What is the Law? Plutarch says it is "The King of mortal and immortal beings." Do we require proof that everything is under the dominion of the Law; that there must be a great all-embracing something ever present, ever active, which is the superintendent, the controller, the governor, of everything that happens or can possibly happen in the Universe? Look upwards at night to the starry hosts, contemplate the vastness of the empyrean depths, return again to this speck of dust we call our earth, and, viewing the endless processions of order which comprise the whole of nature around us, then ask! Is not every instant full of the proof of Law triumphant, from the lowest of the kingdoms of nature to the highest, not only in this world and planetary system but also throughout all the unthinkably vast realms beyond us? And that which is the source of all action, all motion — that Supreme regnant principle, is unseen, its workings are silent, sure, relentless, impersonal, beneficent. It we call the Law.
All nature acts in accord with the Law, or that aspect or function of the Law which is in relation to it. If, then, every thing, every atom of the universe is always subject to the Law, acting under its governance, how does it come about that a hiatus seems to exist, a break in the great chain appear, when we come to a consideration of the human race? Here, so far as actions are concerned, many things seem to be at cross purposes, disorganization seems to reign, everything seems lawless and going on at haphazard? And yet it is manifestly unthinkable that one section of nature should be outside of the Law. "Come, let us reason together" and endeavor to find a satisfactory solution to this seeming problem.
In the stupendous journey through all states of existence prior to the human plane, all things are cared for, governed, guided in their every action; the Law acts for them, or rather impels them to act in accord with its behests. But reaching the human stage a great gulf is passed, an upward leap is made in the scale of consciousness, and the "Eternal Pilgrim" is hidden with many veils; it is concealed, imprisoned within the personal being whose lower mind imagines it is left to itself to grope and struggle and stumble on of itself. It thinks itself to be free to act as it may choose, though in the greater things it realizes that it is still subject to the rigid arm of the Law. Hunger, fatigue, sleep, physical functions, decay of the body, and death are beyond its control; and yet apart from these there is a freedom which the human being has, and which each human being is bound to use, through many many lives. For once the human condition, or the point of self-consciousness, is reached in the vast cycle of evolution, each being feels and knows that he is bound to weigh, consider, decide, act, from his own free-will. He knows he is free (though as yet in the dim twilight) he knows he can create his every step, can act as he wills, can carve his own pathway, and fashion his own destiny. It appears to him he is not under Law but apart from it. Herein is the paradox, and the truth is in the paradox.
For the reasoning mind is not the Soul. It sees but a distorted presentment while the Soul knows the reality. The lower mind, the personal being, cannot discern the reality because of the numerous evils overshadowing the Soul. The Great Law gives the personal self this semblance of freedom that by slow and painful degrees it may learn to find out more and more of the Law, through its errors, its pain and suffering, its falls, that eventually it may rise into the full light of wisdom (or knowledge of the Law) and be at one with the Soul, having pierced the clouds so that the Soul may shine forth in glorious radiance.
In man's present condition — the personal being imagining itself to be the real man, the actor — it is impossible for the whole light of the Law to illumine him, it is impossible for him to grasp the whole of Truth; he can but get partial glimpses, and appropriate for his use but small fragments. All statements of Law are but small rays from the Great Law which governs the whole universe. Swedenborg says, "If truths should be proposed nakedly from their Divine origin they would never be received, but would exceed the whole of a man's power of apprehension." Yet each man is always able to know sufficient of the Truth — the Law — for his present needs. He has constantly with him "the light shining in the heart" — the Conscience, that unerring guide and infallible director, and no one acting according to the directions of this interior monitor can go wrong, for it is the voice of the Soul. But no two consciences are precisely the same, for no two human beings are at exactly the same point in their great journey, nor do they hear the still small voice in exactly the same way. The quality, the character, the clearness of this voice of the soul is apprehended only in the degree to which the person has progressed.
Law appears to the human being in his early stages as a menacing power, as a great arm always held above him ready to destroy him. In fact this feeling exists for ages, and persists in accompanying him a long distance on the path of evolution. Even having reached the stage of development symbolized by the Israelites of old, the Law (the Lord) is still regarded as a jealous God, exacting and revengeful, to be feared and propitiated. Primitive races somewhat in the same way fear natural phenomena, expressions of law in the physical world. But as ages roll on mankind learns of the benefits to be derived from these forces produced by the Law's actions, and the scientist begins to utilize the forces and guide the powers to his own behests. The further stage has yet to be attained when the Law, as a grand whole, will be actually realized as That in which "we live and move and have our being" — by which we are surrounded, guarded, guided, impelled, nay, that of which we ourselves are a part. For if we could but only comprehend it, we are part and parcel of the Law.
Nations always have declined just in proportion as they failed to rise to an appreciation of the spirit of the Law. The decline takes place gradually by their becoming more materialistic, more literal, more selfish in their interpretation, not only of the Great Law, but of their own ordinances or statements of law framed primarily for the governance and direction, the well-being and the protection of the many against personal encroachments. In other words the retardment begins as they fail to allow the divine light of the Soul to shine forth and enlighten their whole being. They are prolonging the Soul's bondage, they are covering it with garments of their own personal fashioning, and thickening the covers round about it; so that, like the Pharisees, though they may still appear to do the Law, it is but an outer seeming, and the spirit languishes or is well-nigh quenched. This sorrowful drama has been enacted time and again in the history of the nations and of civilizations, witness India, Egypt, Greece and Rome.
To keep the letter of the law is a necessary preliminary step, that even the outer action may help in the great work of aiding the individual to an appreciation of the meaning behind the mere letter. For this (as an ulterior reason) was why the Mosaic laws were laid down with such exactness, and it was because of the symbolic meaning of the outer observance that such severe penalties were claimed for every breach. Moreover the Jews were told "the Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the Soul."
We have, then, to find out the Law within ourselves, to try and get back to that point where all order, all truth, all beauty, reign, and where all is harmony. It is our inestimable privilege to have had these things pointed out to us, and to have learned that beauty and truth, and love and order, and harmony and righteousness, aye and eternal happiness are The Law, and we can prove for ourselves in all our actions that the more we place ourselves in the stream of the Law the more shall we become its living expressions. We know that only by curbing the desires of the lower mind, by stilling the clamorings of the personal self, by allying ourselves with the great silent and unseen Law, and acting without selfish consideration shall we attain to bliss. And it is in the silence that wisdom is gained, in the silence we are uplifted. "Be still, and know that I am God!" Then indeed the Law can no longer be feared as a Sword of Damocles suspended over us, ever ready to execute vengeance, but is re-cognized by the Soul as being in itself the genesis of beneficence, of love, of harmony; and to dwell in this knowledge is to rest in supremest content that the Law worketh for the good of all and that Life is Joy ineffable.