Universal Brotherhood – March 1898


So much more easy is it to take our beliefs ready-made (upon all subjects, at least, which have no financial bearing) than to think things out for ourselves, that most of us do this, even though it obliges us to ignore some trifles otherwise quite apparent — trifles which, if we allow ourselves to consider them at all, assume an importance not hitherto suspected. Within the recollection of us all, is a time when much was heard of the conflict between Science and Religion. In reality there is no such conflict. The conflict is not between true science and true religion, but between the false conception of each which has gained currency. The fine distinction between these false ideas of religion and of science, and the real truths concerning each, is one of the "unconsidered trifles" which claims attention.

There is one mistake quite too frequently made — namely, that of confounding materialism with science. The two are not often united in one person; yet we more often than not hear them spoken of as being identical. The true scientist is not a materialist, and he is quite often an unconscious Theosophist.

Not many years hence scientists will be more willing to acknowledge themselves Theosophists, for every day science is becoming more and more spiritual. All of the recent discoveries of science — the photography of sound and of thought — the results obtained by Prof. Elmer Gates, can be explained satisfactorily and logically only by Theosophy.

The ordinary person, whether he calls himself a materialist or not, lives as though he were one, and views life wholly in its personal aspect. While he may not say with the materialist, that the object of life is physical evolution; while he may not declare that all we can know of life is that which is discoverable by the senses, yet he lives as though the supreme object of all effort were personal comfort and material advancement.

We constantly hear people declaring that civilization has now reached a higher point than ever before, and in proof of this they point to rapid transit, to discoveries in electricities, to those extremely uncertain things we call "modern conveniences," and to the various methods of displaying wealth and material prosperity. This is avowedly the attitude of the materialist, who points to present material conditions as proofs of evolution!

Turning to the orthodox creeds, we are told that the object of life is the attainment of universal salvation. That each one of us has a soul, which, if he exercises care and discretion in the matter of religious belief, he will be able to "save." And this matter of religious belief about-how-to-save-the — soul is called religion.

When we contrast this evanescent indefiniteness of so-called religion, with the positive, sensible proof demanded by the materialist, and add to this the fact that materialism has been confounded with science, we have small wonder that there is conflict between such an idea of Science and such an idea of Religion.

Theosophy declares the object of life to be the evolution and uplifting of all that exists. The etymology of the word religion tells us that literally it means "binding back." This is the binding back of the finite to the Infinite and is only possible because of fundamental Unity. It is the tracing of the link between the personal and the divine — the knowledge of the relation between Man and Deity. The first steps in the attainment of this knowledge must be physical, and hence, as we know more of the laws governing matter, we are exactly so much nearer the divine source of all law. It is unthinkable that this process of "binding back," which at some period of evolution must means the unfolding of spiritual consciousness, can take place in violation of any possible law. Every remote corner of the Universe, every possible plane of consciousness, must be governed by law. Every law that we find operative upon the physical plane has its physical correspondence; hence, religion, in its highest aspect, must mean spiritual science.

"I am not going to look into or question any of these things," a man once said to me. "I am going to stick to my father's belief. He was a Presbyterian, and what was good enough for him will do for me." "How about his business methods?" I asked, "Will they do for you too?" But that, he assured me, was different. He said he had to enlarge on business lines to "Keep up with the procession." He couldn't take any chances in business! There are so many people like this friend of mine, who have time for everything except these unimportant trifles of the mystery of life itself. It is going to be so long before they "realize" anything on the soul — so to speak — that it seems quite safe to take chances!

But the more one ponders the matter, the more certain he becomes that it is unreasonable to say that he has a soul! He knows that whatever the soul may be — whatever any one else may tell him about the soul — he is immortal. There is something within which declares that time never was when he was not.

So much for the inherent declaration of immortality on the part of the soul itself!

The reincarnating Ego, has, in past experience, become individualized upon the inner planes of being. It is familiar with the planes of mind and of soul, and is now engaged in the struggle with physical matter. To its experience upon the inner planes, it must add physical experience, and the process is toilsome and slow. It has had to work first with what the materialist calls "primitive man," — a body, and a physical brain that was so crude, and so far from pliable, that results are slowly gained.

But the process of evolution is twofold — and as the reincarnating Ego gains its experience from matter — from the use of a physical body as an instrument — it also impresses itself upon matter, with the result that physical evolution also takes place, and slowly but surely, in the eternal process, — physical man becomes more and more perfect — the instrument is one through which the soul can better and better do its work, and the struggle, and suffering, which are an inevitable result of its association with physical life, add to its strength, its force, and best of all, to its individuality. We speak of the evolution of Humanity, but we do not always bear in mind what that includes.

It includes every person who has ever existed — every Ego that has ever incarnated — every particle of physical matter that has been used in the expression of soul.

We cannot conceive, really, of a beginning in evolution, but let us — so to speak — break in upon this cyclic process at some one period of time. There are, at this given period, a certain number of Egos in incarnation, and another certain number not in incarnation. Ages roll by, and there comes another time when those Egos, which at the period before mentioned, were not incarnated, are now incarnated, and vice-versa. Between these times of incarnation, there has been a change in matter, as well as in mind, and an Ego which has netted a certain result in the past, finds itself, now, with a physical instrument that enables it to make more rapid progress, for there is momentum upon the inner as well as upon the outer planes.

If evolution includes the whole of humanity — and of course it can mean no less than this — then it is only through reincarnation that that which we have called "primitive man," has any chance. But given this broad scheme of physical and spiritual evolution — the uplifting of matter, and the gaining of greater individuality by overcoming — and we find that strict justice is the law, and ultimate perfection must be the result.

But, some one may say this is all very vague, and ask what is the change that actually takes place as evolution goes on. We know the results in outward manifestation, but cannot we get a clearer, more tangible idea of the interior result? I think we can.

We know that back of all manifestation, and in itself the cause of manifestation, is that force or energy, which is most difficult to describe, (because any description is limitation, and we know that it is limitless) — but which, for lack of a better name, we call Spirit or Consciousness. Now this consciousness, which is in everything, and which, in fact, is everything, may be focused in the senses, and then it is physical consciousness, as we see it manifested in the lower kingdoms of nature; or it may be focused in one of the higher principles. If focused in the mind, there must be a good brain instrument which can translate the mental consciousness into clear thought. Wherever this consciousness is focused, there is the real life of the person.

But as evolution is two-fold, the body must furnish the favorable condition, or the Ego cannot find adequate expression therein. H. P. Blavatsky tells us in the Secret Doctrine, that there are seven states of consciousness possible of attainment, and that in each of these states, a different portion of the mind comes into action or use. We know that the brain is entirely separate and distinct from the mind; that it is a physical structure, through which the mind finds expression, just as the violin may be an instrument through which the natural musician — the composer — may express feeling. We know that this physical brain is made up of many millions of brain cells, and that medical science is at a loss to account for the presence of most of these. Reasoning upon these facts in connection with the statement just quoted, we are logically obliged to infer, that as evolution proceeds, as the soul overcomes more and more of the resistance of matter, — as matter becomes more and more pliable — yielding to the influence of soul — as we become, as Emerson says — "porous to thought — bibulous to the sea of light" — these brain cells for which we now cannot ascertain a use, will become responsive and receptive, and can be utilized by other portions of the mind — which is, as we know, an aspect of the reincarnating Ego. Other states — more interior states of consciousness, must then become possible.

What less than this is Evolution? Its ultimate result must be the building of a temple worthy the Soul. It means access to and at-one-ment with the inner planes of being. It means that we have no longer a belief but finally a knowledge, through interior conscious experience, that each one of us is a soul.

A philosophy so material as to ignore spiritual growth, is unscientific; one which makes evolution a matter of personal salvation, is irreligious.

Universal Brotherhood