I. BY LUCIEN B. COPELAND
From a materialistic standpoint, as well as all others, it seems strange that the question of immortality should require any defence. Rather would it appear that the possibility of annihilation should demand the stronger evidences of proof. It is indeed curious, to say the least, that the scientific mind could ever conceive of the possibility that what has once had existence could become non-existent; or, conversely, that what has no existence could by any possibility come into existence. Yet the latter view is undoubtedly held by many, notwithstanding the self-evident axiom that "out of nothing nothing comes."
To the child the growth of a plant might seem the product of spontaneous generation and that from a tiny seed the perfected tree was a definite something coming from nowhere. So, too, its final disappearance, either through the orderly processes of nature or through quick combustion, might perchance be deemed evidence that the very constituent materials had ceased to exist. But closer study reveals that the elements which go to make up the plant were before its growth, and are after its disintegration. It is, in brief, a fact that science never noted an act of creation, and it has yet to discover an instance of annihilation. The several parts of the universe, as thus far discovered, are constant and invariable in quantity and character.
While this premise may be readily admitted, yet is it urged that continuity of matter is no argument for immortality of soul, or whatever may be the term employed to designate man, the carrying of analogy to such an extent being evidently deemed inadmissable. And the objection is apparently sustained by the contention that soul is simply an essence, as it were, or material, like carbon, oxygen and other known elements in nature, which persevere as matter, but retain individuality for only a limited period.
If, however, through the operation of some unknown and mysterious law, this hypothetical substance, called "soul" for convenience, is capable of crystallizing a portion of itself, as it were, into a separate entity, and on such a nucleus building up a physical body, it is certainly remarkable that this fundamental material should pose as an exception to the invariable rule of change. The materials of which the physical body is composed are said to be completely renewed every seven years approximately; yet the real entity, that which is capable of saying "I am," remains ever the same. It is always the same identical "I" from the cradle to the grave, nor is there ever a sense of newness or of age. For it time does not exist, and whatever may be life's fortunes, there ever perseveres an unchanging, unvarying "I am-ness."
If, then, the full three score years and ten and even longer reveal no variation in the "I," why would one venture to prescribe limitations for its duration?
Centuries upon centuries have passed during which man has ever tried to follow the Delphic injunction, and it is probable that this phase of human history will be many times repeated without the attainment of full self-knowledge. "Know thyself!" is the self-imposed task of every one, and though the following of the command results in vast fabrics of theories and beliefs, yet is our real knowledge confined almost exclusively to simple self-consciousness. I know that I am. What I may be is a matter of conjecture.
But this one great, incontrovertible fact of "I am-ness" is the real master-key of immortality. Certain consciousness of existence is the distinguishing and unvarying characteristic of that which poses as an entity. The smallest insect manifests this characteristic in its effort at self-preservation. Man does no more in his loftiest endeavors. The possibility of self-cognition is apparent in the very rocks as they strive to proclaim individuality in their crystalline structure. The entire universe enunciates the self-same fact in its orderly oneness. Each individuality seems to have its own center of consciousness, and the outlines of its personality perchance indicate the radius of its activity. The tiny blood corpuscle, which ever hastens to do its part toward repairing a physical injury, undoubtedly cognizes "I am-ness" within very narrow limitations; but the human ego vibrates with self-consciousness throughout the length and breadth of what to the blood corpuscle must stand as its universe.
What then must follow that act in nature which is so poetically described as the "merging of the dew-drop in the shining sea"? The chief, unvarying characteristic of this conveniently termed "soul substance" must persevere — there is no reason for thinking otherwise; therefore must it still say "I"; therefore must the only change be a broader activity; therefore, again, must there be an ever closer approximation toward at-one-ment with the Absolute and the due accomplishment of the purpose of creation; complete self-consciousness of all that is.
To prove immortality of the human ego to others than self is probably an impossibility. But so long as that unknown something called "instinct" continues to strike the keynote of perseverance, added encouragement will ever be found by the soul which is struggling for liberation; the sovereignty of the immortal "I" will continue to demand its due allegiance; and the full mastery of self with the complete understanding of its eternal duration can but be the orderly sequel.
II. BY EDWIN H. CLARK
There is probably nothing, which has been termed a question of deeper general interest and of more frequent recurrence than the subject of immortality. Judging from a superficial standpoint, the postulate may be aptly and radically reversed, for the amount of attention demanded of a man in the present time, necessary for business or social success, would seem to engross his mind so fully and completely that a question of the future (?) as so many term it, is postponed until a time "when it can be properly taken up, discussed, and disposed of." But there is not a living person, who, at some time has not halted and does not halt, abruptly, and endeavor to pierce with his mind's eye, the question, "What then?"
In the present incomplete state of development, out of which the human race is struggling to arise, a tangible comparison, by means of which to judge the characteristics of anything in question is a prime necessity, and while we can form no standard by means of which to judge the matter of immortality, at least as regards the "state" which the word erroneously implies, we can profitably compare the meaning of its conception, or perception, held by the Theosophist with that of the average orthodox person.
To the latter, immortality "begins" at the moment of birth, and the question of how he will spend his eternity hangs upon a vicarious atonement which he is taught was a necessity arising from his state of original sin. While the church honestly upholds and teaches that the life of Jesus Christ was spent to instill into the minds of men the desirability for a life of truth, purity and usefulness, it also emphatically holds that repentance at the eleventh hour, together with a belief in Christ, will secure an eternity of bliss, rendered possible by Christ's death upon the cross. The church is to be honored for its continual urging to repent now, ere it is too late, but the question of the after-death condition arising from a failure to "accept and believe" is disposed of so unsatisfactorily that the positive assurance upon one point may be questioned, even doubted, by the equally impositive stand or opinion upon the other and equally important point.
Thus, to the churchman, the greatest stress is laid upon his individual state, condition and environment during an interminable period following his life upon earth.
The Theosophist must find a basis for ethical teachings and a postulate upon which to stand secure. With him, immortality is a part of God's immortality, his life a part of God's life and his ultimate end a complete reunion with that Life, of which he is a necessary part.
No sane person can for a moment question the fact that the Laws of Nature must apply universally and no reasonable person can honestly admit that there could be established any precedent by means of which this law could be set aside in favor of any thing or person without an indescribable chaos as an immediate and inevitable result.
So with the knowledge that his life is a part of God's life, and that the great Law is with him in his every moment of existence, the Theosophist, bearing in his heart an ever increasing desire for the universal perfection or salvation of humanity, faces the question of the now and the hereafter in full confidence that the universal law of cause and effect will in time render his ideals living realities.
With him, life is a means for growth and in the truth of Reincarnation he sees alone the means of attaining the ultimate end of all mankind — Divinity, through incessant and unselfish efforts for the uplifting of the whole world.
Does he seek personal salvation?
He knows that such a thing as the bliss of heaven can not exist while there is one fragment of the whole which lacks perfection and with the force of his whole nature, inspired by an inborn knowledge that he is immortal, Divine in essence, he makes his stand for Rest upon condition that it will never be possible until there is complete salvation.
Upon his life are the words:
"Never will I accept private individual salvation; never will I enter into final peace alone; but forever and always will I strive for the universal salvation of every creature throughout the world."
His immortality is with him every instant, waking or sleeping, his consciousness is ever reaching upward towards the Divine Consciousness, and with his mind constantly riveted to the Divine Purpose, his immortality, with all which the word implies, gives to his life of the present an object which can not be attained in any other manner.
III. BY PENTAUR
Every one accepts without question or argument the fact of his own identity. It is the central fact of life, the evidence that we have lived, the promise that we shall live. It is the thread on which all acts, thoughts and feelings are strung, whereby we know they are ours, and that we are. Apparently, however, this sense of identity has its gaps, so far as our ordinary experience goes. We go to sleep at night, we awake in the morning, and, save for an occasional dream, oftentimes fantastic, the night has been a blank, yet identity has been preserved. How? Can consciousness o'erleap gaps of unconsciousness? We have no memory of our own birth, we cannot carry back our consciousness to any beginning. We still live on this earth; we cannot carry our consciousness forward to any end. Yet hourly children are born; hourly men, women and children die. Did we begin to be when we issued from the womb; do we cease to exist when we pass through the gates of death? We are face to face with the mysteries of birth, sleep and death, and the greatest of all mysteries — Life. How marvelous is the bud's unfolding, the springing up through the earth of tender shoots, the blossoming, the formation of fruit and seed. How marvelous the unfolding of the mind and powers of the child, its gradual conquest of eye and ear and hand and the power of speech. But the plant dies, the flower fades, the child grows old, gradually the eyes grow dim, the hands feeble, the mind loses vigor, memory fails — death comes.
Ever in Nature we find decay succeeding growth, life (!) giving place to death (!). But, looking a little further, we find — ah! glorious discovery! — new life springing from death, new growth from decay.
Yes, we find this, and we know there is something in us that stands above all change. There is something in each of us which is our highest, noblest selves, which transcends space and time, which can face death calm and unmoved, which has the will to be even willing to die, thereby showing its power over death — there is this in each which is of the nature of Life, which knows not death, which is immortal. We may not always be able to identify ourselves with this highest Self, or this highest aspect of ourselves, but each one of us has at some time in his life felt the thrill of that high consciousness of the Self when it knows its oneness with Life, when failure is impossible, when for one instant the Self becomes heroic, glorious, triumphant. No argument, no return from the dead, can prove immortality; by the realization of it alone can man know immortality, and he will then know it has naught to do with time, naught to do with death, no terms can describe it, no units can measure it — it is Life itself.
But though every one has at least some one moment of such realization, yet the ordinary lives of most of us are far from it, and by comparison are poor indeed. Hence the question is not one of the immortality of the soul, of which each one is assured in the deeps of his heart, but how to make our ordinary lives partake of immortality, how lift them up that they shall be illumined by the radiance of Life and filled with its joy.
How can we do this? Does not the soul speak to each and charge each as the divine Beatrice charged Dante: "See me, thy prophetess, thy good Egeria, thy Fate; and, young as thou art — free, and, in all else, fortunate — remember the path I trace for thee, and the great gifts that I do charge thee to make immortal!"
We have this divine command laid upon each of us, that all the gifts and divine powers of the Soul shall be mirrored in our lives; that these gifts and powers which belong to the Soul shall become ours in realization; that we shall make them immortal. Our heritage is divinity itself — nothing short of that will satisfy the soul. Immortality includes all this — means all this.
In each life every desire towards the Good, the Beautiful, the True, every thought of love and compassion, every unselfish act, becomes a living golden thread out of which the soul weaves its garment of Immortality.
In the lives of each are some moments that live — not in the self-satisfaction or self-gratulation of the mind, but in the supreme content and joy of the heart — moments when the heart goes out in sympathy to another, moments of self-forgetfulness, of fortitude, self-restraint and self-conquest. These are the "heart throbs" by which alone Life can be known, the notes that go to swell the harmonies of Eternity. Every heart responds to these "heart throbs," and what we call the little things, the little opportunities, lie in every one's path. But in very truth they are not little, but are a part of the great gifts which we are "charged to make immortal."
It is not an immortality of rest that the soul desires, but an immortality of Life, strong, noble, active; an immortality, not of an hereafter, but now, today, on this earth; an immortality of joy, of love and service of others; an immortality of ever-widening powers. This is the immortality of the Soul; this is our immortality just so far as we realize we are the Soul; it is not far off; it is ours now if we will.
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