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CHAPTER VIII

 

            WHILE Orthodoxy, recognising only the sacerdotal aspect of the Bible, posits substitution as the means of salvation and eternal punishment as the alternative, thereby making man immortal under all circumstances, it is a commonplace of Agnosticism to say that the Old Testament does not recognise immortality at all. Neither of these views accords with the esoteric sense of the Bible. For in this sense it teaches immortality throughout, and posits as the means of salvation regeneration as occurring through orderly evolution. For (1) the warning against eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge “lest ye die” – a warning which, by the nature of things, must have been addressed, not to the man physical, but to the man spiritual, since the former would die in any case – implies immortality by the very fact of contemplating the possibility of its forfeiture. And (2) the sentence pronounced on the serpent, “I will put enmities between thee and the woman” – that is, the soul – “and between thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel” (as the Douay version renders the passage), is a declaration at once of the permanence of the soul – provided the possible forfeiture is not incurred – and of her power, by means of evolution, to escape the trammels of the sense-nature – implied by the serpent – and by regaining her proper purity to produce her proper divine offspring. Herein the Bible recognises these several doctrines: (1) The permanence of the ego; (2) the divinity of inherency; (3) evolution as the manifestation of that inherency; (4) regeneration as the crowning stage of evolution and the means of salvation; and (5) re-incarnation, or a multiplicity of earth-lives, as indispensable to regeneration by affording the opportunities requisite for the accomplishment of the process. The reason of this last is that regeneration is from out of the body, and must, therefore, at least to a certain advanced stage, be accomplished while in the body; and also that it does not even commence until many earth-lives have been lived. For it

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consists in the elaboration of a spiritual and substantial selfhood out of elements which, though not matter, are contained in matter, and during association with matter, in such wise as to constitute that involutional because spiritual evolution which is the sequel and crown of the outward and physical evolution, and requires for its accomplishment a period far exceeding that of any single earth-life.

            All this is involved in the declaration of Jesus to Nicodemus, “Ye must be born again,” even as I, the typical man regenerate, am said to have been born again, “of water and of the spirit,” which – though personified as Virgin Mary and Holy Ghost, because pure and divine, – are none the less man’s own soul and spirit: restored to their original condition. From which it follows that, were not the course of nature such as to afford the opportunities requisite for accomplishing the process, both the promise to Eve and the declaration to Nicodemus would have been a mockery. And, moreover, as one who had himself been “perfected through suffering” – through the experiences, this is, endured over a long course of previous existences – in such degree as to be far advanced on the path at the very commencement of his last life, Jesus was himself a demonstration of the doctrine in question, and able to speak from his own experience, since the ability to recollect its past existences is at once the token and result of the soul’s maturity. But, even so, that only is recalled which has been of such nature and intensity as to reach beyond the body to the soul, and thus become a part and perpetual possession of the soul. Hence, the fallacy of pleading the non-recollection of external facts in disproof of the doctrine. Jesus was in a position to say, with the writer of the Book of Wisdom, “Being good, I came into a body undefiled,” his goodness being the result of the lessons learnt in previous lives.

            Read percipiently, then, the Bible is constructed wholly upon the basis of the capacity of the ego to persist through all changes of form and condition, returning again and again into the body in order to acquire the strength and knowledge requisite to enable

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it to overcome, and to dispense with the need of, the body. It is true that the doctrine, once called, of Transmigration, and now of Re-incarnation, is implied rather than expressed in the Gospels. But it is there; and without it no manifestation of the Christ had been possible. The absence of explicit inculcation is readily accounted for. The Christ state is the product and result of a multiplicity of earth-lives; and there is no more birth or death for those who have attained that state. The purpose of the Gospels was to exhibit the man already so far regenerate as to have passed beyond the need of return on his own account. That he recognised the doctrine is shown by his allowing his disciples to hold it uncontradicted when questioned by them concerning the past lives of the blind man. Of course “this man” had not sinned in a previous existence, for the man part has but one existence, the external personality being renewed at each birth; that alone whose sin in a previous life could have entailed suffering in the present, was the soul of the man. And that Jesus was silent concerning this was due to the secrecy he was bound to observe respecting the affairs of other souls, and especially in regard to one who was in the position to him of a penitent to his confessor.

            The recognition of John the Baptist as a possible re-incarnation of Elijah is another indication of the presence of this doctrine in the Bible. Of course, John could at most have been overshadowed and spoken through by the spirit or “angel” of Elijah. For, as one who had undergone transmutation, Elijah was a man regenerate, while John was not yet “in the kingdom.” Though the “greatest among those born of women” – of human generation, that is – John was not yet re-born of “the woman” or soul, and not yet regenerate; and with the withdrawal of the overshadowing influence he lost his percipience and fell into scepticism. (1)

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            It is not alone for its moral and intellectual training that the soul requires such repeated and prolonged association with matter, but also for its substantial increase. This is because the soul grows by accretion, and life is the elaboration of soul through the varied transformations of matter. The soul must, therefore – unless it is to remain feeble, stunted, and dwarfed – return again and again to the body, both as an infant to its mother for sustenance and as a child to its school for education and discipline. For every soul must be perfected through its own suffering of experiences felt and applied; and this over whatever long range of existences may be needful for the purpose. It is a stupendous ladder that has to be climbed, to reach from rudimentary being to the full stature of the perfect humanity; and to take away his suffering would be to deprive man of his means of redemption and perfectionment. And this is precisely what Orthodoxy does when it makes salvation consist in exemption, not from the liability to sin, but from the consequences of sin. That he who becomes a Christ is already so far advanced on the road to full regeneration as to be able to complete the process in a single further lifetime is because, first, of the great number of his earth-lives, and, next, of the use he has made of them. The end in view is the conquest over materiality; and it is not by light from the body or the death of the body, but by struggle with the body and the death to the body, that strength and victory are gained (1). Moreover, the body is even more the result than the cause of the soul’s materiality. Its enemy is within, and no mere change of environment

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will enable him to be got rid of. “A man’s foes” – those which alone can harm the soul – “are of his own household.” The body is overcome, and can be dispensed with by the soul, only when the tendencies which brought it into the body are eradicated. The individual is not the result of his conditions; his conditions are the result of himself – the outer of the inner. To put a pig into a palace is not to make him a prince, but to make the palace a pigsty. The soul must learn to make of the body a palace, or rather a temple, before it is fitted for its heavenly state. For, as it is written in the Scriptures from which Scripture itself was written: –

            “Within thee, O man, is the universe; the thrones of all the Gods are in thy temple.

            “I have said unto men, ye are Gods; ye are all in the image of the Most High.

            “No man can know God unless he first understand himself.

            “God is nothing that man is not. What man is, that God is likewise.

            “As God is at the heart of the outer world, so also is God at the heart of the world within thee.

            “When the God within thee shall be wholly united to the God without, then shalt thou be one with the Most High.

            “Thy will shall be God’s will, and the Son shall be as the Father ...

            “But if thou wilt not, then a stronger than thou art shall bind thee, and spoil thine house and thy goods.

            “An uncleanly temple shalt thou be; the hold of all manner of strife and evil beasts.

            “For a man’s foes are of his own household.

            “But scourge thou thence the money-changers and the merchants, lest the house of thy prayer become unto thee a den of thieves.’’

 

NOTES

 

(39:1) So far from this method of describing the parentage of the man regenerate being confined to the Bible, it was always and everywhere the technical, mystical mode of expression. Every divinised man was said to be God-begotten and virgin-born, and to have for mother a king’s daughter; the last being the title given to the soul in virtue of her derivation from the higher mind, which is always “king” in the human system, while the off-spring of this mystic conjunction was termed “twice-born” and “Son of God.” Initiates were, of course, aware that it was the man spiritual only that was thus describable; but the multitude and the mere priest, then as now, supposed it to be the man physical. In the mysteries he only is accounted as really born who is regenerate or “twice-born”; the first birth being that of the man phenomenal only, while the second is that of the man substantial. – E.M.

(40:1) The Book of Job and the Odyssey of Homer are, like the “history” of Israel, parables of the soul’s experiences, trials, and ordeals on the same behalf. – E.M.

 

 

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