Form and Essence
Everywhere in the broad expanse of the universe we see an almost infinite variety of forms, belonging to different kingdoms and species, and exhibiting an endless variety of appearances. The substance of which those forms are composed may, for aught we know, consist essentially of the same primordial material, forming the basis of their constitution, although the qualities of the various bodies differ from each other, and it is far more reasonable to suppose that this one primordial eternal essence exists and appears in the course of evolution in various forms, than to believe that a number of different original substances have come into existence either by being created out of nothing or otherwise.
What this primordial essence is – this immaterial substance * – we do not know, we only know of its manifestation in forms which we call things. Whatever finds expression in one form or another is called a thing, and a thing may change its form and the substance remain. Water may be frozen into solid ice, or be transformed by heat into visible vapour; and vapour may be chemically decomposed into hydrogen and oxygen; yet, if the necessary conditions are given, the energies which previously formed water will form water again; the forms and attributes change, but the elements remain the same and combine again in certain proportions, regulated by the law of mutual attraction.
* The Aakaasa of the Brahmins or the Iliaster of Paracelsus, the Universal Proteus.
As this hypothetical primordial substance or principle has no attributes which we can perceive with our senses, we do not know the real substance of a thing. We may gradually deprive a thing of some of its attributes and change its form, and yet it remains that thing as long as its character remains, and even after we destroy its form and dissolve its materials the character of the thing still remains as an idea in the subjective world, where we cannot destroy it, and we may clothe the old idea with new attributes and reproduce it under a new form on the objective plane.
A thing exists as long as its character exists, only when it changes its character it changes its essential nature. A material thing is only the symbol or the representation of an idea; we may give it a name, but idea remains hidden behind the veil. If we could on the physical plane separate a single substance from its character, and endow it with another, then one body could be transformed into another, as, for instance, base metals be transformed into gold; but unless we change the character of a thing, a mere change of its form will only affect its external appearance.
By way of illustration, let us look at a stick. It is made of wood, but this is not essential; it might be made of something else and still be a stick. We do not perceive the stick itself, we only see its attributes, its extension and colour and density; we feel its weight and we hear its sound if we strike. Each of these attributes or all of them may be changed, and it will remain a stick for all that, as long as its character is not lost, because that which essentially constitutes its character is its purpose, an idea which has not a definite form. Let us endow that formless idea with a new purpose that will change its character, and we shall have transformed our ideal stick into anything we choose to make of it.
We cannot change copper into gold on the physical plane, we cannot change a man into a physical child, but we may daily transform our desires, our aspirations, tastes, and our character, if we conceive of a new purpose of life. In doing this we make of man, even on the physical plane, a different being.
Essence of Man
Nobody ever saw a real man, we only perceive the qualities which he possesses. Man cannot see himself. He speaks of his body, his soul, his spirit; it is the combination of the three which constitutes the sum of his attributes. The real Ego, in which his character rests, is something unknown, whose nature becomes conceivable to us only when we divine the purpose of its existence.
As an idea and for a purpose he enters the world of matter, evolutes a new personality, obtains new experience and knowledge, passes through the pleasures and vicissitudes of life and through the valley of death, and enters again into that realm where in the course of ages his outward form will cease to exist, to appear again in such a form upon the scene when the hour for his reappearance strikes. His body and personality change his purpose, and therefore his Ego remains the same and yet not the same, because during life it acquires new attributes and changes its characteristics.*
* A true appreciation and understanding of the essential nature of man will show that the repeated reincarnation of the human monad in successive personalities is a scientific necessity. How could it be possible for a man to develop into a state of perfection, if the time of his spiritual growth were restricted to the period of one short existence upon this globe? If he could go on and develop without having a physical body, then why should it have been necessary for him to take a physical body at all? It is unreasonable to suppose that the spiritual germ of a man begins its existence at the time of the birth of the physical body, or that the physical parents of the child could be the generators of the spiritual monad. If the spiritual monad existed before the body was born, and could develop without it, what would be the use of its entering any body at all?
We see that a plant ceases to grow when its roots are torn from the soil, and when they are replaced into the soil the growth continues. Likewise the human soul, for the purpose of attaining self-knowledge, takes root in the physical organism of man, and develops a character, but when death tears out the roots, the soul rests and ceases to grow, until it finds again a physical organism to acquire new conditions for continued growth.
What can this inner ego be, which lives through death and changes during life, except a spiritual ray of Life, obtaining relative consciousness by coming in contact with matter? Is any man certain of his own existence? All the proof we have of our existence is in our own self-consciousness, in the feeling of the I Am, which is the realisation of our existence.
Every other state of consciousness is subject to change. The consciousness of one moment differs from that of another, according to the changes which take place in the conditions which surround us, and according to the variety of our impressions. We are craving for change and death; to remain always the same would be torture. Old impressions die and are replaced with new ones, and we rejoice to see the old ones die, so that the new ones may step into their places.
We do not make our impressions ourselves, but we receive them from the outside world. If it were possible that two or more persons could be born and educated under exactly the same conditions, having the same character and receiving always the same impressions, they would always have the same thoughts, the same feelings and desires, their consciousness would be identical, and they might be considered as forming collectively only one person. A person, having forgotten all the mental impressions he ever received, and receiving no new ones, might exist for ages, living in eternal imbecility, with no consciousness whatever except the consciousness of the I Am, and that consciousness could not cease to exist as long as his personality were capable to recognise its existence relatively to itself. *
* This would be the only condition in which a person could possibly exist, if he had gained no spiritual self-knowledge and if he were to cease to receive any impressions from the external world; and similar to this may be the state of such a person after the death of his body, if during life he has not attained any higher knowledge than that which refers to perishing things. Having no spiritual consciousness, he can have no spiritual perceptions, he can bring with him into the spiritual world nothing except his own ignorance.
His sensations leave him at death, and the images received in his mind during life will fade away; the intellectual forces which have been set into motion by his scientific pursuits will be exhausted, and after that time the spirit of such a person, even if he has been during life the greatest scientist, speculator, and logician, will be nothing but an imbecile, living in darkness, and being drawn irresistibly towards reincarnation; to reimbody itself again under any circumstances whatever, to escape from nothingness into existence.
But he who acquires spiritual self-consciousness will be self-luminous and live in eternal light. He brings a light with him into the darkness, and that light will not be extinguished, for it is eternal, while the light of this world is darkness to him.
Under whatever form life may exist, it is only relative. A stone, a plant, an animal, a man or God, each has an existence for itself, and each exists only for the others, as long as the others are conscious of his existence. Man looks upon the existence below him as incomplete, and the incomplete beings below him know little about him. Man knows little about any superior beings, and yet there may be such, looking upon him with pity, as he would look upon an inferior animal, an ape that has not yet awakened to a realisation of its own nature.
Those who are supposed to know, inform us that there is no being in the universe superior to the man having become conscious of his own divine and immortal nature; but that there are innumerable invisible beings who are either far superior or inferior to mortal man as we know him. In other words, the highest beings in the universe are such as have once been men; but the men and women of our present civilisation may have to progress through millions of ages before they attain that state of perfection which such beings possess.
Existence is relative. There is something in me which causes me to live and to think. I may call it "I" or "God"; in either case it is intellectually incomprehensible, and it has no existence for me of which I am conscious, as long as I do not realise the relation between this unknown something and my own nature. Nevertheless it is; for if it were nothing it could not cause me to live and to think. It is the source of my being, and therefore it is existence and my nature is its manifestation. In realising my own existence, existence becomes to me a reality; to realise the nature of divine being is to enter into that state.
We are accustomed to look upon that which we perceive with our senses as real, and upon everything else as unreal, and yet our daily experience teaches us that our senses cannot be trusted if we wish to distinguish between the true and the false. We see the sun rise in the East, see him travel along the sky during the day and disappear again in the West; but every child now-a-days knows that this apparent movement is only an illusion, caused by the turning of the earth.
At night we see the "fixed" stars above our heads, they look insignificant compared with the wide expanse of the earth and the ocean, and yet we are told that they are blazing suns, in comparison with which our mother Earth is only a speck of dust. Nothing seems to us more quiet and tranquil than the solid rocks under our feet, and yet the earth whereon we live whirls with tremendous velocity through space; the mountains seem to be everlasting, but continents sink beneath the waters of the ocean and rise again above its surface. Below our feet moves, with ebbs and tides, the swelling bosom of our apparently solid mother the earth, above our head seems to be nothing tangible, and yet we live on the very bottom of the airy ocean above us, and do not know the things that may perhaps live in its currents or upon its surface.
A stream of light seems to descend from the sun to our planet, and yet darkness is said to exist between the atmosphere of the Earth and the sun, where no meteoric matter exists to cause a reflection; while again we are surrounded by an ocean of light of a higher order, which appears to us to be darkness, because the nerves of our bodies have not yet been sufficiently developed to react under the influence of the Astral Light. The image reflected in the mirror seems a reality to the unreasoning mind, the voice of an echo may be mistaken for the voice of a man. We often dream when awake, and while believing to be awake we are asleep.
"Consciousness" is a relative term. It is not scientific to say "we are asleep"; as long as we do not know who "we" are. We can only truly say that such and such functions of a physical or psychical organism, which are called our own, are asleep or inactive while others are active and awake. We may be fully awake relatively to one thing and asleep relatively to another. A somnambule's body is in a state resembling death, while his higher consciousness is fully alive and employs even far superior powers of perception than if all the activity of his life-principle were engaged in performing the functions of his lower organism.
"Matter" and "Motion" are relative terms; both referring to manifestations of something we do not know, and which we may call "Spirit." There is no motion without matter, no matter without some motion, and every power is therefore substantial. A solid mass of matter is condensed energy, representing a certain amount of latent power; every force is invisible substance in motion.
"Space," "extension," "duration" are relative. Their qualities change according to our standard of measurement and according to our mode of perception. To an animalculae in a drop of water that drop may appear as an ocean, and to an insect living on a leaf that leaf may constitute a world. If during our sleep the whole of the visible world were to shrink to the size of a walnut or expand to a thousandfold its present dimensions, on awakening we should perceive no change, provided that change had equally affected everything, including ourselves.
A child has no conception of its relation to space and tries to grasp the moon with its hands, and a person who has been born blind and is afterwards made to see, cannot judge of distances correctly. Our thoughts know of no intervening space when they travel from one part of the globe to another. Our conceptions of our relation to space are based upon experience and memory acquired in our present condition. If we were moving among entirely different conditions, our experiences, and consequently our conceptions, would be entirely different. Space relatively to form can only have three dimensions, because all forms are composed of three dimensions: length, thickness, and height.
Consciousness in the Absolute is unconsciousness relatively to everything. A consciousness being in relation with nothing is inconceivable. A consciousness existing in relation to its own self is self-consciousness.
The Absolute is independent of its manifestations; but all manifestations depend on the presence of that which becomes manifest. God can exist in his own divine nature without revealing his presence to his creatures; but his creatures cannot exist without God. We know that space exists; but it is inconceivable to us as long as it does not become revealed to us in a form. Forms are objectified space. Without such a manifestation of three dimensional bodies we can form no conception of space. We know that God exists; but we cannot conceive of his existence unless his nature becomes revealed to us in its triunity within ourselves.
The dimensions of space exist in our own mind. We conceive of no dimensions of space in a mathematical point, and self-consciousness exists in itself without any relation to anything except its own self. This might therefore be called a one-dimensional space. As to two-dimensional space, every one knows that there is a difference between good and evil, between love and hate, &c., and the realisation of such a difference furnishes us with a conception of space in which we perceive only two dimensions. Three-dimensional space is the world of corporeal bodies; but there is also a fourth dimension of space, known only to the enlightened, who have learned how to square the circle, because four is the number of truth, and three the number of form.
As our conception of space is only relative, so is our conception of time. It is not time itself, but its measurement, of which we are conscious, and time is nothing to us unless in connection with our association of ideas. The human mind can only receive a small number of impressions per second; if we were to receive only one impression per hour, our life would seem exceedingly short, and if we were able to receive, for instance, the impression of each single undulation of a yellow ray of light, whose vibrations number 509 billions per second, a single day in our life would appear to be an eternity without end.*
To a prisoner in a dungeon, who has no occupation, time may seem extremely long, while for him who is actively engaged it passes quickly. During sleep we have no conception of time, but a sleepless night passed in suffering seems very long. During a few seconds of time we may, in a dream, pass through experiences which would require a number of years in the regular course of events, while in the unconscious state time has no existence for us.**
* Carl du Prel: "Die Planetenbewohner." (The inhabitants of the planets.)
** In books on mystical subjects we find often accounts of a person having dreamed in a short moment of time, things which we should suppose that it would take hours to dream them; for instance the following: "A traveller arrived late at night at a station. He was very fatigued, and as the conductor opened the door of the car, he entered, and immediately fell asleep. He dreamed that he was at home, and living with his family; that he fell in love with a girl and married her; that he lived happy until he meddled with political affairs, and was arrested on the charge of having entered into a conspiracy against the government. He was tried, and condemned to be shot, and led out to be executed. Arrived at the place of execution, the command was given, and the soldiers fired at him, and he awoke at the noise caused by the shutting of the door of the car, which the conductor had shut behind him when our friend entered. It seems probable that the noise produced by shutting that door caused the whole dream."
Persons fully in the subjective world receive no impressions from the objective world. If they are only partially in that state which occurs in dreams and insanity, the sensations carried to the half-conscious brain become mixed with the ideas born in the subjective world, and produce caricatures and distortion of images. In this state, when the experiences of the internal state mingles with the sensations of the external consciousness, the most erroneous impressions may be produced; because the intellect labours, but reason does not act sufficiently powerful to enable man to discriminate between the true and the false.
Objective and Subjective
But what is the difference between objective and subjective states of existence? We do not cease to live while we are asleep, but we have a different kind of perceptions in either state. The popular idea is that sensual objective perceptions are real and subjective ones only the products of our imagination. But a little reflection will show that all perceptions, the objective as well as the subjective ones, are results of our "imagination."
If we look at a tree, the tree does not come into our eye, but its picture appears in our mind; if we look at a form we perceive an impression made in our mind by the image of an object existing beyond the limits of our body; if we look at a subjective image of our own creation, we perceive the impression which it produces on our mind. In either case the pictures exist objectively in our mind, and we perceive the impressions.
The fact is, that everything appears either objective or subjective according to the state of consciousness of the perceiver, and what may be to him entirely subjective in one state may appear to him objectively in another. The highest ideal truths have to him who can realise them an objective existence, the grossest material forms have no existence to him who cannot perceive them.
But here the great question arises: "Who or what is this unknown One that perceives the images existing in its own mind, and the sensations that come to his consciousness? What is that which you call your "I," which knows that you know, and which also recognises your ignorance? What is that Self, which is neither the body nor the mind, but which uses these things as its instruments?" If you know that invisible being, you may throw away this book; it can teach you nothing new, because you know God and are the wisest of men.
The basis upon which all exhibition of magical power rests is a knowledge of the relations that exist between objective and subjective states of existence, and the source from which they originate.
Projected Mental Images
If we conceive in our mind of the picture of a thing we have seen before, an objective form of that thing comes into existence within our own mind, and is composed of the substance of our own mind. If by continual practice we gain sufficient power to hold on to that image and to prevent it from being driven away and dispersed by other thoughts, it will become comparatively dense, and can be projected upon the mental sphere of others, so that they may actually see objectively that which exists subjectively as an image within our own mind; but he who cannot hold on to a thought and control it at will cannot impress it upon the minds of others, and therefore such experiments fail, not on account of any absolute impossibility to perform them, but on account of the weakness of those who experiment, but have not the power to control their own thoughts, and to render them corporeal enough for transmission.
Everything is either a reality or a delusion, according to the standpoint from which we view it. The words "real" and "unreal" are only relative terms, and what may seem real in one state of existence appears unreal in another. Money, love, power, &c., appear very real to those who need them; to those who have outgrown the necessity for their possession they are only illusions.
That which we realise is real to us, however unreal it may be to another. If my imagination is powerful enough to represent to me the presence of an angel, that angel will be there, alive and real, my own creation, no matter how invisible and unreal he may be to another. If your mind can create for you a paradise in a wilderness, that paradise will have for you an objective existence. Everything that exists, exists in the universal Mind, and if the individual mind becomes conscious of his relation to a thing therein, it begins to perceive it.
No man can realise a thing beyond his experience, he cannot know anything to which he stands in no relation. For the purpose of perceiving, three facts are necessary: The perception, the perceiver, and the thing that is the object of perception. If they exist on entirely different planes, and cannot enter into relationship, no perception will be possible. If I wish to look at my face, and am not able to step out of myself, I must use a mirror to establish a relation between myself and the object of my perception. The mirror has no sensation, and I cannot see myself in the mirror, I can only see myself in my mind. The reflection of the mirror produces a reflection which is objective to my mind, and which comes to my perception.
Man's Original Nature
A consideration of this will give us the key to an understanding of man's original nature, and of the necessity of his "fall from grace." We cannot objectively see the light or the truth, as long as we are within the body of the one or the other. Only when we go beyond the sphere of the light, we can see its luminosity, only when we fall into error, will we learn to appreciate the truth.
As long as primordial man was one with the universal power from which he emanated as a spiritual ray or entity in the beginning, he could not know the divine source from which he came. The will and imagination of the Universal Mind were his own will and imagination. Only when he began to "step out of his divine self," could he begin to exist as an individual "Self"; only when he began to act against the law, did he begin to realise that there was a law.
Man's apparently separated existence from God is an illusion: but this illusion must be experienced by him, so as to enable him to outgrow it, and to realise his unity with God. A god who does not realise his own divine nature would not be able to enjoy it. When man, as a spiritual entity, having attained perfection, enters again into his source, his sense of self and separateness will be lost, but he will be in possession of knowledge. To see a thing, it must become objective. To know what love is, we must be separated from the object of our love. When we fully comprehend a thing, we become one with it, and know it by knowing ourselves.
This example is intended to illustrate the fundamental law of creation. The first great cause – so to say – stepping out of itself, becomes its own mirror, and thereby establishes a relation with itself. "God "sees his face reflected in Nature; the Universal Mind sees itself reflected in the individual mind of man. God comes to relative consciousness in his own nature, but when he again retires into himself the relation will cease, he will again become one with himself, there will be no more relative consciousness, and "Brahma will go to sleep" until the new day of creation begins. But man knows that he exists even after all his relation with external things has ceased, he does not need to look continually into a mirror to be reminded of that fact. Likewise the absolute self-consciousness of the great I Am is independent of the objective existence of Nature, and he will still "sit on the great white throne after the earth and the heaven fled away from his face";* which means that he will rest in his own divine self-consciousness.
* St John: Revelations xx. 2.
The superior powers of inner perceptions are those possessed by the inner man, and they become developed after the inner man awakens to self-consciousness. They correspond to the senses of the external man, such as seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, smelling.
External sensual perceptions are necessary to see sensual things; the internal sensual perceptions are necessary to see internal things. Physical matter is as invisible to the spiritual sight as astral bodies are to the physical eyes; but as every object in nature has its astral counterpart within the physical form, it may see, hear, feel, taste, and smell with its astral senses those astral objects, and thereby know the attributes of the physical objects as well or still better than the physical man might have been able to do with his physical senses; but neither the physical nor the astral senses will be able to perceive, unless they are permeated by the power of the spirit which endows them with life.
Men usually look upon a thing as real if it is seen alike by several persons, while if only one person professes to see it, it being invisible to others, it is called illusive; but each impression produces a certain state of the mind, and a person perceiving it must be in a condition to enter into a relation with that state which the impression produces.
All persons being in the same state of mind, and receiving the same impression, will perceive the same thing, but if their states of mind differ, their perceptions will differ. A horse or a lion may be seen alike by everyone who has his normal senses developed; but if one is excited by fear, his perception will differ from that of others, because the product of his own imagination distorts the impression received. A drunkard in a state of delirium tremens believes to see worms and snakes crawling over his body. His experience tells him that they have no external existence. Nevertheless they are realities to him. They really exist for him as the products of his own mental condition, but they do not exist for others who do not share that condition. But if others were to enter the same state they would see the same things.
Our perceptions therefore differ – not only in proportion as the impressions coming from the objects of our perception differ – but also according to our capacity to receive such impressions, or according to our own mental states. If we could develop a new sense of perception, we would be in a new world. If our capacity to receive impressions were restricted to only one sense, we would only be able to conceive of that which could become manifest to us through that sense.
Let us suppose the existence of a being who could enter into only one state of consciousness; for instance, that of hate. Having all his consciousness concentrated into one guiding passion, he could become aware of nothing else but of hate. Such a "god of hate," incapable of entering into any other mental state, could perceive no other states but those corresponding with his own. To such a being the whole world would be dark and void, our oceans and mountains, our forests and rivers would have no existence for him; but wherever a man or an animal would burn with hate, there would be perhaps a lurid glow perceiveable by him through the darkness, which would attract his attention and attract him, and on his approach that glow would burst into a flame in which the individual from whom it proceeded may be consumed.
Any other mental state or passion may serve for a similar illustration. Hate knows hate, Love knows love, and a person full of hate is as incapable to love as a being full of love is incapable to hate.
The Bhagavad Gita says: "Those that are born under an evil destiny" (having acquired evil tendencies by their conduct in former lives) "know not what it is to proceed in virtue or to recede from vice; nor is purity, veracity, or the practice of morality, to be found in them. They say the world is without beginning and without end, and without an Ishwar, that all things are conceived in the junction of the senses, and that attraction is the only cause."*
* Bhagavad Gita, L. xvi.
Those who believe that everything exists in consequence of the unconscious attraction of two principles, forget that there could be no attraction if there were not some continually acting cause that produces that attraction. They are the deluded followers of a doctrine which they themselves cannot seriously believe. They agree that out of nothing nothing can come, and yet they believe that unconscious attraction can produce consciousness.
They are the followers of the absurd Two which has no real existence, because the eternal One divided into two parts would not become two Ones but the two halves of a divided One. One is the number of Unity, and Two is Division; the One divided into two ceases to exist as a One, and nothing new is thereby produced. If the plan for the construction of the world had been made according to the ideas of the followers of Dualism, nothing could have come into existence, because action and reaction would have been of equal power, annihilating each other. Neither could there be any progression under such circumstances at present.
But behind all manifestations of power there is the eternal power itself, the source of all perfection that can become manifest. This is the Unity and Reality, in which no division exists; from which all things originate and to which all will return. In its aspect as being the source of perfection in everything and which all things desire to attain, it has been called "good."
Whatever this power of good may be, it is beyond the capacity of man to give it an appropriate name, or to describe it, because it is beyond the comprehension of mortal man. To give a name to that which includes everything, is to limit the whole to one of its parts. It has been called "God" and as such it has "many faces," because its aspect differs according to the standpoint from which we behold it.
It is the Supreme cause, from which everything comes into existence; it must be absolute consciousness, wisdom and power, love, intelligence, and life, because these attributes exist in its manifestations and could not have come into existence without it. It is necessarily one and unlimited, and can therefore not be known to the limited intellect of man. It can only be known by itself; but if it reveals itself in our soul, our soul will partake of its knowledge. Therefore Angelus Silesius says –
"God dwelleth in a light far out of human ken,
Become thyself that light, and thou shalt see him then."
When Gautama Buddha was asked to describe the supreme source of all beings, he remained silent, because those who have reached a state in which they can realise what it is, have no words to describe it,* and those who cannot realise it would not be able to comprehend the description.
* 2 Corinthians, xii. 4. [3. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4. was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.]
To describe a thing we must invest it with comprehensible attributes, and it then ceases to be unlimited and becomes limited. Therefore all theological discussions about the nature of "God" are useless, because "God" is the All and does not differ from anything; but not everything is God; because not everything is conscious of its own divine nature.
To become conscious of one's own divine nature, is to realise the presence of God. To deny the existence of God is an absurdity equivalent to denying one's own existence, while existence is its own proof. He can only be spiritually known, but not scientifically described, and the fight between so-called Deists and Atheists is a mere quarrel about words which have no definite meaning. Every man is himself a manifestation of God, and as each man's character differs from that of every other, so each man's idea of God differs from that of the rest, and each one has a God (an ideal) of his own: only when they all have the same aspirations, will they all have the same God.
To him who has not the power of God, the power of God does not exist. To him who perceives the presence of God, God exists, and to him his existence cannot be disputed away. The ignorant cannot be made to realise the existence of knowledge unless he becomes knowing; those who know cannot have their knowledge reasoned away.
The caricatures of gods set up by the various churches as representations of the only true God are merely attempts to describe that which cannot be described. As every man has a highest ideal (a god) of his own, which is a symbol of his aspirations, so every church has its peculiar god, who is an outgrowth or a product of evolution of the ideal necessities of that collective body called a church. They are all true gods to them, because they temporarily answer their needs, and as the requirements of the church change, so change their gods; old gods are discarded and new ones put into their places.
The god of the Christian differs from that of the Jews, and the Christian god of the nineteenth century is very different from the one that lived at the time of Torquemada and Peter Arbues, and was pleased with torture and Autos da Fe. As long as men are imperfect their gods will be imperfect; as they become more perfect their gods will grow in perfection, and when all men are equally perfect they will all have the same perfect "God," the same highest spiritual ideal recognised alike by science and by religion as being divinity in humanity; because there can be only one supreme ideal, one absolute Truth, whose realisation is Wisdom, whose manifestation is power expressed in Nature, and whose most perfect expression is ideal Man.
There are seven steps on the ladder, representing the religious development of mankind: On the first stage man resembles an animal, conscious only of his instincts and bodily desires, without any conception of the divine element. On the second he begins to have a presentiment of the existence of something higher. On the third he begins to seek for that higher element, but his lower elements are still preponderating over the higher aspirations.
On the fourth his lower and higher desires are counterbalancing each other. At times he seeks for the higher, at other times he is again attracted to the lower. On the fifth he anxiously seeks for the divine, but seeking it in the external he cannot find it. He then begins to seek for it within himself. On the sixth he finds the divine element within himself and develops spiritual self-consciousness, which on the seventh grows into self-knowledge. Having arrived at the sixth, his spiritual senses begin to become alive and active, and he will then be able to recognise the presence of other spiritual entities, existing on the same plane.
On the seventh he finds that he himself is the God which he has been seeking. His will is free from every selfish desire, his thought is one with his will, his word becomes a creative act. Such a spiritual being may still dwell in a human body upon this planet, and not even be recognised as something superior to the rest of mankind; for his personality is not God. He lives, and yet he lives not; for it is God, his divine Self, the eternal Reality living in him.