Esoteric Christianity 2
VIII – RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION
The doctrines of the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ also form part of the Lesser Mysteries, being integral portions of “The Solar Myth”, and of the life-story of the Christ in man. As regards Christ Himself they have their historical basis in the facts of His continuing to teach His apostles after His physical death, and of His appearance in the Greater Mysteries as Hierophant after His direct instructions had ceased, until Jesus took His place. In the mythic tales the resurrection of the hero and his glorification invariably formed the conclusion of his death-story; and in the Mysteries, the body of the candidate was always thrown into a deathlike trance, during which he, as a liberated soul, travelled through the invisible world, returningand reviving the body after three days. And in the life-story of the individual, who is becoming a Christ, we shall find, as we study it, that the dramas of the Resurrection and Ascension are repeated. But before we can intelligently follow that story, we must master the outlines of the human constitution, and understand the natural and spiritual bodies of man. “There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body”. (1 Cor., xv, 44.) There are still some uninstructed people who regard man as a mere duality, made up of “soul” and “body”. Such people use the words “soul” and “spirit” as synonyms, and speak indifferently of “soul and body”, or “spirit and body”, meaning that man is composed of two constituents, one of which perishes at death, while the other survives. For the very simple and ignorant this rough division is sufficient, but it will not enable us to understand the mysteries of the Resurrection and Ascension. Every Christian who has made even a superficial study of the human constitution recognises in it three distinct constituents — Spirit, Soul, and Body. This division is sound, though needing further sub-division for more profound study, and it has been used by S. Paul in his prayer that “your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless” (1 Thess., v, 23.) That threefold division is accepted in Christian Theology. The Spirit itself is really a Trinity, the reflexion and image of the Supreme Trinity, and this we shall study in the following chapter. (See Chapter IX, “The Trinity”) The true man, the immortal, who is the Spirit, is the Trinity in man. This is life, consciousness, and to this the spiritual body belongs, each aspect of the Trinity having its own Body. The Soul is dual, and comprises the mind and the emotional nature, with its appropriate garments. And the Body is the material instrument of Spirit and Soul. In one Christian view of man he is a twelve-fold being, six modifications forming the spiritual man, and six the natural man; according to another, he is divisible into fourteen, seven modifications of consciousness and seven corresponding types of form.
This latter view is practically identical with that studied by Mystics, and it is usually spoken of as seven-fold, because there are really seven divisions, each being two-fold, having a life-side and a form-side. These divisions and sub-divisions are somewhat confusing and perplexing to the dull, and hence Origen and Clement, as we have seen, (See Ante, pp. 72, 84, 85.) laid great stress on the need for intelligence on the part of all who desired to become Gnostics. After all, those who find them troublesome can leave them on one side, without grudging them to the earnest student, who finds them not only illuminative, but absolutely necessary to any clear understanding of the Mysteries of Life and Man. The word Body means a vehicle of consciousness, or an instrument of consciousness; that in which consciousness is carried about, as in a vehicle, or which consciousness uses to contact the external world, as a mechanic uses an instrument. Or, we may liken it to a vessel, in which consciousness is held, as a jar holds liquid. It is a form used by a life, and we know nothing of consciousness save as connected with such forms. The form may be of rarest, subtlest, materials, may be so diaphanous that we are only conscious of the indwelling life; still it is there, and it is composed of Matter. It may be so dense, that it hides the indwelling life, and we are conscious only of the form; still the life is there, and it is composed of the opposite of Matter — Spirit. The student must study and re-study this fundamental fact — the duality of all manifested existence, the inseparable co-existence of Spirit and Matter in a grain of dust, in the Logos, the God manifested. The idea must become part of him; else must he give up the study of the Lesser Mysteries.
The Christ, as God and Man, only shows out on the kosmic scale the same fact of duality that is repeated everywhere in nature. On that original duality everything in the universe is formed. Man has a “natural body”, and this is made up of four different and separable portions, and is subject to death. Two of these are composed of physical matter, and are never completely separated from each other until death, though a partial separation may be caused by anaesthetics, or by disease. These two may be classed together as the Physical Body. In this the man carries on his conscious activities while he is awake; speaking technically, it is his vehicle of consciousness in the physical world. The third portion is the Desire Body, so called because man’s feeling and passional nature finds in this its special vehicle. In sleep, the man leaves the physical body, and carries on his conscious activities in this, which functions in the invisible world closest to our visible earth. It is therefore his vehicle of consciousness in the lowest of the super-physical worlds, which is also the first world into which men pass at death. The fourth portion is the Mental Body, so called because man’s intellectual nature, so far as it deals with the concrete, functions in this. It is his vehicle of consciousness in the second of the super-physical worlds, which is also the second, or lower heavenly world, into which men pass after death, when freed from the world alluded to in the preceding paragraph. These four portions of his encircling form, made up of the dual physical body, the desire body, and the mental body, form the natural body of which S. Paul speaks. This scientific analysis has fallen out of the ordinary Christian teaching, which is vague and confused on this matter. It is not that the churches have never possessed it; on the contrary, this knowledge of the constitution of man formed part of the teachings in the Lesser Mysteries; the simple division into Spirit, Soul, and Body was exoteric, the first rough and ready division given as a foundation. The sub-division as regards the “Body” was made in the course of later instruction, as a preliminary to the training by which the instructor enabled his pupil to separate one vehicle from another, and to use each as a vehicle of consciousness in its appropriate region. This conception should be readily enough grasped. If a man wants to travel on the solid earth, he uses as his vehicle a carriage or a train.
If he wants to travel on the liquid seas, he changes his vehicle, and takes a ship. If he wants to travel in the air, he changes his vehicle again and uses a balloon. He is the same man throughout, but he is using three different vehicles, according to the kind of matter he wants to travel in. The analogy is rough and inadequate, but it is not misleading. When a man is busy in the physical world, his vehicle is the physical body, and his consciousness works in and through that body. When he passes into the world beyond the physical, in sleep and at death, his vehicle is the desire body, and he may learn to use this consciously, as he uses the physical consciously. He already uses it unconsciously every day of his life when he is feeling and desiring, as well as every night of his life. When he goes on into the heavenly world after death, his vehicle is the mental body, and this also he is daily using, when he is thinking, and there would be no thought in the brain were there none in the mental body. Man has further “a spiritual body”. This is made up of three separable portions, each portion belonging to one of, and separating off, the three Persons in the Trinity of the human Spirit. S. Paul speaks of being “caught up to the third heaven”, and of there hearing “unspeakable words which it is not lawful for a man to utter”. (2 Cor., xii, 2, 4.)
These different regions of the invisible supernal worlds are known to Initiates, and they are well aware that those who pass beyond the first heaven need the truly spiritual body as their vehicle, and that according to the development of its three divisions is the heaven into which they can penetrate. The lowest of these three divisions is usually called the Causal Body, for a reason that will be only fully assimilable by those who have studied the teaching of Reincarnation — taught in the Early Church — and who understand that human evolution needs very many successive lives on earth, ere the germinal soul of the savage can become the perfected soul of the Christ, and then, becoming perfect as the Father in Heaven, (S. Matt., v, 48.) can realise the union of the Son with the Father. (S. John.xvii, 22,23.) It is a body that lasts from life to life, and in it all memory of the past is stored. From it come forth the causes that build up the lower bodies. It is the receptacle of human experience, the treasure-house in which all we gather in our lives is stored up, the seat of Conscience, the wielder of the Will. The second of the three divisions of the spiritual body is spoken of by S. Paul in the significant words: ” We have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens”. (2 Cor., v, 1.) That is the Bliss Body, the glorified body of the Christ, “the Resurrection Body”. It is not a body which is “made with hands”, by the working of consciousness in the the lower vehicles; it is hot formed by experience, not builded out of the materials gathered by man in his long pilgrimage. It is a body which belongs to the Christ-life, the life of Initiation; to the divine unfoldment in man; it is builded of God, by the activity of the Spirit, and grows during the whole life or lives of the Initiate, only reaching its perfection at “the Resurrection”.
The third division of the spiritual body is the fine film of subtle matter that separates off theindividual Spirit as a Being, and yet permits the interpenetration of all by all, and is thus the expression of the fundamental unity. In the day when the Son Himself shall “be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all”, (1 Cor., xv, 28.) this film will be transcended, but for us it remains the highest division of the spiritual body, in which we ascend to the Father, and are united with Him. Christianity has always recognised the existence of three worlds, or regions, through which a man passes; first, the physical world; secondly, an intermediate state into which he passes at death; thirdly, the heavenly world. These three worlds are universally believed in by educated Christians; only the uninstructed imagine that a man passes from his death-bed into the final state of beatitude. But there is some difference of opinion as to the nature of the intermediate world. The Roman Catholic names it Purgatory, and believes that every soul passes into it, save that of the Saint, the man who has reached perfection, or that of a man who has died in “mortal sin”. The great mass of humanity pass into a purifying region, wherein a man remains for a period varying in length according to the sins he has committed, only passing out of it into the heavenly world when he has become pure.
The various communities that are called Protestant vary in their teachings as to details, and mostly repudiate the idea of post mortem purification; but they agree broadly that there is an intermediate state, sometimes spoken of as “Paradise” or as a “waiting period”. The heavenly world is almost universally, in modern Christendom, regarded as a final state, with no very definite or general idea as to its nature, or as to the progress or stationary condition of those attaining to it. In early Christianity this heaven was considered to be, as it really is, a stage in the progress of the soul, re-incarnation in one form or another, the pre-existence of the soul, being then very generally taught. The result was, of course that the heavenly state was a temporary condition, though often a very prolonged one, lasting for “an age” — as stated in the Greek of the New Testament, the age being ended by the return of the man for the next stage of his continuing life and progress – and not “everlasting”, as in the mistranslation of the English authorised version. (This mistranslation was a very natural one, as the translation was made in the seventeenth century, and all idea of the preexistence of the soul and of its evolution had long faded out of Christendom, save in the teachings of a few sects regarded as heretical and persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church. In order to complete the outline necessary for the understanding of the Resurrection and Ascension, we must see how these various bodies are developed in the higher evolution. The physical body is in a constant state of flux, its minute particles being continually renewed, so that it is ever building; and as it is composed of the food we eat, the liquids we drink, the air we breathe, and particles drawn from our physical surroundings, both people and things, we can steadily purify it, by choosing its materials well, and thus make it an ever purer vehicle through which to act, receptive of subtler vibrations, responsive to purer desires, to nobler and more elevated thoughts. For this reason all who aspired to attain to the Mysteries were subjected to rules of diet, ablution, etc., and were desired to be very careful as to the people with whom they associated, and the places to which they went. The desire body also changes, in similar fashion, but the materials for it are expelled and drawn in by the play of the desires, arising from the feelings, passions, and emotions. If these are coarse, the materials built into the desirebody are also coarse, while as these are purified, the desire body grows subtle and becomes very sensitive to the higher influences.
In proportion as a man dominates his lower nature, and becomes unselfish in his wishes, feelings, and emotions, as he makes his love for those around him less selfish and grasping, he is purifying this higher vehicle of consciousness; the result is that when out of the body in sleep he has higher, purer, and more instructive experiences, and when he leaves the physical body at death he passes swiftly through the intermediate state, the desire body disintegrating with great rapidity, and not delaying him in his onward journey. The mental body is similarly being built now in this case by thoughts. It will be the vehicle of consciousness in the heavenly world, but is being built now by aspirations, by imagination, reason, judgment, artistic faculties, by the use of all the mental powers. Such as the man makes it, so must he wear it, and the length and richness of his heavenly state depend on the kind of mental body he has built during his life on earth. As a man enters the higher evolution, this body comes into independent activity on this side of death, and he gradually becomes conscious of his heavenly life, even amid the whirl of mundane existence. Then he becomes “the Son of man which is in heaven”, (S.John, iii, 13.) who can speak with the authority of knowledge on heavenly things. When the man begins to live the life of the Son, having passed on to the Path of Holiness, he lives in heaven while remaining on earth, coming into conscious possession and use of this heavenly body. And inasmuch as heaven is not far away from us, but surrounds us on every side, and we are only shut out from it by our incapacity to feel its vibrations, not by their absence; inasmuch as those vibrations are playing upon us at every moment of our lives; all that is needed to be in Heaven is to become conscious of those vibrations. We become conscious of them with the vitalising, the organising, the evolution of this heavenly body, which, being builded out of the heavenly materials, answers to the vibrations of the matter of the heavenly world. Hence the “Son of man” is ever in heaven. But we know that the “Son of man” is a term applied to the Initiate, not to the Christ risen and glorified but to the Son while he is yet “being made perfect”. (Heb. v, 9) During the stages of evolution that lead up to and include the Probationary Path, the first division of the spiritual body — the Causal Body — develops rapidly, and enables the man, after death, to rise into the second heaven. After the Second Birth, the birth of the Christ in man, begins the building of the Bliss Body “in the heavens”. This is the body of the Christ, developing during the days of His service on earth, and, as it develops, the consciousness of the “Son of God” becomes more and more marked, and the coming union with the Father illuminates the unfolding Spirit.
In the Christian Mysteries — as in the ancient Egyptian, Chaldean, and others — there was an outer symbolism which expressed the stages through which the man was passing. He was brought into the chamber of Initiation, and was stretched on the ground with his arms extended, sometimes on a cross of wood, sometimes merely on the stone floor, in the posture of a crucified man. He was then touched with the thyrsus on the heart — the “spear” of the crucifixion — and, leaving the body, he passed into the worlds beyond, the body falling into a deep trance, the death of the crucified. The body was placed in a sarcophagus of stone, and there left, carefully guarded. Meanwhile the man himself was treading first the strange obscure regions called “the heart of the earth”, and thereafter the heavenly mount, where he put on the perfected bliss body, now fully organised as a vehicle of consciousness. In that he returned to the body of flesh, to re-animate it. The cross bearing that body, or the entranced and rigid body, if no cross had been used, was lifted out of the sarcophagus and placed on a sloping surface, facing the east, ready for the rising of the sun on the third day. At the moment that the rays of the sun touched the face, the Christ, the perfected Initiate or Master, re-entered the body, glorifying it by the bliss body He was wearing, changing the body of flesh by contact with the body of bliss, giving it new properties, new powers, new capacities, transmuting it into His own likeness. That was the Resurrection of the Christ, and thereafter the body of flesh itself was changed, and took on a new nature. This is why the sun has ever been taken as the symbol of the rising Christ, and why, in Easter hymns, there is constant reference to the rising of the Sun of Righteousness. So also is it written of the triumphant Christ: “I am He that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death”. (Rev., i, 18.) All the powers of the lower worlds have been taken under the dominion of the Son, who has triumphed gloriously; over Him death no more has power, “He holdeth life and death in His strong hand”. (H. P. Blavatsky. The Voice of the Silence, p. 90, 5th Edition.) He is the risen Christ, the Christ triumphant. The Ascension of the Christ was the Mystery of the third part of the spiritual body, the putting on of the Vesture of Glory, preparatory to the union of the Son with the Father, of man with God, when the Spirit re-entered the glory it had “before the world was”. (S.John, xvii, 5.) Then the triple Spirit becomes one, knows itself eternal, and the Hidden God is found. That is imaged in the doctrine of the Ascension, so far as the individual is concerned. The Ascension for humanity is when the whole race has attained the Christ condition, the state of the Son, and that Son becomes one with the Father, and God is all in all. That is the goal, prefigured in the triumph of the Initiate, but reached only when the human race is perfected, and when “the great orphan Humanity” is no longer an orphan, but consciously recognises itself as the Son of God. Thus studying the doctrines of the Atonement, the Resurrection, and the Ascension, we reach the truths unfolded concerning them in the Lesser Mysteries, and we begin to understand the full truth of the apostolic teaching that Christ was not a unique personality, but “the first fruits of them that slept”, (1 Cor., xv, 20) and that every man was to become a Christ. Not then was the Christ regarded as an external Saviour, by whose imputed righteousness men were to be saved from divine wrath. There was current in the Church the glorious and inspiring teaching that He was but the first fruits of humanity, the model that every man should reproduce in himself, the life that all should share. The Initiates have ever been regarded as these first fruits, the promise of a race made perfect. To the early Christian, Christ was the living symbol of his own divinity, the glorious fruit of the seed he bore in his own heart. Not to be saved by an external Christ, but to be glorified into an inner Christ, was the teaching of esoteric Christianity, of the Lesser Mysteries. The stage of discipleship was to pass into that of Sonship. The life of the Son was to be lived among men till it was closed by the Resurrection, and the glorified Christ became one of the perfected Saviours of the world. How far greater a Gospel than the one of modern days ! Placed beside that grandiose ideal of esoteric Christianity, the exoteric teaching of the churches seems narrow and poor indeed.
IX – THE TRINITY
All fruitful study of the Divine Existence must start from the affirmation that it is One. All the Sages have thus proclaimed It; every religion has thus affirmed It; every philosophy thus posits It — “One only without a second”. (Chhãndogyopanishat, VI, ii, 1)”Hear, O Israel!” cried Moses, “The Lord our God is one Lord”. (Deut., vi, 4.) “To us there is but one God”, (I Cor., viii, 6.) declares S. Paul. “There is no God but God”, affirms the founder of Islam, and makes the phrase the symbol of his faith. One Existence unbounded, known in Its fullness only to Itself — the word It seems more reverent and inclusive than He, and is therefore used. That is the Eternal Darkness, out of which is born the Light.
But as the Manifested God, the One appears as Three. A Trinity of Divine Beings, One as God, Three as manifested Powers. This also has ever been declared, and the truth is so vital in its relation to man and his evolution that it is one which ever forms an essential part of the Lesser Mysteries. Among the Hebrews, in consequence of their anthropomorphising tendencies, the doctrine was kept secret, but the Rabbis studied and worshipped the Ancient of Days, from whom came forth the Wisdom, from whom the Understanding — Kether, Chochmah, Binah, these formed the Supreme Trinity, the shining forth in time of the One beyond time. The Book of the Wisdom of Solomon refers to this teaching, making Wisdom a Being. ” According to Maurice, ‘ The first Sephira, who is denominated Kether the Crown, Kadrnon the pure Light, and En Soph the Infinite, (An error: En, or Ain, Soph is not one of the Trinity, but the One Existence, manifested in the Three; nor is Kadrnon, or Adam Kadmon, one Sephira, but their totality.) is the omnipotent Father of the universe. . . . The second is the Chochmah, whom we have sufficiently proved, both from sacred and Rabbinical writings, to be the creative Wisdom. The third is the Binah, or heavenly Intelligence, whence the Egyptians had their Cneph, and Plato his Nous Demiurgos. He is the Holy Spirit who . . . pervades, animates, and governs this boundless universe’. (Quoted in Williamson’s The Great Law, pp. 201, 202.) The bearing of this doctrine on Christian teaching is indicated by Dean Milman in his History of Christianity. He says: “This Being (the Word or the Wisdom) was more or less distinctly impersonated, according to the more popular or more philosophic, the more material or the more abstract, notions of the age or people. This was the doctrine from the Ganges, or even the shores of the Yellow Sea, to the Ilissus; it was the fundamental principle of the Indian religion and the Indian philosophy; it was the basis of Zoroastrianism; it was pure Platonism ; it was the Platonic Judaism of the Alexandrian school. Many fine passages might be quoted from Philo on the impossibility that the first self-existing Being should become cognisable to the sense of man; and even in Palestine, no doubt, John the Baptist and our Lord Himself spoke no new doctrine, but rather the common sentiment of the more enlightened, when they declared ‘ that no man had seen God at any time. In conformity with this principle the Jews, in the interpretation of the older Scriptures, instead of direct and sensible communication from the one great Deity, had interposed either one or more intermediate beings as the channels of communication. According to one accredited tradition alluded to by S. Stephen, the law was delivered ‘ by the disposition of angels’; according to another this office was delegated to a single angel, sometimes called the Angel of the Law (see Gal., iii, 19); at others the Metatron. But the more ordinary representative, as it were, of God, to the sense and mind of man, was the Memra, or the Divine Word; and it is remarkable that the same appellation is found in the Indian, the Persian, the Platonic, and the Alexandrian systems.
By the Targumists, the earliest Jewish commentators on the Scriptures, this term had been already applied to the Messiah; nor is it necessary to observe the manner in which it has been sanctified by its introduction into the Christian scheme”. (H. H. Milman. The History of Christianity, 1867, pp. 10-1-2.) As above said by the learned Dean, the idea of the Word, the Logos, was universal, and it formed part of the idea of a Trinity. Among the Hindus, the philosophers speak of the manifested Brahmanas Sat-Chit-Ananda — Existence, Intelligence, and Bliss. Popularly, the Manifested God is a Trinity; Shiva, the Beginning and the End; Vishnu, the Preserver; Brahmã, the Creator of the Universe. The Zoroastrian faith presents a similar Trinity; Ahuramazdao, the Great One, the First; then “the twins”, the dual Second Person — for the Second Person in a Trinity is ever dual, deteriorated in modern days into an opposing God and Devil — and the Universal Wisdom, Armaiti. In Northern Buddhism we find Ami-tabhã, the boundless Light; Avalokiteshvara, the source of incarnations, and the Universal Mind, Mandjusri. In Southern Buddhism the idea of God has faded away, but with significant tenacity the triplicity re-appears as that in which the Southern Buddhist takes his refuge — the Buddha, the Dharma (the Doctrine), the Sangha (the Order). But the Buddha Himself is sometimes worshipped as a Trinity; on a stone in Buddha Gaya is inscribed a salutation to Him as an incarnation of the Eternal One, and it is said: “Om! Thou art Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesha (Shiva) …. I adore Thee, who art celebrated by a thousand names and under various forms, in the shape of Buddha, the God of Mercy”. (Asiatic Researches, i, 285.) In extinct religions the same idea of a Trinity is found. In Egypt it dominated all religious worship. “We have a hieoroglyphical inscription in the British Museum as early as the reign of Senechus of the eighth century before the Christian era, showing that the doctrine of Trinity in Unity already formed part of their religion”. (S. Sharpe. Egyptian Mythology and Egyptian Christology, p. 14.)
This is true of a far earlier date. Râ, Osiris, and Horus formed one widely worshipped Trinity; Osiris, Isis, and Horus were worshipped at Abydos; other names are given in different cities, and the triangle is the frequently used symbol of the Triune God. The idea which underlay these Trinities, however named, is shown in a passage quoted from Marutho, in which an oracle, rebuking the pride of Alexander the Great, speaks of: “First God, then the Word, and with Them the Spirit”. (See Williamson’s The Great Law, p. 196.) In Chaldea, Anu, Ea, and Bel were the Supreme Trinity, Anu being the Origin of all, Ea the Wisdom, and Bel the creative Spirit. Of China Williamson remarks: “In ancient China the emperors used to sacrifice every third year to ‘ Him who is one and three.’ There was a Chinese saying,’ Fo is one person but has three forms.’ . . . In the lofty philosophical system known in China as Taoism, a trinity also figures : ‘ Eternal Reason produced One, One produced Two, Two produced Three, and Three produced all things,’ which, as Le Compte goes on to say, seems to show as if they had some knowledge of the Trinity’ “. (Loc. Git., pp. 208, 209.) In the Christian doctrine of the Trinity we find a complete agreement with other faiths as to the functions of the three Divine Persons, the word Person coming from persona, a mask, that which covers something, the mask of the One Existence, Its Self-revelation under a form.
The Father is the Origin and End of all; the Son is dual in His nature, and is the Word, or the Wisdom; the Holy Spirit is the creative Intelligence, that brooding over the chaos of primeval matter organises it into the materials out of which forms can be constructed. It is this identity of functions under so many varying names which shows that we have here not a mere outer likeness, but an expression of an inner truth. There is something of which this triplicity is a manifestation, something that can be traced in nature and in evolution, and which, being recognised, will render intelligible the growth of man, the stages of his evolving life. Further, we find that in the universal language of symbolism the Persons are distinguished by certain emblems, and may be recognised by these under diversity of forms and names. But there is one other point that must be remembered ere we leave the exoteric statement of the Trinity—that in connection with all these Trinities there is a fourth fundamental manifestation, the Power of the God, and this has always a feminine form. In Hinduism each Person in the Trinity has His manifested Power, the One and these six aspects making up the sacred Seven. With many of the Trinities one feminine form appears, then ever specially connected with the Second Person, and then there is the sacred Quaternary. Let us now see the inner truth. The One becomes manifest as the First. Being, the Self-Existent Lord, the Root of all, the Supreme Father; the word Will, or Power, seems best to express this primary Self-revealing, since until there is Will to manifest there can be no manifestation, and until there is Will manifested, impulse is lacking for further unfoldment. The universe may be said to be rooted in the divine Will. Then follows the second aspect of the One — Wisdom; Power is guided by Wisdom, and therefore it is written that “without Him was not anything made that is made”;(S. John, i, 3.) Wisdom is dual in its nature, as will presently be seen. When the aspects of Will and Wisdom are revealed, a third aspect must follow to make them effective — Creative Intelligence, the divine mind in Action. A Jewish prophet writes: ” He hath made the earth by His Power, He hath established the world by His Wisdom; and hath stretched out the heaven by His Understanding,” (Jer., li,15) the reference to the three functions being very clear. (See Ante, pp. 155, 156.) These Three are inseparable, indivisible, three aspects of One. Their functions may be thought of separately, for the sake of clearness, but cannot be disjoined. Each is necessary to each, and each is present in each. In the First Being, Will, Power, is seen as predominant, as characteristic, but Wisdom and Creative Action are also present; in the Second Being, Wisdom is seen as predominant, but Power and Creative Action are none the less inherent in Him; in the Third Being, Creative Action is seen as predominant, but Power and Wisdom are ever also to be seen. And though the words First, Second, Third are used, because the Beings are thus manifested in Time, in the order of Self-unfolding, yet in Eternity they are known as interdependent and co-equal, “None is greater or less than Another”. (Athanasian Creed. a Rev iv 8) This Trinity is the divine Self, the divine Spirit, the Manifested God, He that “was and is and is to come”, (Rev., iv,8) and He is the root of the fundamental triplicity in life, in consciousness. But we saw that there was a Fourth Person, or in some religions a second Trinity, feminine, the Mother. This is That which makes manifestation possible, That which eternally in the One is the root of limitation and division, and which, when manifested, is called Matter.
This is the divine Not-Self, the divine Matter, the manifested Nature. Regarded as One, She is the Fourth, making possible the activity of the Three, the Field of Their operations by virtue of Her infinite divisibility, at once the “Handmaid of the Lord”, (S. Luke, i,38.) and also His Mother, yielding of Her substance to form His Body, the universe, when overshadowed by His power. (Ibid., 35) Regarded carefully She is seen to be triple also, existing in three inseparable aspects, without which She could not be. These are Stability- Inertia or Resistance-Motion, and Rhythm; the fundamental or essential qualities of Matter, these are called. They alone render Spirit effective, and have therefore been regarded as the manifested Powers of the Trinity. Stability or Inertia affords a basis, the fulcrum for the lever; Motion is then rendered manifest, but could make only chaos; then Rhythm is imposed, and there is Matter in vibration, capable of being shaped and moulded When the three qualities are in equilibrium there is the One, the Virgin Matter, unproductive.
When the power of the Highest overshadows Her, and the breath of the Spirit comes upon Her, the qualities are thrown out of equilibrium and She becomes the divine Mother of the worlds. The first interaction is between Her and the Third Person of the Trinity; by His action She becomes capable of giving birth to form. Then is revealed the Second Person, who clothes Himself in the material thus provided, and thus becomes the Mediator, linking in His own Person Spirit and Matter, the Archetype of all forms. Only through Him does the First Person become revealed, as the Father of all Spirits. It is now possible to see why the Second Person of the Trinity of Spirit is ever dual; He is the One who clothes Himself in Matter, in whom the twin-halves of Deity appear in union, not as one. Hence also is He Wisdom; for Wisdom on the side of Spirit is the Pure Reason that knows itself as the One Self and knows all things in that Self, and on the side of Matter it is Love, drawing the infinite diversity of forms together, and making each form a unit, not a mere heap of particles — the principle of attraction which holds the worlds and all in them in a perfect order and balance. This is the Wisdom which is spoken of as “mightily and sweetly ordering all things”, (Book of Wisdom, viii, 1) which sustains and preserves the universe. In the world-symbols, found in every religion, the Point — that which has position only — has been taken as a symbol of the First Person in the Trinity.
On this symbol St. Clement of Alexandria remarks that we abstract from a body its properties, then depth, then breadth, then length; “the point which remains is a unit, so to speak, having position; from which if we abstract position, there is the conception of unity”. (Vol. IV. Ante-Nicene Library. S. Clement of Alexandria. Stromata, bk. V, ch, ii.) He shines out, as it were, from the infinite Darkness, a Point of Light, the centre of a future universe, a Unit, in whom all exists inseparate; the matter which is to form the universe, the field of His work, is marked out by the backward and forward vibration of the Point in every direction, a vast sphere, limited by His Will, His Power. This is the making of “the earth by His Power”, spoken of by Jeremiah. (See Ante, 226.) Thus the full symbol is a Point within a sphere, represented usually as a Point within a circle. The Second Person is represented by a Line, a diameter of this circle, a single complete vibration of the Point, and this Line is equally in every direction within the sphere; this Line dividing the circle in twain signifies also His duality, that in Him Matter and Spirit — a unity in the First Person — are visibly two, though in union. The Third Person is represented by a Cross formed by two diameters at right angles to each other within the circle, the second line of the Cross separating the upper part of the circle from the lower. This is the Greek Cross. (See Ante, pp. 177, 178..) When the Trinity is represented as a Unity, the Triangle is used, either inscribed within a circle, or free.
The universe is symbolised by two triangles interlaced, the Trinity of Spirit with the apex of the triangle upward, the Trinity of Matter with the apex of the triangle downward, and if colours are used, the first is white, yellow, golden or flame-coloured, and the second black, or some dark shade. The kosmic process can now be readily followed. The One has become Two, and the Two Three, and the Trinity is revealed. The Matter of the universe is marked out and awaits the action of Spirit. This is the “in the beginning” of Genesis, when “God created the heaven and the earth”, (Gen., i, 1.) a statement further elucidated by the repeated phrases that He “laid the foundations of the earth”; (Job, xxxviii, 4; Zech., xii,1: etc) we have here the marking out of the material, but a mere chaos, “without form and void”. (Gen., i, 2.) On this begins the action of the Creative Intelligence, the Holy Spirit, who “moved upon the face of the waters”, (Gen., i, 2.)the vast ocean of matter. Thus His was the first activity, though He was the Third Person — a point of great importance. In the Mysteries this work was shown in its detail as the preparation of the matter of the universe, the formation of atoms, the drawing of these together into aggregates, and the groupingof these together into elements, and of these again into gaseous, liquid, and solid compounds. This work includes not only the kind of matter called physical, but also all the subtle states of matter in the invisible worlds. He further as the “Spirit of Understanding” conceived the forms into which the prepared matter should be shaped, not building the forms, but by the action of the Creative Intelligence producing the ideas of them, the heavenly prototypes, as they are often called.
This is the work referred to when it is written, He ” stretched out the heaven by His Understanding”. (See Ante, p.226.) The work of the Second Person follows that of the Third. He by virtue of His Wisdom “established the world”, (Ibid.) building all globes and all things upon them, “all things were made by Him”. (S. John, i, 3.) He is the organising Life of the worlds, and all beings are rooted in Him. (Bhagavad-Gita, ix, 4) The life of the Son thus manifested in the matter prepared by the Holy Spirit — again the great “Myth” of the Incarnation — is the life that builds up, preserves, and maintains all forms, for He is the Love, the attracting power, that gives cohesion to forms, enabling them to grow without fallingapart, the Preserver, the Supporter, the Saviour. That is why all must be subject to the Son, (I Cor,, xr, 27, 28.) all must be gathered up in Him, and why “no man cometh unto the Father but by” Him. (S. John, xiv, 6. See also the further meaning of this text on p. 234.) For the work of the First Person follows that of the Second, as that of the Second follows that of the Third. He is spoken of as “the Father of Spirits”, (Heb., xii, 9.) the “God of the Spirits of all flesh”, (Numb., xvi, 22.) and His is the gift of the divine Spirit, the true Self in man. The human Spirit is the outpoured divine Life of the Father, poured into the vessel prepared by the Son, out of the materials vivified by the Spirit. And this Spirit in man, being from the Father — from whom came forth the Son and the Holy Spirit — is a Unity like Himself, with the three aspects in One, and man is thus truly made “in our image, after our likeness”, (Gen., i, 26) and is able to become “perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”. (S. Matt., v, 48.) Such is the kosmic process, and in human evolution it is repeated; “as above, so below”. The Trinity of the Spirit in man, being in the divine likeness, must show out the divinecharacteristics, and thus we find in him Power, which, whether in its higher form of Will or its lower form of Desire, gives the impulse to his evolution. We find also in him Wisdom, the Pure Reason which has Love as its expression in the world of forms, and lastly Intelligence, or Mind, the active shaping energy. And in man also we find that the manifestation of these in his evolution is from the third to the second, and from the second to the first. The mass of humanity is unfolding the mind, evolving the intelligence, and we can see its separative action everywhere, isolating, as it were, the human atoms and developing each severally, so that they may be fit materials for building up a divine Humanity. To this point only has the race arrived, and here it is still working. As we study a small minority of our race, we see that the second aspect of the divine Spirit in man is appearing, and we speak of it in Christendom as the Christ in man. Its evolution lies, as we have seen, beyond the first of the Great Initiations, and Wisdom and Love are the marks of the Initiate, shining out more and more as he develops this aspect of the Spirit. Here again is it true that “no man cometh to the Father but by Me”, for only when the life of the Son is touching on completion can He pray: “Now, 0 Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own Self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was”. (S.John, xvii,5) Then the Son ascends to the Father and becomes one with Him in the divine glory; He manifests self-existence, the existence inherent in his divine nature, unfolded from seed to flower, for “as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself”. (Ibid, v,26)
He becomes a living self-conscious Centre in the Life of God, a Centre able to exist as such, no longer bound by the limitations of his earlier life, expanding to divine consciousness, while keeping the identity of his life unshaken, a living, fiery Centre in the divine Flame. In this evolution now lies the possibility of divine Incarnations in the future, as this evolution in the past has rendered possible divine Incarnations in our own world. These living Centres do not lose Their identity, nor the memory of Their past, of aught that They have experienced in the long climb upwards; and such a Self-conscious Being can come forth from the Bosom of the Father, and reveal Himself for the helping of the world. He has maintained the union in Himself of Spirit and Matter, the duality of the Second Person — all divine Incarnations in all religions are therefore connected with the Second Person in the Trinity — and hence can readily re-clothe Himself for physical manifestation, and again become Man. This nature of the Mediator He has retained, and is thus a link between the celestial and terrestrial Trinities, “God with us”. (S. Matt., i, 22) He has ever been called. Such a Being, the glorious fruit of a past universe, can come into the present world with all the perfection of His divine Wisdom and Love, with all the memory of His past, able by virtue of that memory to be the perfect Helper of every living Being, knowing every stage because He has lived it, able to help at every point because He has experienced all. ”In that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted”. (Heb., ii, 18.) It is in the humanity behind Him that lies this possibility of divine Incarnation; He comes down, having climbed up, in order to help others to climb the ladder.
And as we understand these truths, and something of the meaning of the Trinity, above and below, what was once a mere hard unintelligible dogma becomes a living and vivifying truth. Only by the existence of the Trinity in man is human evolution intelligible, and we see how man evolves the life of the intellect and then the life of the Christ. On that fact mysticism is based, and our sure hope that we shall know God. Thus have the Sages taught, and as we tread the Path they show, we find that their testimony is true.
X – PRAYER
What is sometimes called “the modern spirit” is exceedingly antagonistic to prayer, failing to see any causal nexus between the uttering of a petition and the happening of an event, whereas the religious spirit is as strongly attached to it, and finds its very life in prayer. Yet even the religious man sometimes feels uneasy as to the rationale of prayer; is he teaching the All-wise, is he urging beneficence on the All-Good, is he altering the will of Him in “whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning? “(S. James, i, 17.) Yet he finds in his own experience and in that of others “answers to prayer” – a definite sequence of a request and a fulfilment. Many of these do not refer to subjective experiences, but to hard facts of the so-called objective world. A man has prayed for money, and the post has brought him the required amount; a woman has prayed for food, and food has been brought to her door. In connection with charitable undertakings, especially, there is plenty of evidence of help prayed for in urgent need, and of speedy and liberal response. On the other hand, there is also plenty of evidence of prayers left unanswered; of the hungry starving to death, of the child snatched from its mother’s arms by disease, despite the most passionate appeals to God. Any true view of prayer must take into account all these facts. Nor is this all. There are many facts in this experience which are strange and puzzling. A prayer that perhaps is trivial meets with an answer, while another on an important matter fails; a passing trouble is relieved, while a prayer poured out to save a passionately beloved life finds no response. It seems almost impossible for the ordinary student to discover the law according to which a prayer is or is not productive.
The first thing necessary in seeking to understand this law is to analyse prayer itself, for the word is used to cover various activities of the consciousness, and prayers cannot be dealt with as though they formed a simple whole. There are prayers which are petitions for definite worldly advantages, for the supply of physical necessities — prayers for food, clothing, money, employment, success in business, recovery from illness, etc. These may be grouped together as Class A. Then we have prayers for help in moral and intellectual difficulties and for spiritual growth — for the overcoming of temptations, for strength, for insight, for enlightenment. These may be grouped as Class B. Lastly, there are the prayers that ask for nothing, that consist in meditation on and adoration of the divine Perfection, in intense aspiration for union with God — the ecstasy of the mystic, the meditation of the sage, the soaring rapture of the saint. This is the true “communion between the Divine and the human”, when the man pours himself out in love and veneration for THAT which is inherently attractive, that compels the love of the heart. These we will call Class C. In the invisible worlds there exist many kinds of Intelligences, which come into relationship with man, a veritable Jacob’s ladder, on which the Angels of God ascend and descend, and above which stands the Lord Himself. (Gen- xxviii 12,13) Some of these Intelligences are mighty spiritual Powers, others are exceedingly limited beings, inferior in consciousness to man. This occult side of Nature – of which more will presently be said (See Chapter xii) — is a fact recognised by all religions.
All the world is filled with living things, invisible to fleshly eyes. The invisible worlds interpenetrate the visible, and crowds of intelligent beings throng round us on every side. Some of these are accessible to human requests, and others are amenable to the human will. Christianity recognises the existence of the higher classes of Intelligences under the general name of Angels, and teaches that they are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister”, (Heb., i, 14) but what is their ministry what the nature of their work, what their relationship to human beings, all that was part of the instruction given in the Lesser Mysteries, as the actual communication with them was enjoyed in the Greater, but in modern days these truths have sunk into the background, except the little that is taught in the Greek and Roman communions. For the Protestant, “the ministry of angels” is little more than a phrase. In addition to all these, man is himself a constant creator of invisible beings, for the vibrations of his thoughts and desires create forms of subtle matter the only life of which is the thought or the desire which ensouls them; he thus creates an army of invisible servants, who range through the invisible worlds seeking to do his will. Yet, again, there are in these worlds human helpers, who work there in their subtle bodies while their physical bodies are sleeping, whose attentive ear may catch a cry for help. And to crown all, there is the ever-present, ever-conscious Life of God Himself, potent and responsive at every point of His realm, of Him without whose knowledge not a sparrow falleth to the ground, (S. Matt, x, 29) not a dumb creature thrills in joy or pain, not a child laughs or sobs — that all-pervading, all-embracing, all-sustaining Life and Love, in which we live and move. (Acts, xvii, 28.) As nought that can give pleasure or pain can touch the human body without the sensory nerves carrying the message of its impact to the brain-centres, and as there thrills down from those centres through the motor nerves the answer that welcomes or repels, so does every vibration in the universe, which is His body, touch the consciousness of God, and draw thence responsive action. Nerve-cells, nerve-threads, and muscular fibres may be the agents of feeling and moving, but it is the man that feels and acts; so may myriads of Intelligences be the agents, but it is God who knows and answers. Nothing can be so small as not to affect that delicate omnipresent consciousness, nothing so vast as to transcend it. We are so limited that the very idea of such an all-embracing consciousness staggers and confounds us; yet perhaps a gnat might be as hard bestead if he tried to measure the consciousness of Pythagoras. Professor Huxley, in a remarkable passage, has imagined the possibility of the existence of beings rising higher and higher in intelligence, the consciousness ever expanding, and the reaching of a stage as much above the human as the human is above that of the black-beetle. (T. H. Huxley. Essays on Some Controverted Questions Page 36)
That is not a flight of the scientific imagination, but a description of a fact. There is a Being whose consciousness is present at every point of His universe, and therefore can be affected from any point. That consciousness is not only vast in its field, but inconceivably acute, not diminished in delicate capacity to respond because it stretches its vast area in every direction, but is more responsive than a more limited consciousness, more perfect in understanding than the more restricted. So far from it being the case that the more exalted the Being the more difficult would it be to reach His consciousness, the very reverse is true. The more exalted the Being, the more easily is His consciousness affected. Now this all-pervading Life is everywhere utilising as channels all the embodied lives to which He has given birth, and any one of them may be used as an agent of that all-conscious Will. In order that that Will may express itself in the outer world, a means of expression must be found, and these beings, in proportion to their receptivity, offer the necessary channels, and become the intermediary workers between one point of the kosmos and another.
They act as the motor nerves of His body, and bring about the required action. Let us now take the classes into which we have divided prayers, and see the methods by which they will be answered. When a man utters a prayer of Class A there are several means by which his prayer may be answered. Such a man is simple in his nature, with a conception of God natural, inevitable, at the stage of evolution in which he is; he regards Him as the supplier of his own needs, in close and immediate touch with his daily necessities, and he turns to Him for his daily bread as naturally as a child turns to his father or mother. A typical instance of this is the case of George Müller, of Bristol, before he was known to the world as a philanthropist, when he was beginning his charitable work, and was without friends or money. He prayed for food for the children who had no resource save his bounty, and money always came sufficient for the immediate needs. What had happened? His prayer was a strong, energetic desire, and that desire creates a form, of which it is the life and directing energy. That vibrating, living creature has but one idea, the idea that ensouls it — help is wanted, food is wanted; and it ranges the subtle world, seeking. A charitable man desires to give help to the needy, is seeking opportunity to give. As the magnet to soft iron, so is such a person to the desire-form, and it is attracted to him. It rouses in his brain vibrations identical with its own — George Müller, his orphanage, its needs — and he sees the outlet for his charitable impulse, draws a cheque, and sends it. Quite naturally, George Müller would say that God put it into the heart of such a one to give the needed help. In the deepest sense of the words that is true. since there is no life, no energy, in His universe that does not come from God; but the intermediate agency, according to the divine laws, is the desire-form created by the prayer.
The result could be obtained equally well by a deliberate exercise of the will, without any prayer, by a person who understood the mechanism concerned, and the way to put it in motion. Such a man would think clearly of what he needed, would draw to him the kind of subtle matter best suited to his purpose to clothe the thought, and by a deliberate exercise of his will would either send it to a definite person to represent his need, or to range his neighbourhood and be attracted by a charitably disposed person. There is here no prayer, but a conscious exercise of will and knowledge. In the case of most people, however, ignorant of the forces of the invisible worlds and unaccustomed to exercise their wills, the concentration of mind and the earnest desire which are necessary for successful action are far more easily reached by prayer than by a deliberate mental effort to put forth their own strength. They would doubt their own power, even if they understood the theory, and doubt is fatal to the exercise of the will. That the person who prays does not understand the machinery he sets going in no wise affects the result. A child who stretches out his hand and grasps an object need not understand anything of the working of the muscles, nor of the electrical and chemical changes set up by the movement in muscles and nerves, nor need he elaborately calculate the distance of the object by measuring the angle made by the optic axes ; he wills to take hold of the thing he wants, and the apparatus of his body obeys his will though he does not even know of its existence. So is it with the man who prays, unknowing of the creative force of his thought, of the living creature he has sent out to do his bidding. He acts as unconsciously as the child, and like the child grasps what he wants.
In both cases God is equally the primal Agent, all power being from Him; in both cases the actual work is done by the apparatus provided by His laws. But this is not the only way in which prayers of this class are answered. Some one temporarily out of the physical body and at work in the invisible worlds, or a passing Angel, may hear the cry for help, and may then put the thought of sending the required aid into the brain of some charitable person. “The thought of so-and-so came into my head this morning”, such a person will say. “I dare say a cheque would be useful to him”. Very many prayers are answered in this way, the link between the need and the supply being some invisible Intelligence. Herein is part of the ministry of the lower Angels, and they will thus supply personal necessities, as well as bring aid to charitable undertakings. The failure of prayers of this class is due to another hidden cause. Every man has contracted debts which have to be paid; his wrong thoughts, wrong desires, and wrong actions have built up obstacles in his way, and sometimes even hem him in as the walls of a prison-house. A debt of wrong is discharged by a payment of suffering; a man must bear the consequences of the wrongs he has wrought. A man condemned to die of starvation by his own wrong-doing in the past may hurl his prayers against that destiny in vain. The desire-form he creates will seek but will not find; it will be met and thrown back by the current of past wrong. Here, as everywhere, we are living in a realm of law, and forces may be modified or entirely frustrated by the play of other forces with which they come into contact. Two exactly similar forces might be applied to two exactly similar balls; in one case, one other force mightbe applied to the ball, and it might strike the mark aimed at; in the other, a second force might strike the ball and send it entirely out of its course.
And so with two similar prayers ; one may go on its way, unopposed and effect its object; the other may be flung aside by the far stronger force of a past wrong. One prayer is answered, the other unanswered; but in both cases the result is by law. Let us consider Class B. Prayers for help in moral and intellectual difficulties have a double result; they act directly to attract help, and they re-act on the person who prays. They draw the attention of the Angels, of the disciples working outside the body, who are ever seeking to help the bewildered mind, and counsel, encouragement, illumination, are thrown into the brain-consciousness, thus giving the answer to prayer in the most direct way. “And he kneeled down and prayed ……… and there appeared an Angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him”. (S. Luke, xxii, 41, 43.) Ideas are suggested which clear away an intellectual difficulty, or throw light on an obscure moral problem, or the sweetest comfort is poured into the distressed heart, soothing its perturbations and calming its anxieties. And truly if no Angel were passing that way, the cry of the distressed would reach the “Hidden Heart of Heaven”, and a messenger would be sent to carry comfort, some Angel, ever ready to fly swiftly on feeling the impulse, bearing the divine will to help. There is also what is sometimes called a subjective answer to such prayers, the re-action of the prayer on the utterer. His prayer places his heart and mind in the receptive attitude, and this stills the lower nature, and thus allows the strength and illuminative power of the higher to stream into it unchecked.
The currents of energy which normally flow downwards, or outwards, from the Inner Man, are, as a rule, directed to the external world, and are utilised in the ordinary affairs of life by the brain-consciousness, for the carrying on of its daily activities. But when this brain-consciousness turns away from the outer world, and shutting its outward-going doors, directs its gaze inwards; when it deliberately closes itself to the outer and opens itself to the inner; then it becomes a vessel able to receive and to hold, instead of a mere conduit-pipe between the interior and exterior worlds. In the silence obtained by the cessation of the noises of external activities, the “still small voice ” of the Spirit can make itself heard, and the concentrated attention of the expectant mind enables it to catch the soft whisper of the Inner Self. Even more markedly does help come from without and from within, when the prayer is for spiritual enlightenment, for spiritual growth. Not only do all helpers, angelic and human, most eagerly seek to forward spiritual progress, seizing on every opportunity offered by the upward-aspiring soul; but the longing for such growth liberates energy of a high kind, the spiritual longing calling forth an answer from the spiritual realm.
Once more the law of sympathetic vibrations asserts itself, and the note of lofty aspiration is answered by a note of its own order, by a liberation of energy of its own kind, by a vibration synchronous with itself. The divine Life is ever pressing from above against the limits that bind it, and when the upward-rising force strikes against those limits from below, the separating wall is broken through, and the divine Life floods the Soul. When a man feels that inflow of spiritual life, he cries: “My prayer has been answered, and God has sent down His Spirit into my heart”. Truly so; yet he rarely understands that that Spirit is ever seeking entrance, but that coming to His own, His own receive Him not. (S. John, i, 11.)”Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him”. (Rev., iii, 20.) The general principle with regard to all prayers of this class is that just in proportion to the submergence of the personality and the intensity of the upward aspiration will be the answer from the wider life within and without us. We separate ourselves. If we cease the separation and make ourselves one with the greater, we find that light and life and strength flow into us.
When the separate will is turned away from its own objects and set to serve the divine purpose, then the strength of the Divine pours into it. As a man swims against the stream, he makes slow progress; but with it, he is carried on by all the force of the current. In every department of Nature the divine energies are working, and everything that a man does he does by means of the energies that are working in the line along which he desires to do; his greatest achievements are wrought, not by his own energies, but by the skill with which he selects and combines the forces that aid him, and neutralises those that oppose him by those that are favourable. Forces that would whirl us awayas straws in the wind become our most effective servants when we work with. them. Is it then any wonder that in prayer, as in everything else, the divine energies become associated with the man who, by his prayer, seeks to work as part of the Divine? This highest form of prayer in Class B merges almost imperceptibly into Class C, where prayer loses its petitionary character, and becomes either a meditation on, or a worship of, God. Meditation is the steady quiet fixing of the mind on God, whereby the lower mind is stilled and presently left vacant, so that the Spirit, escaping from it, rises into contemplation of the divine Perfection, and reflects within himself the divine Image. “Meditation is silent or unuttered prayer, or as Plato expressed it: ‘ the ardent turning of the Soul towards the Divine; not to ask any particular good (as in the common meaning of prayer), but for good itself, for the Universal Supreme Good”. (H. P. Blavatsky.Key to Theosophy, p. 10.)
This is the prayer that, by thus liberating the Spirit, is the means of union between man and God. By the working of the laws of thought a man becomes that which he thinks, and when he meditates on the divine perfections he gradually reproduces in himself that on which his mind is fixed. Such a mind, shaped to the higher and not the lower, cannot bind the Spirit, and the freed Spirit leaping upward to his source, prayer is lost in union and separateness is left behind. Worship also, the rapt adoration from which all petition is absent, and which seeks to pour itself forth in sheer love of the Perfect, dimly sensed, is a means — the easiest means — of union with God. In this the consciousness, limited by the brain, contemplates in mute ecstasy the Image it creates of Him whom it knows to be beyond imagining, and oft, rapt by the intensity of his love beyond the limits of the intellect, the man as a free Spirit soars upwards into realms where these limits are transcended, and feels and knows far more than on his return he can tell in words or clothe in form. Thus the Mystic gazes on the Beatific Vision; thus the Sage rests in the calm of the Wisdom that is beyond knowledge; thus the Saint reaches the purity wherein God is seen. Such prayer irradiates the worshipper, and from the mount of such high communion descending to the plains of earth, the very face of flesh shines with supernal glory, translucent to the flame that burns within.
Happy they who know the reality which no words may convey to those who know it not. Those whose eyes have seen “the King in His beauty” (Is., xxxiii,17) will remember, and they will understand. When prayer is thus understood, its perennial necessity for all who believe in religion will be patent, and we see why its practice has been so much advocated by all who study the higher life. For the student of the Lesser Mysteries prayer should be of the kinds grouped under Class B, and he should endeavour to rise to the pure meditation and worship of the last class, eschewing altogether the lower kinds. For him the teaching of lamblichus on this subject is useful, lamblichus says that prayers “produce an indissoluble and sacred communion with the Gods”, and then proceeds to give some interesting details on prayer, as considered by the practical Occultist. ” For this is of itself a thing worthy to be known, and renders more perfect the science concerning the Gods. I say, therefore, that the first species of prayer is Collective; and that it is also the leader of contact with, and a knowledge of, divinity.
The second species is the bond of concordant Communion, calling forth, prior to the energy of speech, the gifts imparted by the Gods, and perfecting the whole of our operations prior to our intellectual conceptions. And the third and most perfect species of prayer is the seal of ineffable Union with the divinities, in whom it establishes all the power and authority of prayer; and thus causes the soul to repose in the Gods, as in a never failing port. But from these three terms, in which all the divine measures are contained, suppliant adoration not only conciliates to us the friendship of the Gods, but supernally extends to us three fruits, being as it were three Hesperian apples of gold. The first of these pertains to illumination; the second to a communion of operation; but through the energy of the third we receive a perfect plenitude of divine fire …. No operation, however, in sacred concerns, can succeed without the intervention of prayer. Lastly, the continual exercise of prayer nourishes the vigour of our intellect, and renders the receptacle of the soul far more capacious for the communications of the Gods.
It likewise is the divine key, which opens to men the penetralia of the Gods; accustoms us to the splendid rivers of supernal light; in a short time perfects our inmost recesses, and disposes them for the ineffable embrace and contact of the Gods; and does not desist till it raises us to the summit of all. It also gradually and silently draws upward the manners of our soul, by divesting them of everything foreign to a divine nature, and clothes us with the perfections of the Gods. Besides this, it produces an indissoluble communion and friendship with divinity, nourishes a divine love, and inflames the divine part of the soul. Whatever is of an opposing and contrary nature in the soul, it expiates and purifies; expels whatever is prone to generation and retains anything of the dregs of mortality in its ethereal and splendid spirit; perfects a good hope and faith concerning the reception of divine light and in one word, renders those by whom it is employed the familiars and domestics of the Gods”. (On the Mysteries, Sec. v, ch. 26) Out of such study and practice one inevitable result arises, as a man begins to understand and as the wider range of human life unfolds before him. He sees that by knowledge his strength is much increased, that there are forces around him that he can understand and control, and that in proportion to his knowledge is his power Then he learns that Divinity lies hidden within himself, and that nothing that is fleeting can satisfy that God within; that only union with the One, the Perfect, can still his cravingsthen there gradually arises within him the will to set himself at one with the Divine; he ceases to vehemently seek to change circumstances, and to throw fresh causes into the stream of effects. He recognises himself as an agent rather than an actor, a channel rather than a source, a servant rather than a master, and seeks to discover the divine purposes and to work in harmony therewith. When a man has reached that point, he has risen above all prayer, save that which is meditation and worship; he has nothing to ask for, in this world or in any other; he remains in a steadfast serenity, seeking but to serve God.
That is the state of Sonship, where the will of the Son is one with the will of the Father, where the one calm surrender is made, “Lo, I come to do Thy will, 0 God. I am content to do it; yea, Thy law is within my heart”. (Ps., xl, 7, 8, Prayer Book version.) Then all prayer is seen to be unnecessary; all asking is felt as an impertinence; nothing can be longed for that is not already in the purposes of that Will, and all will be brought into active manifestation as the agents of that Will perfect themselves in the work.
XI – THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS
”I believe in … the forgiveness of sins”. ” I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins”. The words fall facilely from the lips of worshippers in every Christian church throughout the world, as they repeat the familiar creeds called those of the Apostles and the Nicene. Among the sayings of Jesus the words frequently recur: “Thy sins are forgiven thee”, and it is noteworthy that this phrase constantly accompanies the exercise of His healing powers, the release from physical and moral disease being thus marked as simultaneous. In fact, on one occasion He pointed to the healing of a palsy-stricken man as a sign that he had a right to declare to a man that his sins were forgiven. (S. Luke, v, 18.26.) So also of one woman it was said: “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much”. (S. Luke, vii, 47)’ In the famous Gnostic treatise, the Pistis Sophia, the very purpose of the Mysteries is said to be the remission of sins. ” Should they have been sinners, should they have been in all the sins and all the iniquities of the world, of which I have spoken unto you, nevertheless if they turn themselves and repent, and have made the renunciation which I have just described unto you, give ye unto them the mysteries of the kingdom of light; hide them not from them at all. It is because of sin that I have brought these mysteries into the world, for the remission of all the sins which they have committed from the beginning. Wherefore have I said unto you aforetime, ‘I came not to call the righteous, ‘Now, therefore, I have brought the mysteries, that the sins of all men may be remitted, and they be brought into the kingdom of light. For these mysteries are the boon of the first mystery of the destruction of the sins and iniquities of all sinners’. (G. R. S. Mead, translated. Loc. cit., bk. ii, §§ 260, 261.)
In these Mysteries, the remission of sin is by baptism, as in the acknowledgment in the Nicene Creed. Jesus says: “Hearken, again, that I may tell you the word in truth, of what type is the mystery of baptism which remitteth sins.. . . When a man receiveth the mysteries of the baptisms, those mysteries become a mighty fire, exceedingly fierce, wise, which burneth up all sins; they enter into the soul occultly, and devour all the sins which the spiritual counterfeit hath implanted in it”. And after describing further the process of purification, Jesus adds: “This is the way in which the mysteries of the baptisms remit sins and every iniquity”. (G. R. S. Mead, translated. Loc. Cit., bk ii, §§ 299, 300) In one form or another the “forgiveness of sins” appears in most, if not in all, religions; and wherever this consensus of opinion is found, we may safely conclude, according to the principle already laid down, that some fact in nature underlies it. Moreover, there is a response in human nature to this idea that sins are forgiven; we notice that people suffer under a consciousness of wrong-doing, and that when they shake themselves clear of their past, and free themselves from the shackling fetters of remorse, they go forward with glad heart and sunlit eyes, though erstwhile enclouded by darkness.
They feel as though a burden were lifted off them, a clog removed. Thesense of sin” has disappeared, and with it the gnawing pain. They know the spring-time of the soul, the word of power which makes all things new. A song of gratitude wells up as the natural outburst of the heart, the time for the singing of birds is come, there is “joy among the Angels”. This not uncommon experience is one that becomes puzzling, when the person experiencing it, or seeing it in another, begins to ask himself what has really taken place, what has brought about the change in consciousness, the effects of which are so manifest. Modern thinkers, who have thoroughly assimilated the idea of changeless laws underlying all phenomena, and who have studied the workings of these laws, are at first apt to reject any and every theory of the forgiveness of sins as being inconsistent with that fundamental truth, just as the scientist, penetrated with the idea of the inviolability of law, repels all thought which is inconsistent with it.
And both are right in founding themselves on the unfaltering working of law, for law is but the expression of the divine Nature, in which there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Any view of the forgiveness of sins that we may adopt must not clash with this fundamental idea, as necessary to ethical as to physical science. “The bottom would fall out of everything” if we could not rest securely in the everlasting arms of the Good Law. But in pursuing our investigations, we are struck with the fact that the very Teachers who are most insistent on the changeless working of law are also those who emphatically proclaim the forgiveness of sins. At one time Jesus is saying: “That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment”, (S. Matt, xii, 36.) and at another: “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee”. (Ibid., ix, 2) So in the Bhagavad-Gltâ, we read constantly of the bonds of action, that “the world is bound by action”. (Loc. cit., iii, 9.) and that a man “recovereth the characteristics of his former body”, (Ibid, vi, 43) and yet it is said that “even if the most sinful worship me, with undivided heart, he, too, must be accounted righteous”. (Ibid., ix, 30.) It would seem, then, that whatever may have been intended in the world’s Scriptures by the phrase, “the forgiveness of sins”, it was not thought, by Those who best know the law, to clash with the inviolable sequence of cause and effect.
If we examine even the crudest idea of the forgiveness of sins prevalent in our own day, we find that the believer in it does not mean that the forgiven sinner is to escape from the consequences of his sin in this world; the drunkard, whose sins are forgiven on his repentance, is still seen to suffer from shaken nerves, impaired digestion, and the lack of confidence shown towards him by his fellow-men. The statements made as to forgiveness, when they are examined, are ultimately found to refer to the relations between the repentant sinner and God, and to the post-mortem penalties attached to unforgiven sin in the creed of the speaker, and not to any escape from the mundane consequences of sin. The loss of belief in reincarnation, and of a sane view as to the continuity of life, whether it were spent in this or in the next two worlds (See ante, Chap. VIII.) brought with it various incongruities and indefensible assertions, among them the blasphemous and terrible idea of the eternal torture of the human soul for sins committed during the brief span of one life spent on earth.
In order to escape from this nightmare, theologians posited a forgiveness which should release the sinner from this dread imprisonment in an eternal hell. It did not, and was never supposed to, set him free in this world from the natural consequences of his ill-doings, nor — except in modern Protestant communities — was it held to deliver him from prolonged purgatorial sufferings, the direct results of sin, after the death of the physical body. The law had its course, both in this world and in purgatory, and in each world sorrow followed on the heels of sin, even as the wheels follow the ox. It was but eternal torture — which existed only in the clouded imagination of the believer — that was escaped by the forgiveness of sins; and we may perhaps go so far as to suggest that the dogmatist, having postulated an eternal hell as the monstrous result of transient errors, felt compelled to provide a way of escape from an incredible and unjust fate, and therefore further postulated an incredible and unjust forgiveness.
Schemes that are elaborated by human speculation, without regard to the facts of life, are apt to land the speculator in thought-morasses, whence he can only extricate himself by blundering through the mire in an opposite direction. A superfluous eternal hell was balanced by a superfluous forgiveness, and thus the uneven scales of justice were again rendered level. Leaving these aberrations of the unenlightened, let us return into the realm of fact and right reason. When a man has committed an evil action he has attached himself to a sorrow, for sorrow is ever the plant that springs from the seed of sin. It may be said, even more accurately, that sin and sorrow are but the two sides of one act, not two separate events. As every object has two sides, one of which is behind, out of sight, when the other is in front, in sight, so every act has two sides, which cannot both be seen at once in the physical world. In other worlds, good and happiness, evil and sorrow, are seen as the two sides of the same thing. This is what is called karma — a convenient and now widely-used term, originally Samskrit, expressing this connection or identity, literally meaning “action” — and the suffering is therefore called the karmic result of the wrong.
The result, the “other side”, may not follow immediately, may not even accrue during the present incarnation, but sooner or later it will appear and clasp the sinner with its arms of pain. Now a result in the physical world, an effect experienced through our physical consciousness, is the final outcome of a cause set going in the past; it is the ripened fruit; in it a particular force becomes manifest andexhausts itself. That force has been working outwards, and its effects are already over in the mind ere it appears in the body. Its bodily manifestation, its appearance, in the physical world, is the sign of the completion of its course. (This is the cause of the sweetness and patience often noticed in the sick who are of very pure nature. They have learned the lesson of suffering, and they do not make fresh evil karma by impatience under the result of past bad karma, then exhausting itself.) If at such a moment the sinner, having exhausted the karma of his sin, comes into contact with a Sage who can see the past and the present, the invisible and the visible, such a Sage may discern the ending of the particular karma, and, the sentence being completed, may declare the captive free. Such an instance seems to be given in the story of the man sick of the palsy, already alluded to, a case typical of many.
A physical ailment is the last expression of a past ill-doing; the mental and moral outworking is completed, and the sufferer is brought — by the agency of some Angel, as an administrator of the law — into the presence of One able to relieve physical disease by the exertion of a higher energy. First, the Initiate declares that the man’s sins are forgiven, and then justifies his insight by the authoritative word, “Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house”. Had no such enlightened One been there, the disease would have passed away under the restoring touch of nature, under a force applied by the invisible angelic Intelligences, who carry out in this world the workings of karmic law; when a greater One is acting, this force is of more swiftly compelling power, and the physical vibrations are at once attuned to the harmony that is health. All such forgiveness of sins may be termed declaratory; the karma is exhausted, and a “knower of karma” declares the fact. The assurance brings a relief to the mind, that is akin to the relief experienced by a prisoner when the order for his release is given, that order being as much a part of the law as the original sentence; but the relief of the man who thus learns of the exhaustion of an evil karma is keener, because he cannot himself tell the term of its action. It is noticeable that these declarations of forgiveness are constantly coupled with the statement that the sufferer showed “faith”, and that without this nothing could be done; i.e., the real agent in the ending of this karma is the sinner himself. In the case of the “woman that was a sinner”, the two declarations are coupled: “Thy sins are forgiven . . . Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace”. (S. Luke, vii, 48, 50.)
This “faith” is the up-welling in man of his own divine essence, seeking the divine ocean of like essence, and when this breaks through the lower nature that holds it in — as the water-spring breaks through the encumbering earth-clods — the power thus liberated works on the whole nature, bringing it into harmony with itself. The man only becomes conscious of this as the karmic crust of evil is broken up by its force, and that glad consciousness of a power within himself, hitherto unknown, asserting itself as soon as the evil karma is exhausted, is a large factor in the joy, relief, and new strength that follow on the feeling that sin is “forgiven”, that its results are past. And this brings us to the heart of the subject — the changes that go on in a man’s inner nature, unrecognised by that part of his consciousness which works within the limits of his brain, until they suddenly assert themselves within those limits, coming apparently from nowhere, bursting forth “from the blue”, pouring from an unknown source. What wonder that a man, bewildered by their downrush — knowing nothing of the mysteries of his own nature, nothing of “the inner God” that is verily himself — imagines that to be from without which is really from within, and, unconscious of his own Divinity, thinks only of Divinities in the world external to himself. And this misconception is the more easy, because the final touch, the vibration that breaks the imprisoning shell, is often the answer from the Divinity within another man, or within some superhuman being, responding to the insistent cry from the imprisoned Divinity within himself; he oft-times recognises the brotherly aid, while not recognising that he himself, the cry from his inner nature, called it forth. As an explanation from a wiser than ourselves may make an intellectual difficulty clear to our mind, though it is our own mind that, thus aided, grasps the solution; as an encouraging word from one purer than ourselves may nerve us to a moral effort that we should have thought beyond our power, though it is our own strength that makes it; so may a loftier Spirit than our own, one more conscious of its Divinity, aid us to put forth our own divine energy, though it is that very putting forth that lifts us to a higher plane.
We are all bound by ties of brotherly help to those above us as to those below us, and why should we, who so constantly find ourselves able to help in their development souls less advanced than ourselves, hesitate to admit that we can receive similar help from Those far above us, and that our progress may be rendered much swifter by Their aid? Now among the changes that go on in a man’s inner nature, unknown to his lower consciousness, are those that have to do with the putting forth of his will. The Ego, glancing backward over his past, balancing up its results, suffering under its mistakes, determines on a change of attitude, on a change of activity. While his lower vehicle is still under his former impulses, plunging along lines of action that bring it into sharp collisions with the law, the Ego determines on an opposite course of conduct. Hitherto he has turned his face longingly to the animal, the pleasures of the lower world have held him fast enchained. Now he turns his face to the true goal of evolution, and determines to work for loftier joys. He sees that the whole world is evolving, and that if he sets himself against that mighty current it dashes him aside, bruising him sorely in the process; he sees that if he sets himself with it, it will bear him onwards on its bosom and land him in the desired haven. He then resolves to change his life, he turns determinedly on his steps, he faces the other way. The first result of the effort to turn his lower nature into the changed course, is much distress and disturbance. The habits formed under the impacts of the old views resist stubbornly the impulses flowing from the new, and a bitter conflict arises.
Gradually the consciousness working in the brain accepts the decision made on higher planes, and then “becomes conscious of sin” by this very recognition of the law. The sense of error deepens, remorse preys on the mind; spasmodic efforts are made towards improvement, and, frustrated by old habits, repeatedly fail, till the man, overwhelmed by grief for the past, despair of the present, is plunged into hopeless gloom. At last, the ever-increasing suffering wrings from the Ego a cry for help, answered from the inner depths of his own nature, from the God within as well as around him, the Life of his life. He turns from the lower nature that is thwarting him to the higher which is his innermost being, from the separated self that tortures him to the One Self that is the Heart of all. But this change of front means that he turns his face from the darkness, that he turns his face to the light. The light was always there, but his back was towards it; now he sees the sun, and its radiance cheers his eyes, and overfloods his being with delight. His heart was closed; it is now flung open, and the ocean of life flows in, in full tide, suffusing him with joy. Wave after wave of new life uplifts him, and the gladness of the dawn surrounds him.
He sees his past as past, because his will is set to follow a higher path, and he recks little of the suffering that the past may bequeath to him, since he knows he will not hand on such bitter legacy from his present. This sense of peace, of joy, of freedom, is the feeling spoken of as the result of the forgiveness of sins. The obstacles set up by the lower nature between the God within and the God without are swept away, and that nature scarce recognises that the change is in itself and not in the Oversoul. As a child, having thrust away the mother’s guiding hand and hidden its face against the wall, may fancy itself alone and forgotten, until, turning with a cry, it finds around it the protecting mother-arms that were never but a handsbreadth away, so does man in his wilfulness push away the shielding arms of the divine Mother of the worlds, only to find, when he turns back his face, that he has never been outside their protecting shelter, and that wherever he may wander that guarding love is round him still. The key to this change in the man, that brings about “forgiveness,”is given in the verse of the Bhagavad-Gitâ already partly quoted: “Even if the most sinful worship me, with undivided heart he too must be accounted righteous, for he hath rightly resolved” On that right resolution follows the inevitable result: “Speedily he becometh dutiful and goeth to peace”. (Loc. cit., ix, 31)’ The essence of sin lees in setting the will of the part against the will of the whole, the human against the Divine. When this is changed, when the Ego puts his separate will into union with the will that works for evolution, then, in the world where to will is to do, in the world where effects are seen as present in causes, the man is accounted righteous”; the effects on the lower planes must inevitably follow; “speedily he becometh dutiful” in action, having already become dutiful in will. Here we judge by actions, the dead leaves of the past; there they judge by wills, the germinating seeds of the future. Hence the Christ ever says to men in the lower world: “Judge not”. (S. Matt., vii, 1) Even after the new direction has been definitely followed, and has become the normal habitof the life, there come times of failure, alluded to in the Pistis Sophia, when Jesus is asked whether a man may be again admitted to the Mysteries, after he has fallen away, if he again repents. The answer of Jesus is in the affirmative, but he states that a time comes when re-admission is beyond the power of any save of the highest Mystery, who pardons ever. “Amen, amen, I say unto you, whosoever shall receive the mysteries of the first mystery, and then shall turn back and transgress twelve times (even), and then should again repent twelve times, offering prayer in the mystery of the first mystery, he shall be forgiven. But if he should transgress after twelve times, should he turn back and transgress, it shall not be remitted unto him for ever, so that he may turn again unto his mystery, whatever it be. For him there is no means of repentance unless he have received the mysteries of that ineffable, which hath compassion at all times and remitteth sins for ever and ever. (Loc, cit.,bk. ii, § 305.)
These restorations after failure, in which “sin is remitted”, meet us in human life, especially in the higher phases of evolution. A man is offered an opportunity, which taken, would open up to him new possibilities of growth. He fails to grasp it, and falls away from the position he had gained that made the further opportunity possible. For him, for the time, further progress is blocked; he must turn all his efforts wearily to retread the ground he had already trodden, and to regain and make sure his footing on the place from which he had slipped. Only when this is accomplished will he hear the gentle Voice that tells him that the past is out-worn, the weakness turned to strength, and that the gateway is again open for his passage. Here again the “forgiveness” is but the declaration by a proper authority of the true state of affairs, the opening of the gate to the competent, its closure to the incompetent. Where there had been failure, with its accompanying suffering, this declaration would be felt as a “baptism for the remission of sins”, readmitting the aspirant to a privilege lost by his own act; this would certainly give rise to feelings of joy and peace, to a relief from the burden of sorrow, to a feeling that the clog of the past had at last fallen from the feet. Remains one truth that should never be forgotten: that we are living in an ocean of light, of love, of bliss, that surrounds us at all times, the Life of God. As the sun floods the earth with his radiance so does that Life enlighten all, only thatSun of the world never sets to any part of it. We shut this light out of our consciousness by our selfishness, our heartlessness, our impurity, our intolerance, but it shines on us ever the same, bathing us on every side, pressing against our self-built walls with gentle, strong persistence. When the soul throws down these excluding walls, the light flows in, and the soul finds itself flooded with sunshine, breathing the blissful air of heaven. “For the Son of man is in heaven”, though he know it not, and its breezes fan his brow if he bares it to their breaths.
God ever respects man’s individuality, and will not enter his consciousness until that consciousness opens to give welcome; “Behold I stand at the door and knock”(Rev., iii, 20.) is the attitude of every spiritual Intelligence towards the evolving human soul; not in lack of sympathy is rooted that waiting for the open door, but in deepest wisdom. Man is not to be compelled; he is to be free. He is not a slave, but a God in the making, and the growth cannot be forced, but must be willed from within. Only when the will consents, as Giordano Bruno teaches, will God influence man, though He be “everywhere present, and ready to come to the aid of whosoever turns to Him throughthe act of the intelligence, and who unreservedly presents himself with the affection of the will”. (G. Bruno, trans, by L. Williams, The heroic enthusiasts,vol. i, p. 133.) The divine potency which is all in all does not proffer or withhold, except through assimilation or rejection by oneself.”(Ibid., vol. ii, pp. 27, 28.)” It is taken in quickly, as the solar light, without hesitation, and makes itself present to whoever turns himself to it and opens himself to it… the windows are opened, but the sun enters in a moment, so does it happen similarly in this case”. (Ibid,., pp. 102, 103)
The sense of “forgiveness”, then, is the feeling which fills the heart with joy when the will is tuned to harmony with the Divine, when, the soul having opened its windows, the sunshine of love and light and bliss pours in, when the part feels its oneness with the whole, and the One Life thrills each vein. This is the noble truth that gives vitality to even the crudest presentation of the “forgiveness of sins” and that makes it often, despite its intellectual incompleteness, an inspirer to pure and spiritual living. And this is the truth, as seen in the Lesser Mysteries.
XII – SACRAMENTS
In all religions there exist certain ceremonials, or rites, which are regarded as of vital importance by the believers in the religion, and which are held to confer certain benefits on those taking part in them. The word Sacrament, or some equivalent term, has been applied to these ceremonials, and they all have the same character. Little exact exposition has been given as to their nature and meaning, but this is another of the subjects explained of old in the Lesser Mysteries. The peculiar characteristic of a Sacrament resides in two of its properties. First, there is the exoteric ceremony, which is a pictorial allegory, a representation of something by actions and materials — not a verbal allegory, a teaching given in words, conveying a truth; but an acted representation, certain definite material things used in a particular way. The object in choosing these materials, and aimed at in the ceremonies by which their manipulation is accompanied, is to represent, as in a picture, some truth which it is desired to impress upon the minds of the people present. That is the first and obvious property of a Sacrament, differentiating it from other forms of worship and meditation. It appeals to those who without this imagery would fail to catch a subtle truth, and shows to them in a vivid and graphic form the truth which otherwise would escape them. Every Sacrament, when it is studied, should be taken first from this standpoint that it is a pictorial allegory; the essential things to be studied will therefore be: the material objects which enter into the allegory, the method in which they are employed, and the meaning which the whole is intended to convey.
The second characteristic property of a Sacrament belongs to the facts of the invisible worlds, and is studied by occult science. The person who officiates in the Sacrament should possess this knowledge, as much, though not all, of the operative power of the Sacrament depends on the knowledge of the officiator. A Sacrament links the material world with the subtle and invisible regions to which that world is related; it is a link between the visible and the invisible. And it is not only a link between this world and other worlds, but it is also a method by which the energies of the invisible world are transmuted into action in the physical; an actual method of changing energies of one kind into energies of another, as literally as in the galvanic cell chemical energies are changed into electrical. The essence of all energies is one and the same, whether in the visible or invisible worlds; but the energies differ according to the grades of matter through which they manifest. A Sacrament serves as a kind of crucible in which spiritual alchemy takes place.
An energy placed in this crucible and subjected to certain manipulations comes forth different in expression. Thus an energy of a subtle kind, belonging to one of the higher regions of the universe, may be brought into direct relation with people living in the physical world, and may be made to affect them in the physical world as well as in its own realm; the Sacrament forms the last bridge from the invisible to the visible, and enables the energies to be directly applied to those who fulfil the necessary conditions and who take part in the Sacrament. The Sacraments of the Christian Church lost much of their dignity and of the recognition of their occult power among those who separated from the Roman Catholic Church at the time of the “Reformation”. The previous separation between the East and the West, leaving the Greek Orthodox Church on the one side and the Roman Church on the other, in no way affected belief in the Sacraments. They remained in both great communities as the recognised links between the seen and the unseen, and sanctified the life of the believer from cradle to grave. The Seven Sacraments of Christianity cover the whole of life, from the welcome of Baptism to the farewell of Extreme Unction. They were established by Occultists, by men who knew the invisible worlds; and the materials used, the words spoken, the signs made, were all deliberately chosen and arranged with a view to bringing about certain results. At the time of the Reformation, the seceding Churches, which threw off the yoke of Rome, were not led by Occultists, but by ordinary men of the world, some good and some bad, but all profoundly ignorant of the facts of the invisible worlds, and conscious only of the outer shell of Christianity, its literal dogmas and exoteric worship. The consequence of this was that the Sacraments lost their supreme place in Christian worship, and in most Protestant communities were reduced to two, Baptism and the Eucharist. The sacramental nature of the others was not explicitly denied in the most important of the seceding Churches, but the two were set apart from the five, as of universal obligation, of which every member of the Church must partake in order to be recognised as a full member.
The general definition of a Sacrament is given quite accurately, save for the superfluous words, “ordained by Christ Himself”, in the Catechism of the Church of England, and even these words might be retained if the mystic meaning be given to the word “Christ”. A Sacrament is there said to be: “An outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us, ordained by Christ Himself, as a means whereby we receive the same and a pledge to assure us thereof”. In this definition we find laid down the two distinguishing characteristics of a Sacrament as given above. The ‘outward and visible sign’ is the pictorial allegory, and the phrase, the “means whereby we receive the inward and spiritual grace” covers the second property. This last phrase should be carefully noted by those members of Protestant Churches who regard Sacraments as mere external forms and outer ceremonies. For it distinctly alleges that the Sacrament is really a means whereby the grace is conveyed, and thus implies that without it the grace does not pass in the same fashion from the spiritual to the physical world. It is the distinct recognition of a Sacrament in its second aspect, as a means whereby spiritual powers are brought into activity on earth. In order to understand a Sacrament, it is necessary that we should definitely recognise the existence of an occult, or hidden, side of Nature; this is spoken of as the life-side of Nature, the consciousness-side, more accurately the mind in Nature. Underlying all sacramental action there is the belief that the invisible world exercises a potent influence over the visible, and to understand a Sacrament we must understand something of the invisible Intelligences who administer Nature.
We have seen in studying the doctrine of the Trinity that Spirit is manifested as the triple Self, and that as the Field for His manifestation there is Matter, the form-side of Nature, often regarded, and rightly, as Nature herself. We have to study both these aspects, the side of life and that of form, in order to understand a Sacrament. Stretching between the Trinity and humanity are many grades and hierarchies of invisible beings; the highest of these are the seven Spirits of God, the seven Fires, or Flames, that are before the throne of God. (Rev., iv, 5.) Each of these stands at the head of a vast host of Intelligences, all of whom share His nature and act under His direction; these are themselves graded, and are the Thrones, Powers, Princes, Dominations, Archangels, Angels, of whom mention is found in the writings of the Christian Fathers, who were versed in the Mysteries. Thus there are seven great hosts of these Beings, and they represent in their intelligence the divine Mind in Nature. They are found in all regions, and they ensoul the energies of Nature. From the standpoint of occultism there is no dead force and no dead matter. Force and matter alike are living and active, and an energy or a group of energies is the veil of an Intelligence, of a Consciousness, who has that energy as his outer expression, and the matter in which that energy moves yields a form which he guides or ensouls. Unless a man can thus look at Nature all esoteric teaching must remain for him a sealed book. Without these angelic Lives, these countless invisible Intelligences, these Consciousnesses which ensoul the force and matter (The phrase “force and matter” is used as it is so well-known in science. But force is one of the properties of matter, the one mentioned as Motion. See Ante, p. 228.) which is Nature, Nature herself would not only remain unintelligible, but she would be out of relation alike to the divine Life that moves within and around her, and to the human lives that are developing in her midst.
These innumerable Angels link the worlds together; they are themselves evolving while helping the evolution of beings lower than themselves, and a new light is shed on evolution when we see that men form grades in these hierarchies of intelligent beings. These angels are the “sons of God” of an earlier birth than ours, who “shouted for joy”; (Job, xxxviii, 7) when the foundations of the earth were laid amid the choiring of the Morning Stars. Other beings are below us in evolution — animals, plants, minerals, and elemental lives — as the Angels are above us; and as we thus study, a conception dawns upon us of a vast Wheel of Life, of numberless existences, inter-related and necessary each to each, man as a living Intelligence, as a self-conscious being, having his own place in this Wheel. The Wheel is ever turning by the divine Will, and the living Intelligences who form it learn to co-operate with that Will, and if in the action of those Intelligences there is any break or gap due to neglect or opposition, then the Wheel drags, turning slowly, and the chariot of the evolution of the worlds goes but heavily upon its way. These numberless Lives, above and below man, come into touch with human consciousness in very definite ways, and among these ways are sounds and colours. Each sound has a form in the invisible world, and combinations of sounds create complicated shapes. (See on forms created by musical notes any scientific book on Sound, and also Mrs. Watts-Hughes’ illustrated book on Voice Figures.)
In the subtle matter of those worlds all sounds are accompanied by colours, so that they give rise to many-hued shapes, in many cases exceedingly beautiful. The vibrations set up in the visible world when a note is sounded set up vibrations in the worlds invisible, each one with its own specific character, and capable of producing certain effects. In communicating with the sub-human Intelligences connected with the lower invisible world and with the physical, and in controlling and directing these, sounds must be used fitted to bring about the desired results, as language made up of definite sounds is used here. And in communicating with the higher Intelligences certain sounds are useful, to create a harmonious atmosphere, suitable for their activities, and to make our own subtle bodies receptive of their influences. This effect on the subtle bodies is a most important part of the occult use of sounds. These bodies, like the physical, are in constant vibratory motion, the vibrations changing with every thought or desire. These changing irregular vibrations offer an obstacle to any fresh vibration coming from outside, and, in order to render the bodies susceptible to the higher influences, sounds are used which reduce the irregular vibrations to a steady rhythm, like in its nature to the rhythm of the Intelligence sought to be reached.
The object of all often-repeated sentences is to effect this, as a musician sounds the same note over and over again, until all the instruments are in tune. The subtle bodies must be tuned to the note of the Being sought, if his influence is to find free way through the nature of the worshipper, and this was ever done of old by the use of sounds. Hence, music has ever formed an integral part of worship, and certain definite cadences have been preserved with care, handed on from age to age. In every religion there exist sounds of a peculiar character, called “Words of Power”, consisting of sentences in a particular language chanted in a particular way; each religion possesses a stock of such sentences, special successions of sounds, now very generally called “mantras”, that being the name given to them in the East, where the science of mantras has been much studied and elaborated. It is not necessary that a mantra — a succession of sounds arranged in a particular manner to bring about a definite result — should be in any one particular language.
Any language can be used for the purpose, though some are more suitable than others, provided that the person who makes the mantra possesses the requisite occult knowledge. There are hundreds of mantras in the Samskrit tongue, made by Occultists of the past, who were familiar with the laws of the invisible worlds. These have been handed down from generation to generation, definite words in a definite order chanted in a definite way. The effect of the chanting is to create vibrations, hence forms, in the physical and super-physical worlds, and according to the knowledge and purity of the singer will be the worlds his songis able to affect. If his knowledge be wide and deep, if his will be strong and his heart pure, there is scarcely any limit to the powers he may exercise in using some of these ancient mantras. As said, it is not necessary that any one particular language should be used. They may be in Samskrit, or in any one of the languages of the world, in which men of knowledge have put them together. This is the reason why, in the Roman Catholic Church, the Latin language is always used in important acts of worship. It is not used as a dead language here, a tongue “not understanded of the people”, but as a living force in the invisible worlds. It is not used to hide knowledge from the people, but in order that certain vibrations may be set up in the invisible worlds which cannot be set up in the ordinary languages of Europe, unless a great Occultist should compose in them the necessary successions of sounds. To translate a mantra is to change it from a “Word of Power” into an ordinary sentence; the sounds being changed, other sound-forms are created. Some of the arrangements of Latin words, with the music wedded to them in Christian worship, cause the most marked effects in the supra-physical worlds, and any one who is at all sensitivewill be conscious of peculiar effects caused by the chanting of some of the most sacred sentences, especially in the Mass. Vibratory effects may be felt by any one who will sit quiet and receptive as some of these sentences are uttered by priest or choristers. And at the same time effects are caused in the higher worlds directly affecting the subtle bodies of the worshippers in the way above described, and also appealing to the Intelligences in those worlds with a meaning as definite as the words addressed by one person to another on the physical plane, whether as prayer or, in some cases, as command. The sounds, causing active flashing forms, rise through the worlds, affecting the consciousness of the Intelligences residing in them, and bringing some of them to render the definite services required by those who are taking part in the church office. Such mantras form an essential part of every Sacrament. The next essential part of the Sacrament, in its outward and visible form, are certain gestures. These are called Signs, or Seals, or Sigils — the three words meaning the same thing in a Sacrament. Each sign has its own particular meaning, and marks the direction imposed on the invisible forces with which the celebrant is dealing, whether those forces be his own or poured through him In any case, they are needed to bring about the desired result, and they are an essential portion of the sacramental rite. Such a sign is called a “Sign of Power” as the mantra is a “Word of Power’. It is interesting to read in occult works of the past references to these facts, true then as now true now as then. In the Egyptian Book of the Dead is described the post-mortem journey of the Soul and we read how he is stopped and challenged at various stages of that journey.
He is stopped and challenged by the Guardians of the gate of each successive world, and the Soul cannot pass through the Gate and go on his way unless he knows two things: he must pronounce a word the Word of Power: he must make a sign, the Sign of Power. When that Word is spoken when that Sign is given, the bars of the Gate fall down, and the Guardians stand aside to let the Soul pass through. A similar account is given in the great mystic Christian Gospel the Pistis Sophia, before mentioned. (See Ante, pp. 118,119 and 260.) Here the passage through the worlds is not of a Soul set free from the body by death, but of one who hasvoluntarily left it in the course of Initiation. There are great Powers, the Powers of Nature, that bar his way, and till the Initiate gives the Word and the Sign, they will not allow him to pass through the portals of their realms. This double knowledge, then, was necessary — to speak the Word of Power, to make the Sign of Power. Without these progress was blocked, and without these a Sacrament is no Sacrament. Further, in all Sacraments some physical material is used, or should be used. (In the Sacrament of Penance the ashes are now usually omitted, except on special occasions, but none the less they form part of the rite.) This is ever a symbol of that which is to be gained by the Sacrament, and points to the nature of the “inward and spiritual grace” received through it. This is also the material means of conveying the grace, not symbolically, but actually, and a subtle change in this material adapts it for high ends.
Now a physical object consists of the solid, liquid, and gaseous particles into which a chemist would resolve it by analysis, and further of ether, which interpenetrates the grosser stuffs. In this ether play the magnetic energies. It is further connected with counterparts of subtle matter, inwhich play energies subtler than the magnetic, but like them in nature and more powerful. When such an object is magnetised a change is effected in the ethereal portion, the wave-motions are altered and systematised, and made to follow the wave-motions of the ether of the magnetiser; it thus comes to share his nature, and the denser particles of the object, played on by the ether, slowly change their rates of vibration. If the magnetiser has the power of affecting the subtler counterparts also he makes them similarly vibrate in assonance with his own. This is the secret of magnetic cures: the irregular vibrations of the diseased person are so worked on as to accord with the regular vibrations of the healthy operator, as definitely as an irregularly swinging object may be made to swing regularly by repeated and timed blows. A doctor will magnetise water and cure his patient therewith. He will magnetise a cloth, and the cloth, laid on the seat of pain, will heal. He will use a powerful magnet, or a current from a galvanic cell, and restore energy to a nerve.
In all cases the ether is thrown into motion, and by this the denser physical particles are affected. A similar result accrues when the materials used in a Sacrament are acted on by the Word ofPower and the Sign of Power. Magnetic changes are caused in the ether of the physical substance, and the subtle counterparts are affected according to the knowledge, purity, and devotion of the celebrant who magnetises — or, in the religious term, consecrates — it. Further, the Word and the Sign of Power summon to the celebration the Angels specially concerned with the materials used and the nature of the act performed, and they lend their powerful aid, pouring their own magnetic energies into the subtle counterparts, and even into the physical ether, thus reinforcing the energies of the celebrant. No one who knows anything of the powers of magnetism can doubt the possibility of the changes in material objects thus indicated. And if a man of science, who may have no faith in the unseen, has the power to so impregnate water with his own vital energy that it cures a physical disease, why should power of a loftier, though similar nature be denied to those of saintly life, of noble character, of knowledge of the invisible? those who are able to sense the higher forms of magnetism know very well that consecrated objects vary much in their power, and that the magnetic difference is due to the varying knowledge, purity, and spirituality of the priest who consecrates them. Some deny all vital magnetism, and would reject alike the holy water of religion and the magnetised water of medical science. They are consistent, but ignorant. But those who admit the utility of the one, and laugh at the other, show themselves to be not wise but prejudiced, not learned but one-sided, and prove that their want of belief in religion biases their intelligence, predisposing them to reject from the hand of religion that which they accept from the hand of science.
A little will be added to this with regard to “sacred objects” generally in Chapter XIV. We thus see that the outer part of the Sacrament is of very great importance. Real changes are made in the materials used. They are made the vehicles of energies higher than those which naturally belong to them; persons approaching them, touching them, will have their own etheric and subtle bodies affected by their potent magnetism, and will be brought into a condition very receptive of higher influences, being tuned into accord with the lofty Beings connected with the Word and the Sign used in consecration; Beings belonging to the invisible world will be present during the sacramental rite, pouring out their benign and gracious influences; and thus all who are worthy participants in the ceremony — sufficiently pure and devoted to be tuned by the vibrations caused — will find their emotions purified and stimulated, their spirituality quickened, and their hearts filled with peace, by coming into such close touch with the unseen realities.
XIII – SACRAMENTS
We have now to apply these general principles to concrete examples, and to see how they explain and justify the sacramental rites found in all religions. It will be sufficient if we take as examples three out of the Seven Sacraments used in the Church Catholic. Two are recognised as obligatory by all Christians, although extreme Protestants deprive them of their sacramental character, giving them a declaratory and remembrance value only instead of a sacramental; yet even among them the heart of true devotion wins something of the sacramental blessing the head denies.
The third is not recognised as even nominally a Sacrament by Protestant Churches, though it shows the essential signs of a Sacrament, as given in the definition in the Catechism of the Church of England already quoted. (See Ante, p. 283.) The first is that of Baptism; the second that of the Eucharist; the third that of Marriage. The putting of Marriage out of the rank of a Sacrament has much degraded its lofty ideal, and has led to much of that loosening of its tie that thinking men deplore. The Sacrament of Baptism is found in all religions, not only at the entrance into earth-life, but more generally as a ceremony of purification. The ceremony which admits the new-born — or adult — incomer into a religion has a sprinkling with water as an essential part of the rite, and this was as universal in ancient days as it is now. The Rev. Dr. Giles remarks: “The idea of using water as emblematic of spiritual washing is too obvious to allow surprise at the antiquity of this rite. Dr. Hyde, in his treatise on the Religion of the Ancient Persians, xxxiv, 406, tells us that it prevailed among that people. ‘ They do not use circumcision for their children, but only baptism, or washing for the purification of the soul.
They bring the child to the priest into the church, and, place him in front of the sun and fire, which ceremony being completed, they look upon him as more sacred than before. Lord says that they bring the water for this purpose in bark of the Holm-tree; that tree is in truth the Haum of the Magi, of which we spoke before on another occasion. Sometimes also it is otherwise done by immersing him in a large vessel of water, as Tavernier tells us. After such washing, or baptism, the priest imposes on the child the name given by the parents”. (Christian Records, page 129) A few weeks after the birth of a Hindu child a ceremony is performed, a part of which consists in sprinkling the child with water — such sprinkling entering into all Hindu worship. Williamson gives authorities for the practice of Baptism in Egypt, Persia, Tibet, Mongolia, Mexico, Peru, Greece, Rome, Scandinavia, and among the Druids. (The Great Law, pages 161-66.) Some of the prayers quoted are very fine: “I pray that this celestial water, blue and light blue, may enter into thy body and there live. I pray that it may destroy in thee, and put away from thee, all the things evil and adverse that were given to thee before the beginning of the world. “0 child! receive the water of the Lord of the world who is our life: it is to wash and to purify; may these drops remove the sin which was given to thee before the creation of the world, since all of us are under its power”. Tertullian mentions the very general use of Baptism among non-Christian nations in a passage already quoted, (See Ante, p. 130.) and others of the Fathers refer to it. In most religious communities a minor form of Baptism accompanies all religious ceremonies, water being used as a symbol of purification, and the idea being that no man should enter upon, worship until he has purified his heart and conscience, the outer washing symbolising the inner lustration. In the Greek and Roman Churches a small receptacle for holy water is placed near every door, and every incoming worshipper touches it, making with it on himself the sign of the cross ere he goes onward towards the altar.
On this Robert Taylor remarks: “The baptismal fonts in our Protestant churches, and we need hardly say more especially the little cisterns at the entrance of our Catholic chapels, are not imitations, but an unbroken and never interrupted continuation of the same aqua minaria, or amula, which the learned Montfaucon, in his Antiquities, shows to have been vases of holy water, which were placed by the heathens at the entrance of their temples, to sprinkle themselves with upon entering those sacred edifices”. (Diegesis, p. 219.) Whether in the Baptism of initial reception into the Church, or in these minor lustrations, water is the material agent employed, the great cleansing fluid in Nature, and therefore the best symbol for purification. Over this water a mantra, is pronounced, in the English ritual represented by the prayer, “Sanctify this water to the mystical washing away of sin”, concluding with the formula, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son. and of the Holy Ghost. Amen”. This is the Word of Power, and it is accompanied by the Sign of Power, the Sign of the Cross made over the surface of the water.
The Word and the Sign give to the water, as before explained, a property it previously had not, and it is rightly named “holy water”. The dark powers will not approach it; sprinkled on the body it gives a sense of peace, and conveys new spiritual life. When a child is baptised, the spiritual energy given to the water by the Word and the Sign reinforces the spiritual life in the child, and then the Word of Power is again spoken, this time over the child, and the Sign is traced on his forehead, and in his subtle bodiesthe vibrations are felt, and the summons to guard the life thus sanctified goes forth through the invisible world; for this Sign is at once purifying and protective — purifying by the life that is poured forth through it, protective by the vibrations it sets up in the subtle bodies. Those vibrations form a guardian wall against the attacks of hostile influences in the invisible worlds, and every time that holy water is touched, the Word pronounced, and the Sign made, the energy is renewed, the vibrations are reinforced, both being recognised as potent in the invisible worlds, and bringing aid to the operator. In the early Church, Baptism was preceded by a very careful preparation, those admitted to the Church being mostly converts from surrounding faiths. A convert passed through three definite stages of instruction, remaining in each grade till he had mastered its teachings, and he was then admitted to the Church by Baptism. Only after that was he taught the Creed, which was not committed to writing, nor ever repeated in the presence of an unbeliever; it thus served as a sign of recognition, and a proof of the position of the man who was able to recite it, showing that he was a baptised member of the Church. How truly in those days the grace conveyed by Baptism was believed in is shown by the custom of death-bed Baptism that grew up.
Believing in the reality of Baptism, men and women of the world, unwilling to resign its pleasures or to keep their lives pure from stain, would put off the rite of Baptism until Death’s hand was upon them, so that they might benefit by the sacramental grace, and pass through Death’s portal pure and clean, full of spiritual energy. Against that abuse some of the great Fathers of the Church struggled, and struggled effectively. There is a quaint story told by one of them, I think by S. Athanasius, who was a man of caustic wit, not averse to the use of humour in the attempt to make his hearers understand at times the folly or perversity of their behaviour. He told his congregation that he had had a vision, and had gone up to the gateway of heaven, where S. Peter stood as Warder. No pleased smile had he for the visitant, but a frown of stern displeasure. “Athanasius”, said he, “why are you continually sending me these empty bags, carefully sealed up, with nothing inside?” It was one of the piercing sayings we meet with in Christian antiquity, when these things were real to Christian men, and not mere forms, as they too often are today.
The custom of Infant Baptism gradually grew up in the Church, and hence the instruction which in the early days preceded Baptism came to be the preparation for Confirmation, when the awakened mind and intelligence take up and reaffirm the baptismal promises. The reception of the infant into the Church is seen to be rightly done, when man’s life is recognised as being lived in the three worlds, and when the Spirit and Soul who have come to inhabit the new-born body are known to be not unconscious and unintelligent, but conscious, intelligent, and potent in the invisible worlds. It is right and just that the “Hidden Man of the heart” (1 Pet., iii, 4) should be welcomed to the new stage of his pilgrimage, and that the most helpful influences should be brought to bear upon the vehicle in which he is to dwell, and which he has to mould to his service. If the eyes of men were opened, as were of old those of the servant of Elisha, they would still see the horses and chariots of fire gathered round the mountain where is the prophet of the Lord. (2 Kings, vi, 17.) We come to the second of the Sacraments selected for study, that of the Sacrifice of the Eucharist, a symbol of the eternal Sacrifice already explained, the daily sacrifice of the Church Catholic throughout the world imaging that eternal Sacrifice by which the worlds were made, and by which they are evermore sustained. It is to be daily offered, as its archetype is perpetually existent, and men in that act take part in the working of the Law of Sacrifice, identify themselves with it, recognise its binding nature, and voluntarily associate themselves with it in its working in the worlds; in such identification, to partake of the material part of the Sacrament is necessary, if the identification is to be complete, but many of the benefits may be shared, and the influence going forth to the worlds may be increased, by devout worshippers, who associate themselves mentally, but not physically, with the act. This great function of Christian worship loses its force and meaning when it is regarded as nothing more than a mere commemoration of a past sacrifice, as a pictorial allegory without a deep ensouling truth, as a breaking of bread and a pouring out of wine without a sharing in the eternal Sacrifice. So to see it is to make it a mere shell, a dead picture instead of a living reality. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion (the communication of, the sharing in) of the blood of Christ?” asks the apostle. “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? “(1 Cor., x, 16)
And he goes on to point out that all who eat of a sacrifice become partakers of a common nature, and are joined into a single body, which is united to, shares the nature of, that Being who is present in the sacrifice. A fact of the invisible world is here concerned, and he speaks with the authority of knowledge. Invisible Beings pour of their essence into the materials used in any sacramental rite, and those who partake of those materials — which become assimilated in the body and enter into its ingredients — are thereby united to those whose essence is in it, and they all share a common nature. This is true when we take even ordinary food from the hand of another — part of his nature, his vital magnetism, mingles with our own; how much more true then when the food has been solemnly and purposely impregnated with higher magnetisms, which affect the subtle bodies as well as the physical. If we would understand the meaning and use of the Eucharist we must realise these facts of the invisible worlds, and we must see in it a link between the earthly and the heavenly, as well as an act of the universal worship, a co-operation, an association, with the Law of Sacrifice, else it loses the greater part of its significance. The employment of bread and wine as the materials for this Sacrament — like the use of water in the Sacrament of Baptism — is of very ancient and general usage. The Persians offered bread and wine to Mithra, and similar offerings were made in Tibet and Tartary. Jeremiah speaks of the cakes and the drink offered to the Queen of Heaven by the Jews in Egypt, they taking part in the Egyptian worship. (Jer., xliv.)
In Genesis we read that Melchisedek, the King-Initiate, used bread and wine in the blessing of Abraham. (Gen., xiv, 18, 19.) In the various Greek Mysteries bread and wine were used, and Williamson mentions their use also among the Mexicans, Peruvians, and Druids. (The Great Law, pp. 177-181, 185) The bread stands as the general symbol for the food that builds up the body, and the wine as symbol of the blood, regarded as the life-fluid, “for the life of the flesh is in the blood”. (Lev., xvii, 11.) Hence members of a family are said to share the same blood, and to be of the blood of a person is to be of his kin. Hence, also, the old ceremonies of the “blood-covenant”; when astranger was made one of a family or of a tribe, some drops of blood from a member were transfused into his veins, or he drank them — usually mingled with water—and was thenceforth considered as being a born member of the family or tribe, as being of its blood. Similarly, in the Eucharist, the worshippers partake of the bread, symbolising the body, the nature, of the Christ, and of the wine symbolising the blood, the life of the Christ, and become of His kin, one with Him. The Word of Power is the formula “This is My Body”, “This is My Blood”. This it is which works the change which we shall consider in a moment, and transforms the materials into vehicles of spiritual energies. The Sign of Power is the hand extended over the bread and the wine, and the Sign of the Cross should be made upon them, though this is not always done among Protestants. These are the outer essentials of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It is important to understand the change which takes place in this Sacrament, for it is more than the magnetisation previously explained, though this also is wrought. We have here a special instance of a general law. By the occultist, a visible thing is regarded as the last, the physical, expression of an invisible truth. Everything is the physical expression of a thought. An object is but an idea externalised and densified. All the objects in the world are Divine ideas expressed in physical matter. That being so, the reality of the object does not lie in the outer form but in the inner life, in the idea that has shaped and moulded the matter into an expression of itself. In the higher worlds, the matter being very subtle and plastic, shapes itself very swiftly to the idea, and changes form as the thought changes. As matter becomes denser, heavier, it changes form less readily, more slowly, until, in the physical world, the changes are at their slowest in consequence of the resistance of the dense matter of which the physical world is composed.
Let sufficient time be given, however, and even this heavy matter changes under the pressure of the ensouling idea, as may be seen by the graving on the face of the expressions of habitual thoughts and emotions. This is the truth which underlies what is called the doctrine of Transubstantiation, so extraordinarily misunderstood by the ordinary Protestant. But such is the fate of occult truths when they are presented to the ignorant. The “substance” that is changed is the idea which makes a thing to be what it is; “bread” is notmere flour and water; the idea which governs the mixing, the manipulation, of the flour and water, that is the “substance” which makes it “bread”, and the flour and water are what are technically called the “accidents”, the arrangements of matter that give form to the idea. With a different idea, or substance, flour and water would take a different form, as indeed they do when assimilated by the body. So also chemists have discovered that the same kind and the same number of chemical atoms may be arranged in different ways and thus become entirely different things in their properties, though the materials are unchanged; such “isomeric compounds” are among the most interesting of modern chemical discoveries; the arrangement of similar atoms under different ideas gives different bodies. What, then, is this change of substance in the materials used in the Eucharist? The idea that makes the object has been changed; in their normal condition bread and wine are food-stuffs, expressive of the divine ideas of nutritive objects, objects fitted for the building up of bodies. The new idea is that of the Christ nature and life, fitted for the building up of the spiritual nature and life of man. That is the change of substance; the object remains unchanged in its “accidents”, its physical material, but the subtle matter connected with it has changed under the pressure of the changed idea, and new properties are imparted by this change. They affect the subtle bodies of the participants, and attune them to the nature and life of the Christ. On the “worthiness” of the participant depends the extent to which he can be thus attuned. The unworthy participant, subjected to the same process, is injuriously affected by it, for his nature, resisting the pressure, is bruised and rent by the forces to which it is unable to respond, as an object may be broken into pieces by vibrations which it is unable to reproduce.
The worthy partaker, then, becomes one with the Sacrifice, with the Christ, and so becomes at one with, also united to, the divine Life, which is the Father of the Christ. Inasmuch as the act of Sacrifice on the side of form is the yielding up of the life it separates from others to be part of the common Life, the offering of the separated channel to be a channel of the one Life, so by that surrender the sacrificer becomes one with God. It is the giving itself of the lower to be a part of the higher, the yielding of the body as an instrument of the separated will to be an instrument of the divine Will, the presenting of men’s “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God”. (Rom., xii, 1.) Thus it has been truly taught in the Church that those who rightly take part in the Eucharist enjoy a partaking of the Christ-life poured out for men. The transmuting of the lower into the higher is the object of this, as of all, Sacraments. The changing of the lower force by its union with the loftier is what is sought by those who participate in it; and those who know the inner truth, and realise the fact of the higher life, may in any religion, by means of its sacraments, come into fuller, completer touch with the divine Life that upholds the worlds, if they bring to the rite the receptive nature, the act of faith, the opened heart, which are necessary for the possibilities of the Sacrament to be realised. The Sacrament of Marriage shows out the marks of a Sacrament as clearly and as definitely as do Baptism and the Eucharist. Both the outer sign and the inward grace are there. The material is the Ring — the circle which is the symbol of the everlasting. The Word of Power is the ancient formula, “In the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”. The Sign of Power is the joining of hands, symbolising the joining of the lives. These make up the outer essentials of the Sacrament. The inner grace is the union of mind with mind, of heart with heart, which makes possible the realisation of the unity of spirit, without which Marriage is no Marriage, but a mere temporary conjunction of bodies.
The giving and receiving of the ring, the pronouncing of the formula, the joining of hands, these form the pictorial allegory; if the inner grace be not received, if the participants do not open themselves to it by their wish for the union of their whole natures, the Sacrament for them loses its beneficent properties, and becomes a mere form. But Marriage has a yet deeper meaning; religions with one voice have proclaimed it to be the image on earth of the union between the earthly and the heavenly, the union between God and man. And even then its significance is not exhausted, for it is the image of the relation between Spirit and Matter, between the Trinity and the Universe. So deep, so far-reaching, is the meaning of the joining of man and woman in Marriage. Herein the man stands as representing the Spirit, the Trinity of Life, and the woman as representing the Matter, the Trinity of formative material. One gives life, the other receives andnourishes it. They are complementary to each other, two inseparable halves of one whole, neither existing apart from the other. As Spirit implies Matter and Matter Spirit, so husband implies wife and wife husband. As the abstract Existence manifests in two aspects, as a duality of Spirit and Matter, neither independent of the other, but each coming into manifestation with the other, so is humanity manifested in two aspects — husband and wife, neither able to exist apart, and appearing together. They are not twain but one, a dual-faced unity. God and the Universe are imaged in Marriage; thus closely linked are husband and wife. It is said above that Marriage is also an image of the union between God and man, between the universal and the individualised Spirits. This symbolism is used in all the great scriptures of the world—Hindu, Hebrew, Christian. And it has been extended by taking the individualised Spirit as a Nation or a Church, a collection of such Spirits knit into a unity. So Isaiah declared to Israel: “Thy Maker is thine Husband; the Lord of hosts is His name … As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee. (Isaiah, liv, 5; Ixii, 5.) So S. Paul wrote that the mystery of Marriage represented Christ and the Church. (Eph., v, 23-82)
If we think of Spirit and Matter as latent, unmanifested, then we see no production; manifested together, there is evolution. And so when the halves of humanity are not manifested as husband and wife, there is no production of fresh life. Moreover, they should be united in order that there may be a growth of life in each, a swifter evolution, a more rapid progress, by the half that each can give to each, each supplying what the other lacks. The twain should be blended into one, setting forth the spiritual possibilities of man. And they show forth also the perfect Man, in whose nature Spirit and Matter are both completely developed and perfectly balanced, the divine Man who unites in his own person husband and wife, the male and female elements in nature, as “God and Man are one Christ”. (Athanasian Creed.) Those who thus study the Sacrament of Marriage will understand why religions have ever regarded Marriage as indissoluble, and have thought it better that a few ill-matched pairs should suffer for a few years than that the ideal of true Marriage should be permanently lowered for all. A nation must choose whether it will adopt as its national ideal a spiritual or an earthly bond in Marriage, the seeking in it of a spiritual unity, or the regarding it as merely a physical union. The one is the religious idea of Marriage as a Sacrament; the other the materialistic idea of it as an ordinary terminable contract. The student of the Lesser Mysteries must ever see in it a sacramental rite.
XIV – REVELATION
All the religions known to us are the custodians of Sacred Books, and appeal to these books for the settlement of disputed questions. They always contain the teachings given by the Founder of the religion, or by later teachers regarded as possessing super-human knowledge. Even when a religion gives birth to many discordant sects, each sect will cling to the Sacred Canon, and will put upon its word the interpretation which best fits in with its own peculiar doctrines. However widely may be separated in belief the extreme Roman Catholic and the extreme Protestant, they both appeal to the same Bible. However far apart may be the philosophic Vedantin and the most illiterate Vallabhacharya, they both regard the same Vedas as supreme. However bitterly opposed to each other may be the Shias and the Sunnis, they both regard as sacred the same Kurãn.
Controversies and quarrels may arise as to the meaning of texts, but the Book itself, in every case, is looked on with the utmost reverence. And rightly so; for all such books contain fragments of The Revelation, selected by One of the great Ones who hold it in trust; such a fragment is embodied in what down here we call a Revelation, or a Scripture, and some part of the world rejoices in it as in a treasure of vast value. The fragment is chosen according to the needs of the time, the capacity of the people to whom it is given, the type of the race whom it is intended to instruct. It is generally given in a peculiar form, in which the outer history, or story, or song, or psalm, or prophecy, appears to the superficial or ignorant reader to be the whole book; but in these deeper meanings lie concealed, sometimes in numbers, sometimes in words constructed on a hidden plan — a cypher, in fact — sometimes in symbols, recognisable by the instructed, sometimes in allegories written as histories, and in many other ways. These Books, indeed, have something of a sacramental character about them, an outer form and an inner life, an outer symbol and an inner truth. Those only canexplain the hidden meaning who have been trained by those instructed in it; hence the dictum of S. Peter that “no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation”. (2 Pet., i, 20.) The elaborate explanations of texts of the Bible, with which the volumes of patristic literature abound, seem fanciful and overstrained to the prosaic modern mind. The play upon numbers, upon letters, the apparently fantastic interpretations of paragraphs that, on the face of them, are ordinary historical statements of a simple character, exasperate the modern reader, who demands to have his facts presented clearly and coherently, and above all, requires what he feels to be solid ground under his feet. He declines absolutely to follow the light-footed mystic over what seem to him to be quaking morasses, in a wild chase after dancing will-o’-the-wisps, which appear and disappear with bewildering and irrational caprice. Yet the men who wrote these exasperating treatises were men of brilliant intellect and calm judgment, the master-builders of the Church.
And to those who read them aright they are still full of hints and suggestions, and indicate many an obscure pathway that leads to the goal of knowledge, and that might otherwise be missed. We have already seen that Origen, one of the sanest of men, and versed in occult knowledge, teaches that the Scriptures are three-fold, consisting of Body, Soul, and Spirit. (See ante, p. 88.) He says that the Body of the Scriptures is made up of the outer words of the histories and the stories, and he does not hesitate to say that these are not literally true, but are only stories for the instruction of the ignorant. He even goes so far as to remark that statements are made in those stories that are obviously untrue, in order that the glaring contradictions that lie on the surface may stir people up to inquire as to the real meaning of these impossible relations. He says that so long as men are ignorant, the Body is enough for them; it conveys teaching, it gives instruction, and they do not see the self-contradictions and impossibilities involved in the literal statements, and therefore are not disturbed by them. As the mind grows, as the intellect develops, these contradictions and impossibilities strike the attention, and bewilder the student; then he is stirred up to seek for a deeper meaning, and he begins to find the Soul of the Scriptures. That Soul is the reward of the intelligent seeker, and he escapes from the bonds of the letter that killeth. (2 Cor., iii, 6.) The Spirit of the Scriptures may only be seen by the spiritually enlightened man; only those in whom the Spirit is evolved can understand the spiritual meaning: “The things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God. . . which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth”. (1 Cor., ii, 11, 13.)
The reason for this method of Revelation is not far to seek; it is the only way in which one teaching can be made available for minds at different stages of evolution, and thus train not only those to whom it is immediately given, but also those who, later in time, shall have progressed beyond those to whom the Revelation was first made. Man is progressive; the outer meaning given long ago to unevolved men must needs be very limited, and unless something deeper and fuller than this outer meaning were hidden within it, the value of the Scripture would perish when a few millennia had passed away. Whereas by this method of successive meanings it is given a perennial value, and evolved men may find in it hidden treasures, until the day when, possessing the whole, they no longer need the part. The world-Bibles, then, are fragments — fragments of Revelation, and therefore are rightly described as Revelation. The next deeper sense of the word describes the mass of teaching held by the great Brotherhood of spiritual Teachers in trust for men; this teaching is embodied in books, written in symbols, and in these is contained an account of kosmic laws, of the principles on which the kosmos is founded, of the methods by which it is evolved, of all the beings that compose it, of its past, its present, its future; this is The Revelation. This is the priceless treasure which the Guardians of humanity hold in charge, and from which they select, from time to time, fragments to form the Bibles of the world. Thirdly, the Revelation, highest, fullest, best is the Self-unveiling of Deity in the kosmos, the revealing of attribute after attribute, power after power, beauty after beauty, in all the various forms which in their totality compose the universe. He shows His splendour in the sun, His infinity in the star-flecked fields of space, His strength in mountains, His purity in snow-clad peaks and translucent air, His energy in rolling ocean-billows, His beauty in tumbling mountain-torrent in smooth, clear lake, in cool, deep forest and in sunlit plain, His fearlessness in the hero, His patience in the saint, His tenderness in mother-love, His protecting care in father and in king, His wisdom in the philosopher, His knowledge in the scientist, His healing power in the physician, His justice in the judge, His wealth in the merchant, His teaching power in the priest, His industry in the artisan. He whispers to us in the breeze, He smiles on us in the sunshine, He chides us in disease, He stimulates us, now by success and now by failure. Everywhere and in everything He gives us glimpses of Himself to lure us on to love Him, and He hides Himself that we may learn to stand alone.
To know Him everywhere is the true Wisdom; to love Him everywhere is the true Desire; to serve Him everywhere is the true Action. This Self-revealing of God is the highest Revelation; all others are subsidiary and partial. The inspired man is the man to whom some of this Revelation has come by the direct action of the universal Spirit on the separated Spirit that is His offspring, who has felt the illuminating influence of Spirit on Spirit. No man knows the truth so that he can never lose it, no man knows the truth so that he can never doubt it, until the Revelation has come to him as though he stood alone on earth, until the Divine without has spoken to the Divine within, in the temple of the human heart, and the man thus knows by himself and not by another. In a lesser degree a man is inspired when one greater than he stimulates within him powers which as yet are normally inactive, or even takes possession of him, temporarily using his body as a vehicle. Such an illuminated man, at the time of his inspiration, can speak that which is beyond his knowledge, and utter truths till then unguessed. Truths are sometimes thus poured out through a human channel for the helping of the world, and some One greater than the speaker sends down his life into the human vehicle, and they rush forth from human lips; then a great teacher speaks yet more greatly than he knows, the Angel of the Lord having touched his lips with fire. (Is., vi, 6, 7.) Such are the Prophets of the race, who at some periods have spoken with overwhelming conviction, with clear insight, with complete understanding of the spiritual needs of man. Then the words live with a life immortal, and the speaker is truly a messenger from God. The man who has thus known can never again quite lose the memory of the knowledge, and he carries within his heart a certainty which can never quite disappear. The light may vanish and the darkness come down upon him; the gleam from heaven may fade and clouds may surround him; threat, question, challenge, may assail him; but within, his heart there nestles the Secret of Peace — he knows, or knows that he has known. That remembrance of true inspiration, that reality of the hidden life, has been put into beautiful and true words by Frederick Myers, in his well-known poem, S. Paul. The apostle is speaking of his own experience, and is trying to give articulate expression to that which he remembers; he is figured as unable to thoroughly reproduce his knowledge, although he knows and his certainty does not waver:
So, even I, athirst for His inspiring, I, who have talked with Him, forget again; Yes, many days with sobs and with desiring, Offer to God a patience and a pain. Then through the mid complaint of my confession, Then through the pang and passion of my prayer, Leaps with a start the shock of His possession, Thrills me and touches, and the Lord is there. Lo, if some pen should write upon your rafter Mene and Mene in the folds of flame, Think ye could any memories thereafter Wholly retrace the couplet as it came? Lo, if some strange intelligible thunder Sang to the earth the secret of a star, Scarce should ye catch, for terror and for wonder, Shreds of the story that was pealed so far ! Scarcely I catch the words of His revealing, Hardly I hear Him, dimly understand. Only the power that is within me pealing Lives on my lips, and beckons to my hand. Whoso hath felt the Spirit of the Highest Cannot confound, nor doubt Him, nor deny ; Yea, with one voice, O world, though thou deniest. Stand thou on that side, for on this am I. Rather the world shall doubt when her retrieving Pours in the rain and rushes from the sod ; Rather than he in whom the great conceiving Stirs in his soul to quicken into God.
Nay, though thou then shouldst strike him from his glory, Blind and tormented, maddened and alone, E’en on the cross would he maintain his story, Yes, and in Hell would whisper, “I have known”. Those who have in any sense realised that God is around them, in them, and in everything, will be able to understand how a place or an object may become “sacred” by a slight objectivisation of this perennial universal Presence, so that those become able to sense Him who do not normally feel His omnipresence. This is generally effected by some highly advanced man, in whom the inner Divinity is largely unfolded, and whose subtle bodies are therefore responsive to the subtler vibrations of consciousness. Through such a man, or by such a man, spiritual energies may be poured forth, and these will unite themselves with his pure vital magnetism. He can then pour them forth on any object, and its ether and bodies of subtler matter will become attuned to his vibrations, as before explained, and further, the Divinity within it can more easily manifest. Such an object becomes “magnetised”, and, if this be strongly done, the object will itself become a magnetic centre, capable in turn of magnetising those who approach it. Thus a body electrified by an electric machine will affect other bodies near which it may be placed. An object thus rendered “sacred” is a very useful adjunct to prayer and meditation.
The subtle bodies of the worshipper are attuned to its high vibrations, and he finds himself quieted, soothed, pacified, without effort on his own part. He is thrown into a condition in which prayer and meditation are easy and fruitful instead of difficult and barren, and an irksome exercise becomes insensibly delightful. If the object be a representation of some sacred Person — a Crucifix, a Madonna and Child, an Angel, a Saint — there is a yet further gain. The Being represented, if his magnetism has been thrown into the image by the appropriate Word and Sign of Power, can reinforce that magnetism with a very slight expenditure of spiritual energy, and may thus influence the devotee, or even show himself through the image, when otherwise he would not have done so. For in the spiritual world economy of forces is observed, and a small amount of energy will be expended where a larger would be withheld. An application of these same occult laws may be made to explain the use of all consecrated objects — relics, amulets, etc. They are all magnetised objects, more or less powerful, or useless, according to the knowledge, purity, and spirituality of the person who magnetises them. Places may similarly be made sacred, by the living in them of saints, whose pure magnetism, radiating from them, attunes the whole atmosphere to peace-giving vibrations.
Sometimes holy men, or Beings from the higher worlds, will directly magnetise a certain place, as in the case mentioned in the Fourth Gospel, where an Angel came at a certain season and touched the water, giving it healing qualities. (S. John, v, 4.) In such places even careless worldly men will sometimes feel the blessed influence, and will be temporarily softened and inclined toward higher things. The divine Life in each man is ever trying to subdue the form, and mould it into an expression of itself and it is easy to see how that Life will be aided by the form being thrown into vibrations sympathetic with those of a more highly evolved Being, its own efforts being reinforced by a stronger power. The outer recognition of this effect is a sense of quiet, calm, and peace; the mind loses its restlessness, the heart its anxiety. Any one who observes himself will find that some places are more conducive to calm, to meditation, to religious thought, to worship, than others. In a room, a building, where there has been a great deal of worldly thought, of frivolous conversation, of mere rush of ordinary worldly life, it is far harder to quiet the mind and to concentrate the thought, than in a place where religious thought has been carried on year after year, century after century; there the mind becomes calm and tranquillised insensibly, and that which would have demanded serious effort in the first place is done without effort in the second. This is the rationale of places of pilgrimage, of temporary retreats into seclusion; the man turns inward to seek the God within him, and is aidedby the atmosphere created by thousands of others, who before him have sought the same in the same place. For in such a place there is not only the magnetisation produced by a single saint, or by the visit of some great Being of the invisible world; each person, who visits the spot with a heart full of reverence and devotion, and is attuned to his vibrations, reinforces those vibrations with his own life, and leaves the spot better than it was when he came to it.
Magnetic energy slowly disperses, and a sacred object or place becomes gradually demagnetised if put aside or deserted. It becomes more magnetised as it is used or frequented. But the presence of the ignorant scoffer injures such objects and places, by setting up antagonistic vibrations which weaken those already existing there. As a wave of sound may be met by another which extinguishes it, and the result is silence, so do the vibrations of the scoffing thought weaken or extinguish the vibrations of the reverent and loving one. The effect produced will, of course, vary with the relative strengths of the vibrations, but the mischievous one cannot be without result, for the laws of vibration are the same in the higher worlds as in the physical, and thought vibrations are the expression of real energies.
The reason and the effect of the consecration of churches, chapels, cemeteries, will now be apparent. The act of consecration is not the mere public setting aside of a place for a particular purpose; it is the magnetisation of the place for the benefit of all those who frequent it. For the visible and the invisible worlds are inter-related, interwoven, each with each, and those can best serve the visible by whom the energies of the invisible can be wielded.
We have reached the end of a small book on a great subject, and have only lifted a corner of the Veil that hides the Virgin of Eternal Truth from the careless eyes of men. The hem of her garment only has been seen, heavy with gold, richly dight with pearls. Yet even this, as it waves slowly, breathes out celestial fragrances — the sandal and rose-attar of fairer worlds than ours. What should be the unimaginable glory, if the Veil were lifted, and we saw the splendour of the Face of the divine Mother, and in Her arms the Child who is the very Truth? Before that Child the Seraphim ever veil their faces; who then of mortal birth may look on Him and live? Yet since in man abides His very Self, who shall forbid him to pass within the Veil, and to see with “open face the glory of the Lord?”. From the Cave to highest Heaven; such was the pathway of the Word made Flesh, and known as the Way of the Cross. Those who share the manhood share also the Divinity, and may tread where He has trodden. “What Thou art, That am I”.
PEACE TO ALL BEINGS