the Lord has put in his mouth.
How frequently it occurs that we believe that we actually abhor people of whom we know absolutely nothing ! The relentless fires of reasonless persecution have been many a time kindled in Europe against unoffending Jews, because some malicious tongue started the report, which silly tongues extended, that in Hebrew homes and synagogues the blood of Christian children was mingled with the wine of Passover. No matter how foundationless a tale may be, once let it circulate, and ignorant, credulous people are ready to believe the worst of their innocent neighbors. So long as we remain in ignorance of each other we are sadly apt to condemn each other; therefore, if wars are to be made to cease and the white peace flag is to float over all the nations of the earth, the first step to be taken is to introduce the nations one to the other.
Jesus is neither Greek, Roman, Hebrew, nor aught else that is sectional; he is the "Son of Man"—a title employed in the book of Daniel before we find it in the New Testament. The Son of Man belongs to all races and claims all countries as his own; all flags are his, so wherever he goes he is at home. Birds with private nests and foxes with private holes represent lower states of attainment than the state demanded of those who would take up their cross and follow the ideal Master.
Have you considered well what cosmopolitan means; do you know how great it is to be a cosmopolite—one who though without a special country claims all countries as his own? Though Jesus has no private bed and no private pillow, he can rest in all beds and sleep on all pillows, and woo and win sweet sleep wherever he may be. It is perfectly right that we should acknowledge our special relationships to special places and people, and it may be said of Jesus that he chose twelve companions, and out of the twelve only three were truly intimate with him; and out of the three, only one was a bosom friend.
These closest of all relationships are peculiarly sacred and should never be lightly esteemed, but they must never be permitted to interfere with that perfect good will to all humanity without which the true atonement of man to man can never be consummated. When hostilities have arisen and those who once appeared as friends have drifted wide apart, then the atoning work of the true lover of humanity is to act as peace-restorer and reunite the separated. It is easily conceivable that many diverse temperaments may be attracted to a common focal center, found only in an individuality so large that it embraces all temperaments and is therefore capable of unifying all. Jesus is comparable to the sun—each of the twelve apostles may occupy one out of the twelve signs of the Zodiac through which the sun is seen to travel as it accomplishes its periodic revolutions.
The solar type of man is synthetic, all-embracing; therefore, to him there are no unsolved mysteries in lesser lives, because his greater life comprehends and encloses all those smaller expressions of Hfe. The conscious integer comprehends all fractional statements, but no fraction is large enough to understand the perfect unit. It takes a singularly rounded nature to understand all the petty existences which are displayed on every side of it, and this large nature knows nothing of such base emotions as scorn, impatience, aversion and contempt, but, like a truly wise savant, who includes all the experiences gained in his own youth and childhood, understands feelingly as well as intellectually the joys and sorrows, doubts and difficulties, ambitions and fears of those who are now undergoing the very experiences which he in his time underwent, and out of which he has come to be the glorious sage he now appears. Our feelings of hostility to our neighbors, whom we do not understand and who may not understand us, are hallmarks of our own weakness, and effectual barriers (so long as we permit them to continue) in the path of our own progression.
No amount of advertised Spiritualism, Theosophy, Christian Science, or anything else is of the slightest practical moral value to man, unless the adherents of these pretentious systems translate theory into practice, and make their ethical assertions the basis of sweeter and more harmonious relationships, man with man, family with family, nation with nation. We must not be too ready, however, to take what looks like a pessimistic view of existing situations, no matter how dark they be.
War is nothing new; it is indeed extremely ancient. Prophets tell us the days will dawn when war will be no more known; but no historian informs us of a past epoch when war did not exist. Feuds between individuals, families, tribes, and nations are vestiges of a departing barbarism; they should not now occasion us dire alarm as though they were awful novelties. At the same time it is utterly foreign to the spirit of the gospel to fight with carnal weapons under the vaunted banner of the Prince of Peace, who never counseled warfare, though his prophetic vision caused him to say: "It must needs be that offences come, but woe to him by whom they come." Paul seems to have taken a trembling, tentative position on the peace question; though he has placed himself on record as a peace advocate, his words are only partially encouraging, where he says: "If it be possible as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." Such a sentence is a great drop from the beatitude, "Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called the children of God." The tremendous strength of this latter, in contrast with the weakness of the former quotation, is graphically displayed in the fact that the beatitude takes it for granted that we can make peace, and unhesitatingly says that all who have come to the knowledge of divine sonship do make peace, and thereby obtain a great blessing; while Paul's words are tremblingly hopeful, but too doubtful to be of any great inspiration to the reader.
Compromises and concessions are useless. The grandeur of the gospel is that it is uncompromising and it makes no concessions. Kindness and strength must be united. No one is really helped by a dubious command; only trumpet-thunders are truly helpful. We can live peaceably with all men; such is the ideal state, and that the prize be yet unwon because the race is yet unrun is no argument against our running the race and gaining the prize. We need great spiritual athletes, and great spiritual athletic exercises, to lift us out of the torpid apathy in which the most of us lie discontented, though assumedly content. It is all in vain that we talk of an atonement with God, when we are not at one with our brethren; hypocrisy and hallucination alone continue to persuade us that we are at peace with heaven while we engage in war on earth. Pitiful indeed are the lame excuses made in religious journals for blasphemous prayers.
We have no right to pray that one army may be victorious and another set of troops defeated, but we have the right to pray earnestly and sincerely from the depths of our souls that we may become so open to divine influx and be so illumined with celestial light that our thoughts, words, and deeds may be directed to the glorious end of increasing the sway of righteousness and enlarging the area of peace, good will, and liberty on earth. May right prevail; may equity triumph; may freedom spread; may purity increase. Such ejaculations as these do not warrant attack on prayer, for when the unbeliever shall ask us how we expect to change the purposes of the Eternal by our petitions, we frankly and uncompromisingly reply. We expect to do nothing of the sort; we are simply praying for more wisdom, that our own actions may accord more perfectly with universal order.
Our third question regarding atonement is how to bring our higher and lower selves into full accord, so that discord may cease in our own members, and we may emerge out of sickness into health, out of confusion into order. Perhaps this third question must in our experience come first, for it is not unreasonable to affirm that until we know ourselves we cannot know our neighbors, and until we know our neighbors as well as ourselves we cannot find God. The Greeks have counseled us to know ourselves, and the Egyptians have directed us to know ourselves by ourselves. Swedenborg has informed us that there are three loves in every human heart: the love of God, of neighbor and of self, and he added that wherever these loves are rightly subordinated man is an angel; the inversion of their order being the only thing that makes infernal conditions possible. James Martineau has beautifully insisted that if we know God and ourselves we must go into the silence and strip off all the outer barks of the tree of our existence, and find ourselves children of God at the very root and center of our consciousness. Mabel Collins has told all aspirants for interior enlightenment that they must kill out all sense of separatencss from others, overcome personal ambition with spiritual aspiration and cease that restless hunger for personal growth which eats like a canker at the vitals of reposeless natures, and hinders effectually the growth it is blindly expected to assist. The poet who sings "Love thyself last" has given us a deep word of wisdom, for one individual cannot be of as much value as the whole human family. Yet as the individual is included in the race, the individual deserves to be loved and honored as a member of the great lovable worthy family which includes that particular unit and without whom the whole would be incomplete.
The search for the "Holy Grail," as recounted by Tennyson, is really the search for that divine essence which makes us all one. We cannot be happy or harmonious so long as we are at war within, and if we would attain to the true end of our existence we must learn so to subordinate the lower personality to the higher ego that instead of mortification or repression we shall have attained unto transfiguration and transmutation.
Lower appetites are transmutable. No natural affection is sinful; but when there are higher uses to which lower energies can be put, is it not the path of wisdom to dedicate the lesser to the service of the greater, instead of leaving the nobler aspirations of our natures unsatisfied while we sacrifice perpetually to the lower side of our existence? Occasional fasting may be beneficial; occasional withdrawal from the business and social realms may be extremely helpful; but the life of a cloister for a permanency is not to be desired, unless in the still retreat, sequestered from the outer world, we realize how to employ psychic agencies for the betterment of the world's conditions more perfectly than when we are ourselves in the midst of the hurly-burly.
The Christ life is all-embracing; it includes the normal life of all sorts and conditions of people. The needs of all varieties of temperaments, and the requirements of all vocations, are met out of the exceeding copiousness of its inexhaustible richness and variety. It therefore but remains to say that there are doubtless those to whom the sequestration of an occult or mystic fraternity would be most helpful, and such a calm asylum would afford opportunity to those who are adapted to its quietness to fulfill spiritually the highest missions of philanthropy. Martha is too much in evidence everywhere; Mary's better part is chosen by too few. The intense interest now being taken in all "psychical" studies and pursuits will, we trust, soon lead to a palpable change in the present-day habit of so far overdoing external work as to make housekeeping a toil and hospitality intolerably irksome.
So very much thought and attention bestowed upon externals saps vitality, dissipates energy, robs the vital organs of their necessary food, and results in every variety of brain, nerve and stomach difficulty, and if not stopped shortly must eventuate in some form of insanity.
The very evils over which the pessimists are perpetually sighing, and which they never tire of recounting and exaggerating, are due in the first instance to nothing other than this intense materiality which is quite as conspicuous in churches as elsewhere. The happy, wholesome life is the life that lives so far above externals that it can use and enjoy all, and at the same time be so richly dowered with interior resourcefulness that the absence of external conveniences, even, will cause no pain. Grumbling never remedies or improves anything. Supply and demand will always co-exist; consequently, the only sure road to improvement in any outward direction is to develop and encourage such inward feelings as must in the very course of necessity bring forth spontaneously the exact correspondences in the outer world we most intensely long to see displayed.
The true spiritual healer, or anyone who is determined to make a grand success of practicing any branch of Suggestive Therapeutics, will soon learn by experience to prove that all attacks or onslaughts upon the lower self of a patient or pupil are finally worse than useless, because they arouse antagonism in the lower province instead of exciting to action in the higher realm. The "middle wall of partition" must be broken down and the two must become one. If we realize our own potential greatness, we shall not do right just so long as we are under the psychologic influence of another, and soon backslide into the error, out of which we were seemingly but not really pulled. So-called hypnotic treatment, when adequate and beneficial, is very much higher than what is generally understood by hypnotism; but as that word is of dubious significance, it is not desirable to use it. Moral and mental treatment by means of suggestion is a phrase easy to comprehend, and it sets the average man or woman to thinking. Suggestion to be effective requires not only someone to make a suggestion, but someone to receive and welcome the suggestion made. Let any impartial student read the Bible narratives of healing and then address himself to doing prophetic or apostolic work today, and he will soon find that the same law which governed mental action in bygone ages is operating with equal force today.
The orthodox Christian says, You must accept Christ, or Christ cannot save you. The atonement therefore is not made for us until we make it ourselves. And now, finally, what does the word atonement mean? Its final syllable, ment, is clearly from the Latin mens mentis, mind. Swedenborg, in his "Rational Psychology," very clearly differentiates mens from spirit, and it would be well if all writers today would be so explicit as to avoid the use of meaningless or else confounding synonyms. It is the intellect that needs to be brought into oneness with the spirit, and unless this is accomplished there is no healing or outwrought salvation. The best criminologists and penologists today are seeking so to treat crime as a disease that criminals may be healed instead of executed, and society thereby become improved as well as effectually protected from marauders. Jesus said in the first of the seven recorded sayings from the cross, "They know not what they do;" he prayed for the conversion and enlightenment of Judas, Caiaphas, and all the rest, and expressed himself in terms of perfect good nature to those who had relentlessly afflicted him. Such is the model for our imitation; we must condemn none, but work to raise all. No harsh thought must ever be tolerated if we are to be successful healers. That is a high standard, but low standards make sublime achievements impossible. Do not think you are wrong in pointing out errors or telling people privately of their faults if you do it lovingly, but even this loving rebuke will prove futile unless you point out a more excellent way. If you are in any sense a portion of today's Israel; if you consciously belong to any of the twelve widely scattered tribes who are to be ingathered prior to the ultimate harvesting of the multitude innumerable (Rev. VII.); if you in any sense feel that you are here and now members of the true universal church of the first-born, whose names are clearly written in heaven, then remember you are called upon to be cities set on hills, lights to the world, and salt of the earth. In a special manner those who have found their own souls are commissioned to go forth and proclaim the glad tidings to those who have not yet found their souls. The soul is the same in every one of us, but we have not all, as yet, found this higher self which teaches us the divine lesson of universal brotherhood and sisterhood. Never permit a false or misleading phrase to bolster up a fallacy, and never allow a personal antipathy to becloud judgment or prevent you from seeing the highest aspect of a neighbor.
There will never be one fold and one shepherd, but there will be on flock and one shepherd when all the folds are emptied out and the sheep, no longer marked, labeled or circumscribed, graze together in one broad pastureland owned by no man, for it is God's acre.
We have no right to ask others to join in our Shibboleth, to repeat our prayers, to partake of our ordinances. Everyone must be fully persuaded in his own mind as to what helps him to cultivate the noblest graces and approach the most nearly the ideal life.
But there can always be a common meeting ground, and that place is the temple of philanthropy. It is our identification of ourselves with all humankind, our felt oneness of aim as well as nature, which accomplishes atonement. Then being one on earth, free from every hostile thought, we shall look inward, as well as upward, to heaven, and jubilantly exclaim, God is one; God is Love! Goodness is supreme in the Universe!
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More from James Allen
James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.