|The Law of Human Individuality
Liberty According to Law
Harmony or Pandemonium?
Faith in God
A Gospel of Peace
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This is the logical outcome of any system which is based upon the allegation of specific determination by a Divine Autocrat. It cannot be otherwise, and therefore all such systems are destined sooner or later to fall to pieces, because their foundation of so-called "authority" crumbles away under the scrutiny of intelligent investigation. The Divine orderings can only be known by the Divine workings, and the intelligent study of the Divine working is the only criterion which the Bible, rightly understood, anywhere sets up for the recognition of Truth.
All of the Psalms are based entirely on this principle, and the Master claimed their testimony to his mission. He himself spoke of tradition as rendering void the true Law of God; and so far from claiming to introduce any new dispensation, he emphatically declared that his special business was to fulfil the Law — that is, to demonstrate it in all its completeness. If the Law taught by Moses is true, and the Gospel preached by Jesus is true, then they are both true together and are simply statements of the same Truth from different standpoints; and the proofs of their truth will be found in their agreement with one another and with the universal principles of Natural Law which we can learn by the study of ourselves and of our environment.
If the Old and New Testaments are right in saying that the foundation of all other knowledge is that God is ONE, then we may be certain that we are on the wrong track if we think that Divine Truth can be different at one time to what it is at another. We realise the principle of "continuity" throughout physical nature, and if we see that the physical must originate in the spiritual, we cannot deny the extension of "continuity" throughout the entire system; and therefore, if the messages of the Old and New Testaments are both true, we may expect to find the same principle of "continuity" running through both. On investigation this will be found to be the case, and no truer definition can be given of the Gospel than that it is the Law worked out to its logical conclusions.
The Law which the Bible sets forth from first to last is the Law of Human Individuality. The Bible is the spiritual Natural History Book of Man. It begins with his creation by evolution from the kingdoms which had preceded him, and it terminates with his apotheosis. The line is long, but it is straight, and reaches its glorious destination by an orderly sequence of cause and effect. It is the statement of the evolution of the individual as the result of his recognition of the Law by which he came to be a human being at all. When he sees that this happened neither by chance nor by arbitrary command, then, and not till then, will he wake up to the fact that he is what he is by reason of a Law inherent in himself, the action of which he can therefore carry on indefinitely by correctly understanding and cheerfully following it.
Obviously it is not Liberty to allow ourselves to be depressed into such a mental attitude of submission to every form and degree of misery as coming to us "by the will of God" that we at last reach a condition of apathy in which one blow more or less makes very little difference. Such teaching is based on the Devil's beatitude — "Blessed are they that expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed" — but that is not the Gospel of Deliverance which Jesus preached in his first discourse in the synagogue of Nazareth. Jesus' teaching was not the deification of suffering, but the fullness of Joy; and he emphatically declared that all bondage — everything which keeps us from enjoying our life to the full — is the working of that Power of the Negative which the Bible calls the Devil. To give up hope and regard ourselves as the sport of an inexorable fate is not Liberty. It is not obedience to a higher power, but abject submission to a lower — the power of ignorance, unintelligence, and negation.
This is Liberty according to Law, the Law of the All-creating Harmony, in which God's way and our way coincide. The idea of Liberty, without a unifying Harmony as its basis, is inconceivable, for with everyone struggling to get their own way at somebody else's expense, you create a pandemonium, and that is just why there is so much of that element in the world at the present time. But such an inverted idea of liberty is based on the assumption that Man does not possess the power of controlling his conditions by his Thought; in other words, the flat denial of the initial statement of Scripture regarding him that he is made "in the image and likeness of God".
Once grant the creative power of our Thought and there is an end of struggling for our own way, and an end of gaining it at someone else's expense; for, since by the terms of the hypothesis we can create what we like, the simplest way of getting what we want is not to snatch it from somebody else, but to make it for ourselves; and since there is no limit to Thought, there can be no need for straining; and for everyone to have his own way in this manner would be to banish all strife, want, sickness, and sorrow from the earth.
The whole Bible is a commentary on the text, "Man is the image and likeness of God". And it comments on this text sometimes by explaining why, by reason of the ONE-ness of the Spirit, this must necessarily be so; sometimes by incitements to emotional states calculated to call this power into activity; sometimes by precepts warning us against those emotions which would produce its inverse action; sometimes by the example of those who have successfully demonstrated this power, and conversely by examples of those who have perverted it; sometimes by statements of the terrible consequences that must inevitably follow such perversion; and sometimes by glorious promises of the illimitable possibilities residing in this wonderful power if used in the right way; and thus it is that "All Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16).
All this proceeds from the initial assumption with which the Bible starts regarding man, that he is the reproduction in individuality of that which God is in Universality. Start with this assumption, and the whole Bible works out logically. Deny it, and the Book becomes nothing but a mass of inconsistencies and contradictions. The value of the Bible as a storehouse of knowledge and a guide into Life depends entirely on our attitude with regard to its fundamental proposition.
But this proposition contains in itself the Affirmation of our Liberty; and the Gospel preached by Jesus amounts simply to this, that if anyone realises himself as the reproduction, in conscious individuality, of the same principles which the Law of the Old Testament bids us recognise in the Divine Mind, he will thereby enter upon an unlimited inheritance of Life and Liberty. But to do this we must realise the Divine image in ourselves on all lines.
And this is equally the case along the two other lines. To seek development only on the line of Knowledge is to contemplate a store of wealth while remaining ignorant of the one fact which gives it any value: that it is our own; and, in like manner, to cultivate only Love makes our great motive power evaporate in a weak sentimentality which accomplishes nothing, because it does not know how and does not feel able. So here we see the force of the Master's words when he bids us aim at a perfection like that of our "Father" in heaven, a perfection based on the knowledge that all being is threefold in essence and one in expression; and that therefore we can attain Liberty only be recognising this universal Law in ourselves also; and that, accordingly, the Thought that sets us free must be a simultaneous movement along all three lines of our nature.
The Divine Mind may be represented by a large circle and the individual mind by a small one, but that is no reason why the smaller circle should not be as perfect for its own area as the larger; and therefore the initial statement of the Bible that Man is the image of God is the charter of Individual Liberty for each one, provided we realise that this likeness must extend to the whole threefold unity that is ourself, and not to a part only. Our Liberty, therefore, consists in being ourselves in our Wholeness, and this means the conscious exercise of all our powers, whether of our visible or invisible personality. It means being ourselves, not trying to be somebody else.
If someone towers above the crowd, it is because he has grown to that height, and I cannot permanently attain the same elevation by climbing on his shoulders but only by growing to the same height myself. Therefore, the attempt to copy a particular individual, however beautiful his character, is bondage and a relinquishing of our birthright of Selfhood.
What we have to do in studying those lives which we admire is to discover the Universal principles which those persons embodied in their way, and then set to work to embody them in ours. To do this is to realise the Universal I AM manifesting itself in every Individuality; and when we see this, we find that the statement of the Law of Individual Liberty is the declaration that was made to Moses at the burning bush and is the truth that Jesus proclaimed when he said that it was the recognition of the I AM that would set us free from the Law of bondage and death.
In speaking of the I AM as the Principle of Life, neither Jesus nor Moses used the words personally, and Jesus especially avoids any such misconstruction by saying, "If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true" [John 5:31 — Ed.]; in other words, he came to set forth not himself personally, but those great principles common to all mankind, of which he exemplified the full development.
When a little child is first told that God made the world, it accepts the statement without doubting, but immediately and logically follows it up with the question, then who made God? And the unsophisticated mother very often gives the correct answer, God made Himself. There is the whole secret, and when we come down — or rather when we rise — to the level of these souls whose pure intuitions have not been warped by arguments drawn only from the outside of things, we see that the principle of continual self-creation into all varieties of individuality affords the true clue to all that we are and to all that is around us; and when we see this, the teaching regarding the I AM in ourselves becomes clear, logical, and simple.
Then we understand that the Law of our Whole Being — that which is Cause as well as Effect — is the reproduction in Individuality of the same Power which makes the worlds; and when this is understood in its Wholeness, we see that this principle cannot, as manifested in us, be in opposition to its manifestation of itself in other forms. The Whole must be homogeneous; that which is homogeneous cannot act in opposition to itself; and consequently this homogeneous principle, which underlies all individuality and is the I AM in each, can never act contrary to the Law of Life. Therefore, to know ourselves as the concentration of this principle into a focus of self-recognition is to be at one with the Life-Principle which is in all worlds and under all forms.
But the reader who is still within the trammels of the traditional exegesis will probably say, if this be so, what is meant by such texts as that contained in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, "He was wounded for our transgressions", etc.? and the answer is that the personality here spoken of is still the same typical man — the Divine Son — who is described by Isaiah as "the Wonderful Child", only seen from another point of view. This is the description of him in his prenatal stage, that is, before his manifestation as the Son whose name is Wonderful, Counsellor, etc.
If the Spirit in us is the very Impersonation [i.e. individualised in a person; no suggestion of fraud is intended! — Ed.] of the Law of Life, what woundings, what bruisings it must suffer in the course of educating the lower principles into self-recognition and spontaneous compliance with the true Law of the Individuality in its Wholeness!
Then we see that it is only by the infinite persistence of the Spirit in its struggle towards perfecting the vehicles of its Self-expression that the Individuality in all its completeness can ever be brought to maturity and the crown set to the work of Evolution which commenced far back in the dim unfathomable past. We realise St Paul's meaning in saying that the Spirit groans with unutterable groanings, for it is that principle which St John tells us cannot sin (1 John 3:9 and 5:18), that is, cannot act contrary to the true Law of Being; and thus a peculiar emphasis is set on the injunctions "Grieve not the Spirit" [Eph. 4:30 — Ed.], "Quench not the Spirit" [1 Thess. 5:19 — Ed.], for the Individualised Spirit is the intensely Living Centre of ourselves — the I AM that I Myself AM in every one of us.
By the buffeting of experience, the lower personality is being continually driven to inquire more and more into the reason of its sufferings, and as it grows in intelligence, it sees that they always result from some wilful or ignorant infraction of the Law of Things-as-they-are, as distinguished from Things-as-they-look; and so by degrees the lower personality grows into union with the higher personality, which itself is the Law of Things-as-they-are become Personal, until at last the two are found to be ONE, and the Perfected Man stands forth Whole.
This is the process to which the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews refers when he says that "though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered" [Heb. 5:8 — Ed.], thus indicating a course of education which can only apply to a personality whose evolution is not yet completed. But by these sufferings of the lower personality the salvation of the entire individuality is at length accomplished for, being thus led to study the Law of the Whole, the lower or simply intellectual mentality at last discovers its relation to the Intuitive and Creative Principle and realises that nothing short of harmonious union of the two makes a Complete Man. Until this recognition takes place, the real meaning of suffering is not understood.
To talk about "the Mystery of Pain" is like talking of the mystery of broken glass if we throw a stone at a window — it is of our own making. We attribute our sufferings to "the will of God" simply because we can think of nothing else to attribute them to, being ignorant alike of ourselves as centres of causation and of God as the Universal Life-Principle, which cannot will evil against anyone. So long as we are at this stage of intelligence, we esteem the lower personality (the only self we yet know) to be "stricken and smitten of God" — we put it all down to God's account — while all the time the cause of our wounding and bruising was not the will of God, but our own transgressions and iniquities; transgression: the infraction of the Law of causation; and iniquity: unequalness, or the want of even balance between all portions of our Individuality, without which the liberating recognition of our own I AM-ness can never take place.
This reading of this wonderful chapter [Is. 53 — Ed.] takes it out of the region of merely speculative theology and brings it into a region where we can understand its statements as links in a chain of cause and effect connecting the promised redemption with facts that we know, and starting from causes whose working is obvious to us.
This reading in no way detracts from the value of this passage as a prophecy of the great work of the Master, for it is a generic description applicable to each, in his degree, who in any way labours or suffers for the good of others; and the description is therefore supremely applicable to Jesus, in whom that perfect Individualisation of the Divine of which we speak was fully accomplished.
As this comes to be understood, co-operation will take the place of competition with the result of removing all ground of enmity, whether between individuals, classes, or nations; and thus the continual recognition of the Divine or "highest" principles in ourselves brings "peace on earth and good-will among men" naturally in its train, and it is for this reason that the Bible everywhere couples the reign of peace on earth with the Knowledge of God.
The whole object of the Bible is to teach us to be ourselves and yet more ourselves. It does not trouble itself with political or social questions, or even with those of religious organisation, but it goes to the root of all, which is the Individual. First set people right individually, and they will naturally set themselves right collectively. It is only by applying to mankind the old proverb "take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves"; and therefore the Bible deals only with the two extremes of the scale, the Universal Mind and the Individual Mind. Let the relation between these two be clearly understood, and all other relations will settle themselves on lines which, however varied in form, will always be characterised by individual Liberty working to the expression of perfect social harmony.