This is a universal doctrine; none can be more solidly based; the wise and experienced of all ages have agreed to regard the drama of life as a descent from the divine to the earthly and a reascent from the earthly to the divine. And this applies not only to man but to every living creature in the universe and to the universe itself. Great thinkers, seeking for the roots of all things, have found nothing more fundamental than the Great Breath, eternal motion, the principle of alternation; they have seen the cosmic process as the self-realization of an ineffable spirit, the self-manifestation of a supreme Being. The One becomes the Many; the Many return to the One. Outbreathing and inbreathing follow each other in endless succession; and this is a universal law, applicable alike to the smallest as to the greatest.
Man is a spark of the Divine Fire, which has descended on earth and is working amid the manifold toils of material life, like leaven in the mass, and thereby accomplishing a work of regeneration. The primal unity which was Man has been shattered into fragments and has to be reassembled. Christian mystics have thus interpreted their religion, but in many forms of Christianity the true meaning has been lost. The Fall of man has been represented as a great calamity, inspired by the spirit of evil. Man is supposed to become corrupt in nature through the sin of his first ancestor, and to require the intercession of a Savior for his salvation. But the real doctrine is that the Divine Spark, which is the real man, descended to earth for the purpose of fulfilling his destiny and accomplishing his evolution. The Serpent that tempted him in the garden was no evil spirit, but a divine teacher, who instructed him, awakened in him the sleeping fire of intellect, so that he became endowed with free will and the power of conscious choice. It resulted in his being banished from the state of passive bliss (figured as the Garden of Eden) in which he had been living. In brief, we have in the early chapters of Genesis an account (much mutilated it is true) of the early history of mankind, and of the passage of man from an undeveloped and unawakened being to a self-conscious and responsible one. The Devil is said in theology to be a Fallen Angel, a rebel against God, and cast out of heaven, so that he becomes henceforth the head of a host of fallen angels who war continually against God and man. But these Fallen Angels were spirits of light, who descended from heaven in order to bring light and life to earth. The same allegory is found in the story of Prometheus, who so compassionated man that he stole fire from heaven and brought it down to earth. The very name Lucifer, which theology uses as the name of an evil spirit, means "light-bringer."
Man is no helpless sinner, born in hereditary corruption. He is a divine pilgrim, on his way to regain that which he has lost. His Savior is the divinity within him, his own real Self. It was by his own choice that he strayed; it is by his own will that he must be saved. How otherwise could he be a responsible being? Jesus Christ was a great and inspired Teacher, who had solved the mysteries of life for himself, and came to show the way to other men. There have been many such. He was not the Christ, but a Christ; and any man may become a Christ. For the Christ is the divinity in man, which is said to have sacrificed itself by being born in the flesh in order that it might raise the flesh. This teaching will be found in Paul's epistles.
Consider now how this principle of descent and reascent applies to the doctrine of evolution. We are told about the ascent of man from the lowliest beginnings through many stages; but there could be no ascent unless there had previously been a descent. Spirit descends into matter, and matter is thereby evolved into more and more perfect forms for the expression of spirit. A seed may produce a tree; but the essence of the future tree must have entered into the seed. The tree produces the seed, and the seed reproduces the tree. If man is from the lower creation, what was it that entered into matter to give it the power to evolve into such wonderful forms? Can we evade the question by saying that it was a power inherent in matter itself? That would be making matter the equivalent of Almighty God.
It is sad to see how wrong religious teachings have affected the whole thought of the world. The great novelists give us masterly pictures of human lives, portrayed with consummate skill and insight; yet the whole drama is brought to nought by death, which is represented as a final end; and one wonders what is the use of life at all if it is all to end in nothing. But as death is the end of life, so life is the end of death. Birth and death are recurrent events in a long life-drama, and each man's appearance on earth is but one scene in a drama. It is only a knowledge of this truth that can make sense out of the drama of human life. Death and rebirth, descent and reascent, fall and redemption, are the world's eternal ways.
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