Although it has been clearly demonstrated that the soul is immortal, yet this immortality is but a potentiality, inhering in it because of its origin in unmanifested, eternal Being. As must be the case in all manifested attributes of the One Dark Source, the soul must make this potentiality of immortality an actuality upon the manifested side of life in order to ensure eternal individual self-consciousness as an ego or entity. Until it has become immortal in manifestation, it cannot be sure of individualized immortality, and this most precious gift of the gods to mortals may be lost.
This is an all-important fact. Existence is not a semi-automatic functioning, nor evolution merely a mechanical process through which the soul passes, without danger of extinction, to an assured immortality. The soul in entering upon its "Cycle of Necessity," or cycle of evolution, has set before it the goal of self-conscious immortality, which must be won by hard and strenuous effort, for immortality in manifestation is a conditioned state, dependent upon the right use of the impersonal and eternal Kosmic Will. Manifested, personal, cyclic will can only win immortality for the cycle involved; the soul must learn to recognize and to command WILL in its eternal state. It must become "one with its Father in Heaven" in its ability to direct the divine will — which is the esoteric meaning of this saying. Thus the soul which only recognizes the personal will, lapses from incarnation to incarnation, with no feeling of having ever lived before during any one of these lives in the body. This is the present state of most souls, and none such are immortal in the true meaning of the term; they have yet to win this state of consciousness. For immortality, to be truly immortality, must know no lapses or interregnums, however brief. While death or sleep interposes these the soul is not immortal. Waking or sleeping, "dead" or "alive," consciousness must be absolutely continuous to fulfill the requirements of eternal self-conscious existence. This self-consciousness may widen infinitely, but it must remain the self-consciousness of the I who now feels itself to be. The personal I may widen into the individual I; this, into the Cosmic I; this again, into the Universal I, until one feels his one-ness with the entire Universe, but whole process must be an addition; not a subtraction.
It becomes, then, of paramount importance that the nature of the soul, the method by which it secures immortality, and the process by which its death may be brought about (even after having advanced far on the path towards its goal), should be carefully studied, that we may make our "peace, our calling, and our election sure." The loss of the soul is hinted at in all religions, and only in the Christian is it distorted into the dogma of eternal punishment, instead of the solemn fact of the possible annihilation of its self-conscious existence.
The soul, as has been shown, is a center of consciousness which recognizes itself as an inner I and excludes the outer universe as not included in this self-recognition. It even excludes its own body as not its real self; thinking of it as "my body;" not as "my self." This soul-center has undoubtedly infinitely varying faculties and attributes as potentialities; but at present it has made but a few of these potent, or actualities, upon the manifested side of being — with which side we are alone concerned in considering immortality, as unmanifested immortality is, for a manifested being, unthinkable.
Among such manifested attributes which the cycle of evolution has permitted to appear are reason, imagination, emotion, instinct, and others which have been briefly studied in this essay, and their permanent or transitory nature inquired into with a view to deducing therefrom a basis upon which to predicate mortality or immortality. We have seen that the faculties which belong solely to the body perish with it, at least temporarily, or until the soul by incarnating builds for itself new organs which permit of their reappearance. Practically, they have been annihilated during the death of its body, and if these were the only faculties of the soul no immortality could be predicted for it. Fortunately, it has, as we have seen, others which safely bridge the abyss between any two earth-lives.
But the loss of the sense-faculties at death furnishes the clue to the whole question under examination. A complete man requires sense organs; and the complete man is, therefore, not immortal until he shall have so united his higher with his lower nature that sense-perception is preserved as certainly as imagination and feeling now are. This is not to say that the body, as such, must become immortal; that idle fancy may be safely left to people sensuous "heavens." But the means to contact and examine, to reason upon and to know, external nature must always be at the command of the immortal and perfect soul. So that while the soul is immortal as an entity, its immortality is at present limited to certain of its faculties, among which is not found that which man considers the most important to this life, or reason, for reason is still subject to interregnums or lapses.
It follows, then, that man as we now know him, incarnated in a body, has to win immortality for a large proportion of his faculties — the senses and reason being among these. As a matter of fact, he has no senses at present, but depends upon those of the animal form in which he has incarnated, and which have been evolved during long ages of geologic time by the animal-man destined to furnish a physical vehicle for the soul. They are as yet the senses of the body and not of the soul, or death would not leave man to pass such long intervals between incarnations in purely subjective states as it now undoubtedly does. Let all those who long to be delivered from a troublesome, imperious, or vicious body, reflect that until this body shall have bestowed by emanation, or in some other manner, the faculty of which its senses are as yet the soul's only vehicle, all post mortem existence must be subjective.
There is no purely one-sided transaction in all the phases of consciousness; if the ego bestows a higher, the body repays the debt by adding a lower, state to the faculties of the soul, and which in the economy of nature may be just as essential and necessary as the higher. The universe is not only embodied consciousness, but embodied wisdom, and we must avoid taking a distorted view of a relation which, from our standpoint, seems to be unequal. It may be far from this. The body certainly affords the necessary resistance to compel the evolution or exhibition of the qualities of the soul; it is rewarded by having bestowed upon it a higher (as we think) state of consciousness, but if the account is not already balanced, this certainly is fully accomplished by the bestowal, through the association of the soul with the body, of the sense-perception of the latter. By its contact with the body the soul is not only strengthening its own qualities and faculties through the effort which the body compels, but is developing an absolutely new faculty — that of sense-perception. The tail of the serpent is ever in its mouth; the most high and the most lowly are equally spiritual; and must from the very nature of justice play an equal part in the economy of the universe.
It is no doubt the work of the soul to, throughout the eternities, evolve faculties lying within its own infinite nature, and as these are perfected, one by one, each becomes immortal, or, rather, the soul becomes assured of its eternal possession. However it may be at future stages of the Cycle of Necessity (about which it would be folly to speculate), it is certain that the making immortal of those qualities and faculties which are essential to a recognition of the bliss of self-conscious immortality is at present attended with risk and danger, and requires the putting forth of the very highest and best qualities which the soul has at its command.
Demon est Deus inversus. Man is surrounded by perfectly impersonal laws and forces, which at last merge into and become one with the great law of cause and effect — or Karma. Harmony is the law of life, of existence; nothing inharmonious can exist for long. Evil is but inharmony — the working against the law of life. That Wisdom which brought this Universe into being has decreed that harmony must be restored whenever and wherever it has been disturbed, or the cause of the disturbance will be removed by disruption and disintegration to less and less evolved spheres until all ability to choose the inharmonious is beyond possibility.
Man is not only a compound being, but all his faculties must be equally developed. Any faculty developed out of proportion to the others becomes a menace, because it necessitates an inharmonic nature. To preserve the exact equilibrium is as difficult and more dangerous than any tight-rope walking, though this be stretched across the Niagara. In our Western civilization, the lower faculties of the soul have been cultivated out of all proportion — especially, intellect and sense-consciousness. The higher qualities of compassion, unselfishness and altruism have been so neglected that their possessor is contemptuously dubbed a "crank," and looked upon as unwise to the last degree. And truly, if wisdom only embraces the knowledge and ability to get wealth, as our Western civilization has defined it, such a man is a fool.
We have said that the I, the feeling of egoity, may (and must) widen from the personal I of this incarnated life into an individual I, and then into a Cosmic or Oversoul I, and finally into an Universal I, or an egohood which feels its oneness with the entire Universe. The death of the soul consists in the interruption of this process. That is to say the personal I may fail to unite itself to and to widen into the Individual I, or the Individual I may lose its hold upon the Oversoul. In the first case, the result would be the death of the ordinary human soul, such as we all are at this embodied stage of our existence. In the second, the result would be a black magician, living throughout vast cycles of time, but eventually overtaken by one to which even his imperious will must yield. For the worlds come and go in obedience to law much higher than even the Will of the Oversoul, and if a unit-soul have trifled away the period in which it ought to have so perfected its faculties as to have enabled it to still maintain its individualized existence when the "heavens depart as a scroll," annihilation can but await it.
Harmonic progression towards an inconceivable perfection constitutes evolution — that magnificent "process of the suns," which weaves the woof of manifested existence into the warp of the divine, unmanifested, inscrutable WILL. Truth, Right, and Justice are embodied in this Omnipotent Being — whom so many conceive of as weak, blasphemous widenings of their own imperfections into personal deities. Its will as regards manifested being is embodied in the Law of Cause and Effect. It has decreed that any cause, whether physical, mental or spiritual, shall be followed by its just effect, which effect cannot be evaded or set aside because, in some way, incomprehensible to mortals (we being under the illusion of time) the effect is bound up in, and exists in, the apparently antecedent cause. But in the unmanifested the two are coequal and coexistent, for there time as we conceive of it is unknown.
With this provision to insure perfect justice, the soul is launched upon the seas of mortal life. By setting up harmonic causes, it may cross these seas with perfect safety, and reach the blissful shores of eternal, individualized existence — which is its reward for the Herculean effort. If it wickedly or foolishly fails to comprehend the plan of the Most High, and so loses its opportunity, it can but lapse back into the ocean of undifferentiated, unmanifested Being. This danger awaits those who sin and those who teach untruths equally. The priest or preacher who paints a Jehovah or Brahm from the outlines of the shadows of his own imperfections, magnified by being thrown upon the background of his own ignorance; who pictures Divinity as being revengeful, fickle and unjust, is injuring humanity by his teachings more, perhaps, than the moral monster whose vices affect but a comparatively few. And when such reject all philosophy, and teach and believe that this short life will be followed by a never-ending eternity of either bliss or suffering, they are setting up causes which tend to and must keep them upon the subjective side of existence during such vast periods that they run no small danger of awakening and finding that the march of evolution has passed them by forever. Moral goodness will not atone for willful misdirection on the part of those who assume to act as guides for the race. And however much excuse there may or may not have been in the past for teaching ignorant dogmas of everlasting heavens and hells, of devils, imps, and lakes of fire and brimstone, of the necessity of accepting any one personal view and damning all who disagree, and so on, such excuse no longer exists. The absolute identity of all great religions as to Source and essential teachings has been proven so plainly by the Teachers of the great Universal Brotherhood Organization that even he who runs may read. The sinner and the teacher of untruths under the self-assumed sanction of the Eternal, are equally in danger, and both will have to repent, and proceed to diligently set up such causes as keep them nearer to the ark of safety.
To understand the process by which the loss of the soul is brought about, it is necessary to re-state, briefly, the theosophic philosophy concerning man's relation to deity, and to nature. This is: that a host of monads or unit-souls differentiate themselves, or are differentiated, by some unknown process, within the great Sea of Being, at cyclic intervals. These unit-souls are colorless, so far as manifested attributes are concerned, and only become individualized by the differing coloring (so to speak) they receive through their experiences in matter. They pass through an immense cycle of time, known in the East as a "manvantara," or "man-bearing period." As above so below; so during this period all these monad-souls are actually "born" into manifested life in a manner analogous to that in which they are born into physical life. But the throes of their birth is a cosmic process, and extends throughout immense cycles of cosmic time.
Few souls among humanity are yet born — strange as the assertion may seem. The tail of the serpent is ever in its mouth, and soul birth is the exact counterpart of physical birth among the lower orders of nature, in that it is brought about by a kind of fission, for emanation, which is the term when applied to the soul, is nothing more nor less than fission when applied to the body. The Universal I, or the Infinite Power to manifest itself as "I" at any point in space or at any period of time (and which Hegel sensed but confused with Jehovah) emanates a definite number (for a cosmic system) of Cosmic I-centers. These may be termed Oversouls, and in turn emanate again a definite (by definite is meant not infinite) number of Individual I-centers, known in Brotherhood technology as our Higher Egos. Each of these again emanates a portion of itself which incarnates in physical bodies until the emanation, which is our personal I, has so profited by its experiences in incarnation that it has become "like unto its Father in Heaven," when the process is complete, and the true MAN is born. Just as the fission in the lower kingdom produces two equally perfect individuals, so does the emanation in the spiritual kingdom produce two perfect men. The philosophy postulates the man, so born, becoming first a Cosmic, and then an Universal I, but this takes us too far afield for our present purpose.
There is no danger of the death of the Higher Ego. And we are our Higher Egos in so far as the process of separation, or birth, is yet far from complete. Between each incarnation we return to the safety and peace of the "bosom of Abraham," the "heaven" of all religions. It is simply the indrawing by the Higher Ego of the "ray," or portion of itself, which is undergoing the process of cosmic birth, and is exactly analogous to the indrawing of that portion of itself which a protozoon has temporarily projected.
Now, our Higher Egos are divine and spiritually pure beings. They can not take into their pure essence that which is coarse, vile and impure. It would be attempting to make fire and water exist together. So that it becomes at once apparent that degrading that portion of the Higher Ego which is incarnating in animal bodies is a most dangerous process. If blinded by matter, and drowned in the illusion of the senses, the soul so incarnated deliberately chooses the evil, life after life, it can so taint and change its originally pure nature that reunion with its source after death becomes an impossibility. Under the mere laws of physics this would be so, how much more, then, must it be the case in the higher realms of motive?
A soul which has by evil acts separated itself from its parent soul prematurely must eventually perish; but this perishing is under the law of cause and effect, takes place in orderly but inexorable sequence, and often occupies a long period of time. The soul has sinned because of, and for, sensual gratification. All its appetites and desires are those of earth-life and its karmic tendencies are towards immediate reincarnation. If it is permitted by the law (parents to whom such a lost soul can justly come are essential) it reappears upon earth as an utterly conscienceless being. Jack-the-Rippers and Jesse Pomeroys are examples of these dreadful beings. Being incapable of setting up any but evil causes, such souls plunge lower and lower at each successive birth, until their last one may be as a gibbering idiot.
If unable to reincarnate, they then haunt the uncanny borderland between physical and astral life, and from them come many of the "messages," and much of the moral depravity which so often overtakes those who seek out and accept them as "angel guides." If the Higher Ego incarnates in a new personality, which is usually, but by no means invariably, the case, then the lost personality of the last life is irresistibly attracted to the new soul, and becomes for it a dreadful "Dweller on the Threshold," seeking to unite itself to and to strengthen all the evil to be found in its victim's lower nature. Such cases mean a long life of active conflict; the exhibition at times of qualities of good, by the most startling relapses into evil, until at length death interposes the peace and safety of rest in the bosom of its "Father in Heaven" for the budding soul, while its evil associate undergoes the "second death" of the inner spheres.
Such are a few glimpses which are permitted at the dark by-ways and no-thoroughfares of life. They reveal to mortals the LAW working in the mysterious "Eighth Sphere," and are intended to fitfully, but sufficiently, illumine the gulfs and abysses which imperil the soul if it wanders from the path of brotherhood and selflessness. They show the necessity for eternal watchfulness and unceasing effort. If eternal life were assured to all souls, we would be but automatons, and truth, brotherhood, and right, but hollow mockeries. Justice would be chimera, and the universe a blacker hell than even Dante painted.
Souls such as we are now can die in the manner, and from the causes, indicated. There is no external influence or authority acting in the matter at all. The soul is its own judge; its own executioner. It is amenable only to the law of cause and effect; but this law is inexorable, and knows no forgiveness nor vicarious atonement. It deals out the exact effect to the cause set up, and the account is cancelled. Evil and Good are eternally opposed; one or the other must conquer. The soul is the battleground; its freedom to choose either evil or good is infinite and awesome. It must know this, and realize what life and evolution mean; it must cease to rely upon shallow philosophies and crude faiths, and look fearlessly into its own divine depths and recognize the GOD within. Then will it "cease to do evil, and learn to do well." Then will it recognize that its body is the dwelling place of God; a Temple, not made with hands, which must be kept pure and holy; out of which the money-changers of vice, sensuousness, ambition, rage, and all kinds of selfishness must be whipped with scourges until they flee its sacred precincts forever.