Lesson - 11 : Spiritual Evolution
The beautiful doctrine of Spiritual Evolution—that gem in the diadem of the Yogi Philosophy—is sadly misunderstood and misinterpreted, even by many who are its friends. The mass of uninformed people confuse it with the crudest ideas of the ignorant races of Asia and Africa believe that it teaches that the souls of men descend into the bodies of the lower animals after death. And under the guise of high teachings regarding Reincarnation, many promulgate theories holding that the soul of man is bound to the wheel of human rebirth, and must live in body after body—whether it will or not—until certain great cycles are past, when the race moves on to another planet. All of these misconceptions, however, are based upon the real truth they are the truth, but not the whole truth. It is true that the soul of a brutal, selfish, bestial man, after death, will be drawn by the force of its own desires toward rebirth in the body of some of the lower and more beast-like races of man—it has failed in its class-work, and has been sent back to a lower grade. But the soul that has once reached the stage of even primitive Manhood, never can sink back into the glane of the lower animal-life. As bestial as it may be, it still has acquired something that the animal lacks, and that something it can never lose. And like-wise, although the race—as a race—must wait until certain periods are reached before it may move on-ward, yet the individual who has risen beyond the need of immediate rebirth, is not compelled to reincarnate as a man of the present stage of development, but may wait until the race "catches up" to him, as it were, when he may join it in its upward swing, the intervening period being spent either in the higher planes of the Astral World or in conscious temporary sojourn in other material spheres, helping in the great work of the evolution of all Life.
And, so far from the spiritually awakened Man being compelled to suffer continuous involuntary re-births, he is not reborn except with his own consent and desire, and with a continuance of consciousness—this continuance of consciousness depending upon the spiritual attainment reached. Many who read these lines are partially conscious of their past existences in the flesh, and their attraction to this subject is due to that semi-consciousness and recognition of the truth. Others, now in the flesh, have varying degrees of consciousness, reaching, in some cases, a full recollection of their past lives. And, rest assured, dear student, that when you reach a certain stage of spiritual awakening (and you may have reached it even how) you will bave left behind you unconscious rebirth, and, after you have passed out of your present body-and after a period of spiritual rest—you will not be reborn, until you are ready and willing, and you will then carry with you a continuous recollection of all that you choose to carry with you into your new life. So can this fretting about forced rebirth, without having any "say" about it, and stop worrying about your fancied loss of consciousness in future lives. Spiritual attainment is slow and arduous, but every inch gained is so much further on, and you can never slip back, nor lose the slightest part of what you have gained.
Even those who are reborn, unconsciously, as are the majority of the race, are not actually reborn against their will or desire. On the contrary, they are reborn because hey desire it—because their tastes and desires create longings that only renewed life in the flesh can satisfy, and, although they are not fully conscious of it, they place themselves again within the operations of the Law of Attraction, and are swept on to rebirth, in just the surroundings best, calculated to enable them to exhaust their desires, and satisfy their longings—these desires and longings thus dying a natural death, and making way for higher ones. So long as people earnestly desire material things—the things of the flesh and the material life, and are not able to divorce them-selves from such things at will—just so long will they be drawn toward rebirth that these desires may be gratified or satisfied. But when one has, by experience in many lives, learned to see such things as they are, and to recognize that such things are not a part of his real nature, then the earnest desire grows less and finally dies, and that person escapes from the operation of the Law of Attraction, and need not undergo rebirth until some higher desire or aspiration is appealed to, as the evolution of the race brings new eras and races. It is as if one were to soar away up above the atmosphere of the earth—beyond the sphere of the earth's attraction—and would then wait until the earth revolved beneath him and he saw, far below, the spot which he wished to visit, when all he would have to do would be to allow himself to sink down until the force of gravity exerted by the earth would draw him down to the desired place.
The idea of compulsory rebirth is horrible to the mind of the average man, and rightly so, for it violates his intuitive sense of the justice and truth of this great law of Life. We are here because we wished to be—in obedience to the Law of Attraction, operating in accordance with our desires and aspiration—yes, often, longings—after our departure from our last fleshly tenement, and the period of rest which always follows a life. And we will never be anywhere else, or in any other life, unless by reason of that same law, called into effect in the same manner. It is quite true, that the period between lives gives us an opportunity to receive the higher knowledge of the Spirit more clearly than when disturbed by material things, but even with this additional aid, our desires are often sufficiently strong to cause us to reject the gentle promptings of the Spirit, as to what is best for us (just as we do in our everyday lives) and we allow ourselves to be caught up in the current of desire, and are swept onward toward rebirth in such conditions as to allow its to manifest and express those desires and longings.
Sometimes, the Spirit's voice influences us to a degree, and we are born iii conditions representing a compromise between the Spirit's teaching and the grosser desires, and the result is often a life torn with conflicting desires and restless longings—but all this is a promise of better conditions in the future.
When one has developed so far as to be open to the influence of the Spiritual Mind in his physical life, he may rest assured that his next choice of rebirth will be made with the full approval and wisdom of that higher part of his mind, and the old mistakes will be obviated.
As a general statement of truth, we may say that those who actually feel within them that consciousness of having always existed and of being intended for an endless existence, need fear nothing on the score of future unconscious rebirths. They have reached the stage of consciousness in which, hence-forth, they will be aware of the whole process of the future incarnations, and will make the change (if they wish to) just as one changes his place of residence, or travels from one country to another. They are "de-livered" from the necessity of the unconscious re-birth, from blind desire, which has been their portion in the past, and which is the lot of the majority of the race.
And, now after this long preamble, let us see what Spiritual Evolution, as taught by the Yogis, really means.
The Yogi Philosophy teaches that Man has always lived and always will live. That that which we call Death is but a falling to sleep to awaken the following morning. That Death is but a temporary loss of consciousness. That life is continuous, and that its object is development, growth, enfoldment. That we are in Eternity Now as much as we ever can be. That the Soul is the Real Man, and not merely an appendage or attachment to his physical body, as many seem to regard it. That the Soul may exist equally well out of the body as in it, although certain experience and knowledge may be obtained only by reason of a physical existence—hence that existence. That we have bodies now, just because we need them—when we have progressed beyond a certain point, we will not need the kind of bodies we have now, and will be relieved of them. That on the grosser planes of life far more material bodies than ours were occupied by the soul—that on higher planes the soul will occupy finer bodies. That as we live out the experiences of one earth life, we pass out of the body into a state of rest, and after that are reborn into bodies, and into conditions, in accordance with our needs and desires. That the real Life is really a succession of lives—of rebirths, and that our present life is merely one of a countless number of previous lives, our present self being the result of the experiences gained in our previous existences.
The Yogi Philosophy teaches that the Soul has existed for ages, working its way up through innumerable forms, from lower to higher,—always progressing, always unfolding. That it will continue to develop and unfold, through countless ages, in many forms and phases, but always higher and higher. The Universe is great and large, and there are countless worlds and spheres for its inhabitants, and we shall not be bound to earth one moment after we are fitted to move on to higher spheres and planes. The Yogis teach that while the majority of the race are in the unconscious stage of Spiritual Evolution, still there are many awakening to the truth, and developing a spiritual consciousness of the real nature and future of Man, and that these spiritually awakened people will never again have to go through the chain of continued unconscious rebirth, but that their future development will be on a conscious plane, and that they will enjoy to the full the constant progression and development, instead of being mere pawns on the chessboard of Life. The yogis teach that there are many forms of life, much lower than Man—so much lower that we cannot conceive of them. And that there are degrees of life so far above our present plane of development that our minds cannot grasp the idea. Those souls who have traveled over the Path which we are now treading—our Elder Brothers—are constantly giving us their aid and encouragement, and are often extending to us the helping hand—although we recognize it not. There are in existence, on planes beyond our own, intelligences which were once men as are we, but who have now progressed so far in the scale that compared with us they are angels and archangels—and we shall be like unto them sometime.
The Yogi Philosophy teaches that YOU who are reading these lines, have lived many, many lives. You have lived in the lower forms of life,- working your way up gradually in the scale. After you passed into the human phase of existence you lived as the cave-man, the cliff dweller, the savage, the barbarian; the warrior, the knight ; the priest ; the scholar of the Middle Ages;—now in Europe; now in India; now in Persia; now in the East; now in the West. In all ages,—in all climes--among all peoples—of all races—have you lived, had your existence, played your part, and died. In each life have you gained experiences; learned your lessons; profited by your mistakes; grown, developed and unfolded. And when you passed out of the body, and entered into the period of rest between incarnations, your memory of the past life gradually faded away, but left in its place the result of the experiences you had gained in it. Just as you may not remember much about a certain day, or week, twenty years ago, still the experiences of that day or week have left indelible traces upon your character, and have influenced your every action since—so while you may have forgotten the details of your previous existences, still have they left their impress upon your soul, and your everyday life now is just what it is by reason of those past experiences.
After each life there is sort of a boiling down of the experiences, and the result—the real result of the experience—goes to make up a part of the new self—the improved self—which will after a while seek a new body into which to reincarnate. But with many of us there is not a total loss of memory of past lives—as we progress we bring with us a little more of consciousness each time--and many of us to-day have occasional glimpses of remembrance of some past existence. We see a scene for the first time, and it seems wonderfully familiar, and yet we cannot have seen it before. There is sort of a haunting -memory which disturbs. We may see a painting—some old masterpiece—and we feel instinctively as if we had gazed upon it away in the dim past, and yet we have never been near it before. We read some old book, and it seems like an old friend, and yet we have no recollection of ever having seen it in our present life. We hear some philosophical theory, and we immediately "take to it," as if it were something known and loved in our childhood. Some of us learn certain things as if we were relearning them—and indeed such is the case. Children are born and develop into great musicians, artists, writers or artisans, from early childhood, even though their parents possessed no talents of the kind. Shakespeares spring from the families whose members possess no talents, and astonish the world. Abraham Lincolns come from similar walks of life, and when responsibility is placed upon them show the greatest genius. These and many similar things can be explained only upon the theory of previous existence. We meet people for the first time, and the conviction is borne upon us, irresistibly, in spite of our protests, that we have known them before—that they have been something to us in the past, but when, oh ! when?
Certain studies come quite easy to us, while others have to be mastered by hard labor. Certain occupations seem the most congenial to us, and no matter how many obstacles are placed in the way, we still work our way to the congenial work. We are confronted with some unforeseen obstacle, or circumstances call for the display of unusual power or qualities on our part, and lo! we find that we have the ability to per-form the task. Some of the greatest writers and orators have discovered their talents "by accident." All of these things are explained by the theory of Spiritual Evolution. If heredity is everything, how does it happen that several children of the same parents differ so widely from each other, from their parents, and from the relations on both sides of the house? Is it all heredity or reversion? Then pray tell us from whom did Shakespeare inherit—to whom did he revert?
Argument after argument might be piled up to prove the reasonableness of the theory of rebirth, but what would it avail? Man might grasp it intellectually and admit that it was a reasonable working hypothesis, but what intellectual conception ever gave peace to the soul—gave it that sense of reality and truth that would enable it to go down in the valley of the shadow of death without faltering—with a smile on its face? No ! such certainty comes only from the light which the Spiritual Mind sheds upon the lower mental faculties. The intellect may arrange the facts, and deduce a course of action from them, but the soul is satisfied only with the teachings of the Spirit, and until it receives them must feel that unrest and uncertainty that comes when the Intellect unfolds and asks that mighty question "Why?" which it by itself cannot answer.
The only answer to the query "Is re-birth a fact," is "Does your soul recognize it as such ?" Until the soul feels of itself that the theory is true—because it coincides with that inner conviction, there is no use in arguing the matter. The soul must recognize it for itself—must answer its own question. It is true that the presentation of the theory (we call it a "theory" although the Yogis know it as a fact) will awaken memories in the mind of some—may give them the courage to consider as reasonable the half-formed thoughts and queries which had floated around in their minds for years—but that is all it can do. Until the soul grasps and "feels" the truth of rebirth, it must wander around working on the subconscious plane of life, having rebirth forced upon it by its own desires and longings, losing conscious to a great extent. But after the soul has begun to "feel" the truth, it is never the same—it carries with it memories of the past, some-times faint and sometimes clear—and it begins to manifest a conscious choice in the matter of rebirth. Just as does the plant work on the sub-conscious plane, and the animal on a semi-conscious plane—and the man on the gradually increasing planes of consiousness, so does man gradually evolve from the subconscious stage of rebirth, on to the semi-conscious plane, and then on and on, increasing his consciousness from time to time, until he lives on the conscious plane, both in his physical life, and during the rest period, and in the new birth. There are men among us today ( few, it is true, but many more than most people imagine) who are fully conscious of the past existences, and who have been so since early childhood, only that their days of infancy were passed in a dreamlike state, until their physical brains were sufficiently developed to en-able the soul to think clearly. In fact, many children seem to have a dim consciousness of the past, but fearing the comments of their elders, learn to stifle these bits of remembrance until they fail to evoke them.
Those who have not awakened to the truth of re-birth, cannot have it forced upon them by argument, and those who "feel" the truth of it do not need the argument. So we have not attempted to argue the matter in this short presentation of the theory. Those who are reading this lesson, are attracted toward the subject by reason of interest awakened in some past life, and they really feel that there must be some truth in it, although they may not as yet have arrived at a point where they can fully assimilate it.
Many of those upon whom the truth of the proposition is borne home by their inmost feelings, or fragmentary recollections, evince a disinclination to fully accept it. They fear the idea of being reborn without their consent or knowledge. But as we have stated to them, this is a groundless fear, and that if they are really beginning to "feel" the truth of rebirth, their period of sub-consciousness manifestation on that plane is passing away.
Many say that they have no desire to live again, but they really mean that they would not like to live just the same life that they have—of course not, they do not want the same experiences over again—but if there is a single thing in life that they would like; a single position they would like to fill ; a single desire that they feel needs to be satisfied in order to make them happy,—then they do really want to live again to se-cure the missing thing. They are here because they wanted to be here—or had desires which cried for satisfaction—and they will live again in just the circumstances needed to gratify their desires, or wishes, or likely to give them the necessary experience for higher spiritual growth.
To the student of this subject of Spiritual Evolution, a great world of interesting facts opens itself out. Light is thrown upon history and the progress of mankind, and a most fascinating field of re-search if presented. We must resist the temptation to go into this branch of the subject, as it would lead us in attractive paths which we are forbidden to take up in these elementary lessons, owing to the lack of space. We may however find room to say a little about these matters.
The earth is one of a chain of planets, belonging to our solar system, all of which are intimately connected with the others in this great law of Spiritual Evolution. Great waves of life sweep over the chain, carrying race after race along the chain, from one planet to another. Each race stays on each planet for a certain period, and then having developed, passes on to the planet next highest in the scale of evolution, finding there conditions best suited for its development. But this progress from planet to planet is not circular--it resembles a spiral, circling round and round and yet rising higher and higher with each curve.
Let us suppose a soul dwelling upon any of the planets of our planetary chain, in a comparatively undeveloped state of spiritual growth—on a low place in the scale of evolution. This soul gains the experiences coming to it in that stage, in a number of incarnations, and then is swept away toward the next highest planet in the chain, together with the rest of its particular race, and is reincarnated there. In this new home it occupies a plane distinctly in advance of the one occupied in the last one—its entire race forming the nucleus of a new race there, some being pioneers, and the others follow after. But still this advanced stage (as compared with its stage on the planet just left behind it) may be much lower in the scale of progress than other races dwelling on the same planet with it. Some of the races, lowest in the point of evolution, now on this earth, may have been much nearer the highest stage of development on the last planet inhabited by them, and still they have progressed greatly by the change—the highest on a lower planet perhaps being less highly developed than the lowest on one farther along the planetary chain. Many of the races that formerly inhabited the Earth, traces of whom we occasionally find, have passed on to a higher stage of development. History shows us that race after race came to the front in the earth's development—played their part upon the stage of action--and then passed on—where? The occult philosophies furnish the missing link of explanation. And our race has grown from the stone-age stage—and still further back—and will continue to progress, and will then pass on, making way for some newer race which may be even now sending out pioneers from some other planet.
This does not mean, necessarily, that each race that history tells us of has passed from the earth. On the contrary, occultists know that some, and in fact most, of the races known to history, have incarnated in some of the races today. The confusion is explained by the fact that each race has several sub-races, which really belong to the main race. For instance, occultists know that the ancient Egyptians—the Romans—the Greeks—the Atlanteans—the ancient Persians, etc., etc., are now living on this earth—that is the souls which formerly incarnated in these races, are now incarnated in some of the modern races. But there are other races—prehistoric races—which have passed away from the earth's attraction entirely, and have gone on to higher planes of action in the higher planets. There are a number of planets lower in the scale of progress than our earth, and there are several higher, toward which we are moving. There are of course other solar systems—other chains of suns—other sub-Universes (if we may be pardoned for using the term), and all this is ahead of every soul, no mat-ter how lowly or how humble.
Our race, at present, is going through a most import-ant period of evolution. It is passing from the unconscious stage of spiritual development, into the conscious stage. Many have already attained their conscious stage, and many more are awakening to it. The whole race will ultimately have it, this being precedent to their moving on. This gradual awakening to spiritual consciousness, is what is causing all this unrest in the world of thought—this breaking away from old ideals and forms—this hunger for the truth—this running to and fro after new truths, and old truths re-stated. It is a critical period in the history of the race, and many hold that it implies a possible division of the race into two sub-races, one of whom will be possessed of spiritual consciousness, and will move on ahead of the remaining sub-race of slower brothers, who must work up by degrees. But the race will again be united, before it finally passes on from the earth, as it is bound together by the Law of Spiritual Cause and Effect. We are all interested in each other's progress—not only because we are brothers but because our own soul must wait until the whole race develops. Of course the more rapidly developed soul does not have to be reincarnated simply because its slower brother has to do so. On the contrary the highly developed soul spends a long period of waiting on the higher plans of the Astral World, while its slower brother works out his evolution in repeated births, the sojourn in the higher plans giving the developed soul great happiness and benefit, as explained in other lessons. Many of these "waiting souls," however, choose to sacrifice their well-earned rest, by coming back to earth to help and uplift their brethren, either in the form of Astral Helpers, or even by a deliberate and conscious re-birth (which is not needed for their development) they deliberately taking on the body of flesh, with all its burdens, in order to assist their weaker brothers toward the goal. The great teachers of the races, have been largely composed of these self-sacrificing souls, who voluntarily "renounced heaven" for the love of their fellow-man. It is very hard to imagine what a great sacrifice this is—this coming back to a comparatively low developed civilization, from a high plane of spiritual development. It is like an Emerson doing missionary work among the Bushmen.
Toward what goal is all this evolution tending? What does it all mean? From the low forms of life, to the highest—all are on The Path. To what place or state does The Path lead? Let us attempt to answer by asking you to imagine a series of millions of circles, one within the other. Each circle means a stage of life. The outer circles are filled with life in its lowest and most material stages—each circle nearer the center holding higher and higher forms—until men (or what were men) become as gods. Still on, and on, and on, does the form of life grow higher, until the human mind cannot grasp the idea. And what is in the center? The brain of the entire Spiritual Body—The Absolute—God!
And we are traveling toward that center!
Spiritual Cause and Effect
Life is the constant accumulation of knowledge-the storing up of the result of experiences. The law of cause and effect is in constant operation, and we reap what we sow—not as a matter of punishment, but as the effect following the cause. Theology teaches us that we are punished for our sins, but the higher knowledge shows us that we are punished by our mistakes instead of for them. The child who touches the hot stove is punished by reason of the act itself, not by some higher power for having "sinned." Sin is largely a matter of ignorance and mistake. Those who have reached the higher plane of spiritual knowledge have borne upon them such a convincing knowledge of the folly and unwisdom of certain acts and thoughts, that it becomes almost impossible for them to commit them. Such persons do not fear there is some superior being waiting to strike them to the earth with a mighty club for doing certain things. simply because that intelligence has laid down an apparently arbitary law forbidding the commission of the act. On the contrary they know that the higher intelligences are possessed of nothing but intense love for all living creatures, and are willing and ready to always help them, so far as is possible under the workings of the law. But such persons recognize the folly of the act, and therefore refrain from committing it-in fact, they have lost the desire to commit it. It is almost exactly parallel to the example of the child and the stove. A child who wants to touch the stove will do so as soon as he finds an opportunity, notwithstanding the commands of the parent, and in spite of threatened punishment. But let that child once experience the pain of the burn, and recognize that there is a close connection between a hot stove and a burnt finger, and it will keep away from the stove. The loving parent would like to protect its child from the result of its own follies, but the child-nature insists upon learning certain things by experience, and the parent is unable to prevent it. In fact, the child who is too closely watched, and restrained, usually "breaks out" later in life, and learns certain things by itself. All that the parent is able to do is to surround the child with the ordinary safeguards, and to give it the benefit of its wisdom, a portion of which the child will store away—and then trust to the law of life to work out the result.
And so the human soul is constantly applying the test of experience to all phases of life—passing from one incarnation to another, constantly learning new lessons, and gaining new wisdom. Sooner or later it finds out how hurtful certain courses of action are—discovers the folly of certain actions and ways of living, and like the burnt child avoids those things in the future. All of us know that certain things "are no temptation to us," for we have learned the lesson at some time in some past life and do not need to re-learn it—while other things tempt us sorely, and we suffer much pain by reason thereof. Of what use would all this pain and sorrow be if this one life were all? But we carry the benefit of our experience into another life, and avoid the pain there. We may look around us and wonder why certain of our acquaintances cannot see the folly of certain forms of action, when it is so plain to us—but we forget that we have passed through just the same stage of experience that they are now undergoing, and have outlived the desire and ignorance—we do not realize that in future lives these people will be free from this folly and pain, for they will have learned the lesson by experience, just as have we.
It is hard for us to fully realize that we are what we are just by the result of our experiences. Let us take one single life as an example. You think that you would like to eliminate from your life some painful experience, some disgraceful episode; some mortifying circumstances ; but have you ever stopped to think that if it were possible to eradicate these things, you would, of necessity, be forced to part with the experience and knowledge that has come to you from those occurrences. Would you be willing to part with the knowledge and experience that has come to you in the way mentioned? Would you be willing to go back to the state of inexperience and ignorance in which you were before the thing happened? Why, if you were to go back to the old state, you would be extremely likely to commit the same folly over again. How many of us would be willing to have completely wiped out the experiences which have come to us? We are perfectly willing to forget the occurrence, but we know that we have the resulting experience built into our character, and we would not be willing to part with it, for it would be the taking away of a portion of our mental structure. If we were to part with experiences gained through pain we would first part with one bit of ourselves, and then with another, until at last we would have nothing left except the mental shell of our former self.
But you may say, of what use are the experiences gained in former lives, if we do not remember them—they are lost to us. But they are not lost to you—they are built into your mental structure, and nothing can ever take them away from you—they are yours for-ever. Your character is made up not only of your experiences in this particular life, but also of the result of your experiences in many other lives and stages of existence. You are what you are to-day by reason of these accumulated experiences—the experiences of the past lives and of the present one. You remember some of the things in the present life which have built up your character but many other equally important, in the present life, you have forgotten—but the result stays with you, having been woven into your mental being. And though you may remember but little, or nothing, of your past lives, the experiences gained in them continue with you , now and forever. It is these past experiences which give you "predispositions" in certain directions—which make it very difficult for you to do certain things, and easy to do others—which cause you to "instinctively" recognize certain things as unwise and wrong, and to cause you to turn your back upon them as follies. They give you your "tastes" and inclinations, and make some ways seem better than others to you. Nothing is lost in life, and all the experiences of the past contribute to your well-being in the present—all your troubles and pains of the present will bear fruit in the future.
We do not always learn a lesson at one trial, and we are sent back to our task over and over again, until we have accomplished it. But not the slightest effort is ever lost, and if we have failed at the task in the past, it is easier for us to accomplish to-day.
An American writer, Mr. Berry Benson, in the Century Magazine, of May, 1894, gives us a beautiful illustration of one of the features of the workings of the law of Spiritual Evolution. We reprint it, here-with :
"A little boy went to school. He was very little. All that he knew he had drawn in with his mother's milk. His teacher (who was God) placed him in the lowest class, and gave him these lessons to learn : Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt do no hurt to any living thing. Thou shalt not steal. So the man did not kill ; but he was cruel, and he stole. At the end of the day (when his beard was gray—when the night was come) his teacher (who was God) said: Thou hast learned not t kill, but the other lessons thou hast not learned. Come back tomorrow.
"On the morrow he came back a little boy. And his teacher (who was God) put him in a class a little higher, and gave him these lessons to learn: Thou shalt do no hurt to any living thing. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not cheat. So the man did no hurt to any living thing; but he stole and cheated. And at the end of the day (when his beard was gray—when the night was come) his teacher (who was God) said : Thou hast learned to be merciful. But the other lessons thou hast not learned. Come back tomorrow.
"Again, on the morrow, he came back, a little boy. And his teacher (who was God) put him in a class yet a little higher, and gave him these lessons to learn : Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not cheat. Thou shalt not covet. So the man did not steal ; but he cheated and he coveted. And at the end of the day (when his beard was gray—when the night was come) his teacher (who was God) said: Thou hast learned not to steal. But the other lessons thou hast not learned. Come back, my child, tomorrow.
"This is what I have read in the faces of men and women, in the book of the world, and in the scroll of the heavens, which is writ with stars."
The great lesson to be learned by every soul, is the truth of the Oneness of All. This knowledge carries with it all the rest. It causes one to follow the precept of the Son of Mary who said : "And thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength ;" and "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy-self." When man grows into a consciousness of the truth that All is One—that when one loves God he is loving the Whole Thing—that his neighbor is indeed himself—then he has but few more classes to pass through before he passes into the "High School" of Spiritual Knowledge. This conviction of the Oneness of All, carries with it certain rules of action—of di-vine ethics—which transcends all written or spoken human laws. The Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man, become a reality rather than a mere repetition of meaningless words. And this great lesson must be learned by all—and all are learning it by degrees. And this is the aim and end of the present stage of Spiritual Evolution—to know God as He is ; to know your relationship with others—to know what we are. There are greater schools, colleges and universities of spiritual knowledge beyond us, but these truths are the lessons taught in the grades in which we are at present. And all this pain, and trouble and sorrow, and work, has been but to teach us these truths —but the truth once gained is seen to be well worth even the great price paid for it.
If you ask the Yogis what is one's duty toward God (meaning God in the grandest conception of Him) they will answer "Love Him, and the rest will be made clear to you—and to know him is to Love him, there-fore learn to Know him." And if you ask them what is one's duty toward his fellow-men they will answer, simply : `Be Kind—and you will be all the rest." These two precepts, if followed, will enable one to live the Perfect Life. They are simple, but they contain all that is worth knowing concerning one's relations with the Infinite Power, and with one's fellow-men. AU the rest is froth and sediment—the worthless rubbish which has accumulated around the Divine Flame of the Truth. We mention them in this place, because they sum up the idea the consciousness of which all the race is striving hard to acquire. If you are able to make them a part of yourself, you will have made great progress on the Path—will have passed the Great Examination.
The doctrine of Spiritual Cause and Effect is based upon the great truth that under the Law each man is, practically, the master of his own destiny—his own judge—his own rewarder—his own awarder of punishment. That every thought, word or action, has its effect upon the future life or lives of the man—not in the nature of reward or punishment (as these words are generally understood)—but as the inevitable result of the great Law of cause and effect. The operation of the Law in surrounding us with certain sets of conditions in a new birth, is influenced by two great general principles : (i) The prevailing desires, aspirations, likes and dislikes, and longing of the individual at that particular stage of his existence, and (2) By the influence of the unfolding Spirit, which, pressing forward eagerly for fuller expression and less restraint, brings to bear upon the reincarnating soul an influence which causes it to be governed in its selection of the desirable conditions of its new birth. Upon the apparently conflicting influences of these two great forces, rests the whole matter of the circumstances and condition surrounding the rebirth of the soul, and also many of the conditions surrounding the personality in the new life—for these conditions are governed greatly all through life by these conflicting (or apparently conflicting) forces.
The urge of the desires, aspirations, and habits of the past life, is strongly pressing the soul towards in-carnation in conditions best fitted for the expression and manifestation of these likes, tastes and desires—the soul wishes to go on in the line of its past life, and naturally seeks circumstances and surroundings best fitted for the freest expression of its personality. But, at the same time, the Spirit, within the soul, knows that the soul's unfoldment needs certain other conditions to bring out certain parts of its nature which have been suppressed or not developed, and so it exerts an attraction upon the reincarnating soul, drawing it a bit aside from its chosen course, and influencing that choice to a certain degree. A man may have an over-powering desire for material wealth, and the force of his desire will cause him to choose circumstances and conditions for a rebirth into a family where there is much wealth, or into a body best suited for the attainment of his desires, but the Spirit, knowing that the soul has neglected the development of kindness, will draw it a little aside, and cause it to be brought into the sweep of circumstances which will result in the man being made to suffer pain, disappointment and loss, even though he attain great wealth in his new life, to the end that he may develop that part of his nature.
We may see illustrations of this last mentioned occurrence in some of the very rich men of America. They have been born into circumstances in which they have had the freest expression of the desire for material wealth they have possessed themselves of faculties best adapted to that one end, and have managed to be surrounded with circumstances best calculated to give the freest manifestation of those faculties. They have attained their heart's desire, and have piled up wealth in a manner unknown to former ages. But yet they are most unhappy, and dissatisfied as a rule. Their wealth is a weight around their neck, and they are tormented by fears of losing it, and the anxiety of attending to it. They feel that it has brought them no real happiness, but has on the contrary separated them from their fellow-men, and from the happiness known to those of moderate means. They are feverish and restless, and constantly on the search for some new excitement which will divert their minds from the contemplation of their real condition. They feel a sense of their duty toward the race, and although they do not quite understand the feeling behind it all, they endeavor to balance matters by contributing to colleges, hospitals, charities, and other similar institutions which have sprung up in response to the awakening conscious of the race to the reality of the Brotherhood of Man and the Oneness of All. Before the end comes, they will feel in the depths of their soul that this success has not brought them real happiness, and in the period of rest which will follow their departure from the physical body, they will "take stock" of them-selves, and readjust their mental and spiritual affairs, so that when they are again born they will no longer devote their entire energies toward the piling up of wealth that they cannot use, but will live a more balanced life, and will find happiness in unexpected quarters, and will develop more spiritually. This not because they have been impressed with the sense of any special "wickedness" in abnormal money getting, but because the soul has found that it did not secure happiness in that way, and is seeking elsewhere for it, and because it has lived out the desire for wealth, and has turned its attention to other things. Had the Spirit not exerted its influence, the man might have been born into the conditions tending to produce wealth, and yet not have been made to see the one-sidedness of such a life, in which case it would have continued to be possessed of such an abnormal desire for wealth, that it would have been born again and again, with increasing power each time, until it would have become practically a money-demon. But the Spirit's influence always counteracts abnormal desires, although sometimes several incarnations have to be lived through before the soul wears out its desire, and begins to be influenced by the Spirit to a marked ex-tent. Sometimes the Spirit's influence is not sufficiently strong to prevent the rebirth into conditions greatly favoring old desires, but in such cases it is often able to manage affairs, during the life of the man, so as to teach him the lesson needed to call a halt upon his unbridled desires, by bringing him into the sweep of the Law of Attraction and causing certain pain to befall him—certain disappointment-certain failures—that will cause him to realize the pain, disappointment, failures and sorrow of others, and to bring upon him a course of living which will help to unfold his higher faculties. Many of the sudden strokes of "misfortune" are really brought about by this higher principle of the man, in order to teach him certain lessons, for his own good. It is not necessarily a higher power which makes a man realize these lessons of life, but it is generally his own higher self—the Spirit with-in him—which brings about these results. The Spirit knows what is really best for the man, and when it sees his lower nature running away with him, tries to swing him from his course, or bring him to a sudden stop, if necessary. This not as a punishment, remember, but as the greatest kindness. The Spirit is a part of that man, and not an outside power—although it is of course the Divine part of him—that part of him in nearest touch to the great overruling Intelligence which we call God. This pain is not brought about because of any feeling of righteous indignation, revenge, impatience or similar feeling on the part of the Spirit, but is akin to the feeling of the most loving parent, who is forced to take from the hands of the little child some dangerous thing which may injure the little one —it is the hand which draws back the child from the brink of the precipice, although the little one screams with rage and disappointment because its desires are frustrated.
The man or woman in whom the Spiritual Mind is developed, sees this condition of things, and instead of fighting against the Spirit, yields himself or herself to it without friction, and obeys its guiding hand, and is thus saved much pain. But those who know not, rage and rebel at the restraining and guiding hand, strike at it, and attempt to tear away from it, thereby bringing upon themselves bitter experience made necessary by their rebellion. We are so apt to resent outside influence in our affairs, that this idea of restraint is not pleasant to us, but if we will only remember that it is a part of ourselves—the higher part of us—that is doing this directing, then we may see the thing in a different light. And we must remember this : That no matter how adverse circumstances or conditions seem to be for us, they are exactly what we need under just the circumstances of our lives, and have for their only object our ultimate good. We may need strengthening along certain lines, in order to round us out—and we are apt to get just the experiences calculated to round out that particular part of us. We may be tending too much in one direction, and we are given a check and an urge in another direction. These little things—and great things all mean something. And then our interests are bound up more or less with those of others, owing to the laws of attraction, and our acts may be intended to reflect upon them, and theirs upon us, for our mutual development and ultimate good. We will have more to say on this subject, a little later on.
If we will stand still, and calmly consider our past life (the present life, we mean) we will see that certain things have led to certain other things, and that small things have led to great things—that little turning points have resulted in an entire change in. our life. We may trace back the most important thing in our life to some trifling incident or occurrence. We are able to look back and see how the painful experiences of the past have strengthened us, and have brought us to a larger and fuller life. We are able to see how that particular thing in the past, which seemed needlessly cruel and uncalled for, was the very thing which has brought us to some great thing in the present. All that is needed is the perspective of years. And if we get so that we are able to see this, we will be able to bear with a far greater degree of philosophy the pains and disagreeable occurrences of the present, knowing that they mean ultimate good. When we cease to think of these things as punishment, or a wanton interference of some outside power, or the cruelty of Nature, and begin to see them as either the consequences of our own past lives, or the result of the Spirit's directing hand, we will cease to protest and struggle as we have been doing in the past, and will endeavor to fall in with the working of the great Law, and will thereby avoid friction and pain. And no matter what pain, sorrow or trouble we may be under-going, if we will open ourselves to the guidance of the Spirit, a way will be opened out for us—one step at a time--and if we follow it we will obtain peace and strength. The Law does not heap upon a back more than it can bear, and not only does it temper the wind to the shorn lamb, but tempers the shorn lamb to the wind.
We have spoken of our interests being bound up with those of others. This also is a principle of the law of Spiritual Cause and Effect. In our past lives we have attached ourselves to certain others, either by love or hate—either by kind action or by cruelty. And these people in this life, have certain relationships to us, all tending toward mutual adjustment and mutual advancement and development. It is not a law of revenge, but simply the law of cause and effect which causes us to receive a hurt (when a hurt is needed) from the hands of some one whom we have hurt in some past life—and it is not merely a law of reward for good, but that same law of cause and effect, that causes some one to bind up our wounds and comfort us, whom we have comforted and helped in some past life. The person who is caused to hurt us, may have no intention of doing so, being a perfectly innocent party, but we are brought into conditions whereby we receive pain from the acts of that person, although he be unconscious of it. If he hurts us consciously, and still in obedience to the law, it is because he is still on that plane, and is willing to hurt us, and is brought by the Law of Attraction into a condition whereby we may receive hurt from him. But even that hurt is calculated to benefit us, in the end, so wonderful is this law of cause and effect constituted. Of course, if we once reach the position where we see the truth, we do not need so many of these lessons, and their necessity having passed, the law allows us to escape that which would otherwise have given us pain.
The above mentioned condition of affairs may be illustrated by the case of one who in a past incarnation deliberately won the love of another, for selfish reasons, and then having gratified the desire wilfully threw aside the other one, as one would a worn-out toy. While not pretending to explain the exact workings of the law in any particular case, we have been informed by those who have watched these matters from a high point-of-view, that in such a case as above mentioned, the betrayer would probably in this life, fall violently in love with the person who was the victim in the last life, but the latter would be utterly unable to return that affection, and the former would suffer all the pain that comes to one who loves in vain, the result being that he would be brought to a realization of the sacredness of human affection, and the unkindness of trifling with it. It will be noticed in this case, that the person causing the pain in the present life, is a perfectly innocent party to the whole thing, and thereby does not start new causes and effects.
Those whom we have loved and have been friendly to in past lives, are very apt to be connected with our present life, being kept near us by the law of attraction. The people who are brought into close relations with us, are in all probability those with whom we have been close in past lives. Sudden likes and dislikes, so often observed between people may be accounted for on this theory of rebirth, and many of the occurrences of our every day lives come under this law of spiritual cause and effect. We are constantly bound up with the lives of others, for pain or happiness, and the law must work out its course. The only escape from the complete working out of the law, is the acquirement of the knowledge of the truth on our part, and the consequent modelling of our lives on the lines of this higher truth, in which case we are relieved of the unnecessary lessons, and we ride on the top of the wave, instead of having it submerge us.
Let us beware how we start into operation this law of cause and effect by Hate, Malice, Jealousy, Anger, and general Unkindness toward others. Let us be as Kind as we can, in all justice to ourselves and others, and let us avoid feelings of Hate and a desire for Revenge. Let us live on, bearing our burdens with as much grace as we can summon, and let us always trust in the guidance of the Spirit, and the help of the highest Intelligence. Let us know that all is working together for good, and that we cannot be deprived of that good. Let us remember that this life is as but a grain of sand in the desert of time, and that we have long ages ahead of us, in which we will have a chance to work out all our aspirations and high de-sires. Be not discouraged, for God reigns, and all is well.
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