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CHAPTER II

 

THE PREPARATION

 

            THE facts I have to describe occurred under the closest observation of persons well qualified by intelligence, education, and mental habit to exercise over them the most rigid scrutiny. Of these several, including myself, had been long accustomed to severe intellectual training in various fields of philosophical inquiry, and were, moreover, previous to their occurrence, wholly sceptical as to their possibility, and only yielded assent when a continuance of doubt would have been no longer compatible with a claim to rationality.

 

            Appertaining as must phenomena of the kind referred to in this book, if possible at all, to those higher or inner regions of our nature with which it is the lot of comparatively few persons to become acquainted, and the very existence of which is ignored or denied by modern science, it may fairly be surmised that they are in the highest degree unlikely to occur, save to those who by constitution or habit have previously been in some special way fitted for their manifestation. For

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this reason, and also because the relation I have to make must for the general reader depend for its value upon the tone, character, standpoint, and previous history at least of the narrator and principal witnesses, it becomes necessary that I should depart from the reserve most agreeable to myself – so far at least as may be requisite for the removal of any antecedent moral improbability – and give my narrative a more or less autobiographical character. And, indeed, properly considered, to no little extent does my own previous history belong immediately to the facts; seeing that although the final and crowning experiences came upon me wholly unexpectedly, yet on looking back and reviewing all the circumstances, I can plainly perceive that I had long, though unwittingly, been undergoing exactly such a course of preparation as, according to the testimony of all ages, was most consistent with the actual result. For the phenomena in question belong to that region of our nature which, while it is neither the physical, the moral, nor the intellectual, was yet the region to the special cultivation of which the whole course of my life, intellectual, moral, and physical, had persistently tended, – though, as I have said, unwittingly to myself. For my course of life had, as I can now perceive, been precisely such as is calculated to minister to the development of that region of our nature in

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which alone man can become cognisant of phenomena such as those in question – namely, the spiritual consciousness. The fact that I had followed such mode as being in itself the best discernible by me, in that it constituted for me the truest culture of that perfection the aspiration towards which has ever seemed to me alone worthy of man’s best energies, and without any expectation of a result of the kind ultimately attained, seems to have been regarded as the reverse of a reason for withholding the return by which I was finally rewarded.

 

            The preparation of which I speak consisted in the steadfast encouragement of the desire – which I believe to have been innate, so far back beyond memory was its origin – to accept for my life’s devotion only the highest and most useful work discernible by me, and to do such work in. the most perfect manner possible to me.

 

            The cultivation and realisation of an ideal perfection had always seemed to me to be alone worth living for. How long it took me to discover that such an end meant the cultivation of goodness as well as of truth and beauty; how long to learn that the highest and most artistic work must be the genuine outcome of the artist’s own life and character, and that the only perfection a man can place before the world is that which he has himself attained in some region of

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his own nature; and how near to or over the brink of, what precipices the pursuit led, it needs not here to recount. It is enough to say that thus seeking the highest perfection in idea as the object of realisation in fact, and in the search learning to ascribe man’s great and manifold shortcomings to his ignorance of his own nature and destiny, I at length found myself wholly devoted to an investigation into the significance of the various modes in which the world’s religious consciousness has found expression, and the nature and meaning of existence itself. To believe in perfection at all involved the belief in the existence of a solution of all the problems from the failure to comprehend which the world’s evils arise; while my devotion to the pursuit of such a solution involved the further belief, both that it was not beyond the reach of the human mind, and that its discovery would afford man precisely that which he needed to enable him to pursue his development toward the perfection of which he is capable, but which so few seek. It was this end alone that animated all I wrote, or felt capable of writing. No other was able to present itself with sufficient attractiveness to stimulate to exertion. Whether, under the guise of fiction or essay, whatever the direction followed, it was always my endeavour to probe the consciousness to its depths in the hope of finding some

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ultimate basis of belief and practice. No form was sacred to me, no letter infallible, that concealed from me the underlying spirit of which I was in search, and which I was instinctively persuaded was there, was good, was discoverable; and the discovery of which was indispensable to the fulfilment of the end of existence. Though I knew it not at the time, I have since learnt that every successive writing that came from me was a faithful record of a step in my own spiritual history. And the key to my whole thought and work was my instinctive conviction, that the existence of which we are parts is as a whole absolutely perfect, and would so appear to us could we only see it aright; and that there is no reason inherent in the nature of things why the parts should not also in their degree be perfect. To say that in no existing system of religion did I find any satisfactory presentation of what I felt to be true in this respect, is only to say that all existing religions seemed to me to fail alike to present an adequate conception of the perfection of existence, whether as whole or part, as God or Nature.

 

            It was only within the last three or four years that I had come to make such progress in my inquiry into the world’s religious history as allowed me to entertain any very high anticipation of success. I then found the facts, of which I had made a vast collection, becoming so increasingly

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luminous and harmonious, as irresistibly to suggest the notion that some intelligence other than mine was concerning itself in their exposition. To such an extraordinary extent in the latter part of this period did my accessibility to ideas become developed, that I constantly seemed to myself to be leaping, as it were, several bars at once of the ladder I was climbing, and reaching one far in advance of any legitimately within reach, and without my being conscious of the means whereby the interval had been bridged. Sometimes the achievement was so palpably independent of my own powers, that although I had not the smallest belief in the existence of any personal source of suggestion, I could scarcely refrain, at each new and startling disclosure, from looking up from my work and audibly expressing my thanks as to some actual though invisible informant.

 

            During the last year, 1876, I especially observed that precisely in the degree in which I succeeded in approximating my mode of life and tone of feeling to the standard I had set before myself as the best, so did my accessibility to ideas increase, and my progress in my work become assured. It so happened that the period in question was in all outward respects one of the most critical and harassing through which, in the course of a singularly chequered life, it has

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been my lot to pass. All those ambitions and acquisitions, which are ordinarily accounted as indispensable to the enjoyment of life, seemed to be trembling in the balance and on the point of passing away. Nevertheless, in proportion as the prospect outwardly became darker and more intolerable, the prospect inwardly became brighter and more satisfactory. It was as if I were being subjected to a contest between two sets of influences which were seeking to draw me in opposite directions, in order to determine to which side I really belonged. And I was distinctly conscious of finding myself supported through the crisis by the reflection that possibly, so far from being really a hindrance, the ordeal might prove to be the means of educating and fitting me for the work on which I was engaged. I was beginning to learn that the real question involved in the religious history alike of the race and of the individual, was that of the nature and place of the true Self. And as the period of anxiety in question approached its climax, the more complete my acquiescence in whatever fate might be in reserve for me, the stronger became also my impression that the achievement of my task in respect to the race was conditional on its prior accomplishment in respect to myself. Hitherto I had been under the belief that I could solve the mystery of the world’s religious history by a process that was

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intellectual only. But I was now ascertaining that the failure of all who had preceded me in the same attempt was due to their sharing this very belief, and that they had missed the goal of which they were in pursuit through their ignorance of the existence and nature of the region in which, as I was now learning, that goal really lay. The attempts made by every one of my predecessors in the study of comparative theology, or mythology, as they mostly called it, had one and all failed, for precisely the cause that I was now discovering. They sought in the outward and sensible for that which was interior and spiritual. Denying the reality of the ideal world, and seeking to gauge the higher phenomena of existence with faculties belonging to the lower only, and this even while disbelieving in the reality of that which they were engaged in exploring, they were in the position of dwellers on the outskirts of the solar system seeking to ascertain the nature of the sun with implements merely planetary, and even while holding the sun to be an illusion. They attempted to work a problem in the higher mathematics with formulas belonging to the rudimentary arithmetic. They sought to explain phenomena without any knowledge of or belief in that whereof the phenomena were but the sensible expression. For them the concrete and derived was the self-existent, and

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the abstract and substantial was the non-existent, and but a figment of the fancy. Arrested by the outward and the seeming, they had failed to reach the inward and being. Such was the history of every previous attempt to solve the problem of the world’s religions. The lesson that others had failed to learn, and their failure to learn which had insured the failure of their whole enterprise, was the lesson which circumstances were now combining to teach me. It was exactly in proportion as I became detached from that outward and apparent self which is to the individual man what the planet is to the system, that I found myself approximating to that true and central self which is to the individual man what the sun is to the system. To find this self for myself was to find it for all persons and all periods. The endeavour to ascertain the nature of the religious consciousness generally and of its modes of expression, in the absence on the part of its students of any development of their own religious consciousness individually, was not more likely to be crowned with success than would be the endeavour to solve any intellectual problem without any development of the intellectual faculties. As well might mere body hope of itself to comprehend the nature and phenomena of mind, as for mere intellect to comprehend those of spirit. It was only after a long

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and arduous course of exploration, historical and psychological, external and internal, accompanied by much personal training in the habit of self-suppression and correction, that I discovered what proved to be the key to all I was seeking. This was the demonstration of the facts that the region of the religious consciousness has an existence at once real and distinct from every other part of our nature; that the development of that consciousness finds its climax alike for all in the ascertainment of the true place and nature of the essential Self; and also that this self is the same at once for the part and for the whole of Existence.

 

            My increased accessibility to ideas, and consequent enhanced capacity for entering into relations with the region whence they have their derivation, had been coincident with a certain change in my mode of life to which it is necessary to advert. It was in the pursuit of what I deemed to be the more perfect way, that I had been led to give special attention to the question of diet. I had never been fully content with the prevailing mode of sustaining our organisms. It had struck me as inconsistent with the perfection conceivable as possible, that man, the highest product of the visible world, should be so constituted as to be able to sustain himself only by doing violence, not only to his sensitive fellow-creatures, but to his own higher feelings. Such

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a practice, if necessary, seemed to be in a measure a justification of that atheistic system of thought which regards nature itself as but a first habit, and devoid of any permanent and inherent standard of perfection. Hence the discovery, made, as at length it was, by a careful study of the history and physiology of the subject, under the guidance of one who is destined to bear no small part in this narrative – that so far from our belonging to the carnivorous species, our proper food is grain and fruit, and that the best lives and highest work have ever been those of abstainers from a flesh diet – opened to me a delightful view of the perfection possible to our race. And it was no small enhancement of my satisfaction to reflect that, in repudiating the doctrine of salvation for the body by the suffering and death of another, I was making a further protest against the corresponding doctrine of salvation for the soul by means of vicarious atonement. For one of my original instinctive convictions – namely, that this doctrine is no other than a direct blasphemy against the perfection of the divine character, and the most prolific source of the world’s evils – had received the fullest confirmation from all that I had discovered respecting the world’s religions. It is mainly to the increased sensibility of my mental surfaces, through the elimination from my system

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of all unsuitable substances, that I ascribe the increased accessibility to ideas of which I have spoken. And all my experience goes to show that it is not to any original or unavoidable defect of material or structure, but to the coarseness and unsuitability of the food on which we are in the habit of sustaining our organisms, that our general insensibility to the finer influences which pervade the universe – and by the operation of which alone man becomes redeemable from exclusive engrossment by the lower planes of his nature – is ascribable. It is, I am confident, because our sympathetic faculties are so dulled and narrowed through our cruel and unnatural mode of sustaining ourselves, that we have lost that sense of oneness both with the whole of which we are parts, and with our fellow-parts of the same whole, in the due recognition and culture of which religion and morality respectively consist. We are accustomed to over-materialise ourselves to such a degree as to lose all cognisance of the immaterial and essential part of us.

 

            As I proceeded, it became more and more manifest that my work was in some mysterious way identified with myself. Each step in my own progress was a step in it; and each step in it was a corresponding step for myself. Every successive withdrawal of the outer coverings of the central truth of which I was in search, was

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accompanied by a like withdrawal of something that had hitherto served to conceal me from myself. Together we were reaching the bed-rock of truth; together we were being built up into the superstructure. I was bent on penetrating the inmost recesses of the human consciousness in search of its fundamental and central fact; and I had started from the outermost sphere of that consciousness – from the consciousness, that is, of my own physical existence. Nevertheless, so far from receding from myself as I quitted my original standpoint, I found myself getting ever nearer and nearer to what I recognised more and more as my own true and permanent self the nearer I approached the object of my search. I seemed to be travelling from the earth to the sun. Yet, so far from losing myself or my footing, I obtained as I advanced a firmer hold on, and appreciation of, both; until at length it became evident that my approach to the sun was but an approach to my own true primary centre and self, whence the outer, secondary, derived, and apparent self and centre could be discerned as but a planet revolving in a distant orbit. The centre reached, the true ego of my system disclosed itself as subsisting independently of the exterior organism.

 

            The explanation of this phenomenon proved the solution of the problem to which I had devoted myself, even the key to man’s religious

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history. The quest on which I was really engaged; the end for which so many religions had existed; the object of the profoundest hopes and desires of those countless millions of the human race who had felt the strivings of the spiritual consciousness; and the means whereby the manifold Saviours of mankind had achieved salvation for their kind, – all had reference to one and the same fact, all meant one and the same thing. And it had been simply because I had been working genuinely, with heart as well as with head, adding to knowledge sympathy, and with total subordination of my own will, habit, preference, and interests to whatever might seem to me to be true and right – in a word, because I had, so far as it was in me, striven to be loyal to my ideal of Perfection – that I had been enabled to ascertain what that was. The world’s religions were, like the world’s languages, the outcome of one and the same instinct, and were therefore essentially one and identical, however they might differ phenomenally. The religious consciousness was no other than man’s recognition of the spiritual nature of that which constitutes his true self, and of the identity of that self with the substance of the whole of which he is a part – namely, with God. And the religions in which his spiritual consciousness had found expression were products of his desire for a demonstration of the fact of that identity, and for the

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assurance that the whole reciprocated the sentiment of the part. For it was felt to be necessary to “salvation,” not merely that man should be conscious of his substantial identity with God, but that God also should on his part manifest the same consciousness. While all religions were thus egoistic, in that they made the individual self their starting-point, they were also pantheistic, in that they regarded God as that self, its parent substance and true centre. It was thus that I found that my quest was really for the nature and place of the true self and centre at once of the part and the whole, of the individual and universal, of myself and God. And it was because in seeking for the source and nature of the religious consciousness of mankind, I had not declined to submit my own consciousness to the process, that my work had assumed the personal character of which I have spoken. All the ancient religions, I had found, were, while regarding personality as an element of existence, essentially pantheistic. All had made assurance of salvation dependent upon the joint recognition by God and man of their substantial identity. And all sought, by means of the subordination of the outer and sensible self of the body, and exaltation of the inner and permanent self of the soul, to arrive at a positive demonstration of that identity. All these religions, moreover, contained, either actually or

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potentially, the knowledge of the process whereby God and man in turn become, or manifest that they are, each other. For the system of thought known to Christians under the term “Christ,” was, I had found, identical in kind with that which already existed in the Hindoo, Egyptian, Zoroastrian, Hellenic, Hebrew, and other systems. And, indeed, it had only been by my first ascertaining the true character of the esoteric doctrines of the religions antecedent and exterior to Hebraism and Christianity, that I had been able to reach the central idea of which “Christ” was the fullest expression. In each nation had been planted a germ of the tree of true religious knowledge; and it had depended upon the mode in which the plant had been cultivated how far it attained its true and full development. In Hebraism and Christianity was the culture carried to the highest perfection. Elsewhere, after attaining a certain growth, it fell away and decayed without having reached its full stature. In “Christ” alone it was perfect. But even then the world was not ripe for its full comprehension. And the idea comprised in “Christ” was subjected to the arrest and distortion which have left its full realisation by the world for attainment at a time which is still in the future. It is not enough, I found, that the human consciousness attain its full development in a single people or

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individual only; is has yet to be attained in the race. To attain its due perfection humanity must recognise its essential oneness with God, and must moreover receive assurance that God also recognises his essential oneness with humanity. But to this end it is indispensable that humanity learn the truth respecting the nature of that existence of which itself and God are to each other as part and whole; and that religion, science, and philosophy be recognised as being what they really are – namely, one, in that they all are concerned with the nature and culture of the common existence.

 

            It was the discovery of a correspondence between the development of the consciousness of man, both as race and as individual, that more immediately qualified me for the solution given in England and Islam of the problem of the present crisis. The insight that had been given me is there applied to the disclosure of the scheme of the world’s past, present, and future.

 

            The one universal object of aspiration and worship, whether for individual or for race, is, I had discovered, Existence. But, as I had also discovered, it depends, both for individual and for race, upon the stage of development of the consciousness in what Existence is held essentially to consist. The course of that development comprises many stages, but it is always in the

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same direction – namely, from the recognition of the outward, natural, and sensible to that of the inward, spiritual, and real, as the constituent of the true self. Progress consists in rising from the recognition of the physical, to that of the spiritual life. It was, therefore, no arbitrary rule that dictated the divisions of religious doctrine and practice into esoteric and exoteric, the inner and the outer, formerly any more than now. The souls of the individual and the universal are ever seeking mutual recognition. But while the universal soul is constant in its divine and absolute plenitude, it depends on the degree of its development in the individual how far or under what mode or grade it is cognisable by the individual. The man living wholly in sense, and recognising the physical life as the sole or chief good, adores the universal existence under those aspects in which it ministers to him physically. Thus in all ages have the Sun and Sex, as the agents of physical existence, been the prime objects of worship. As the consciousness unfolds, and man passes through the intellectual and moral into the spiritual part of his nature, he learns to recognise in the existence shared by him, elements transcending the merely physical. Only when he has attained the full development of his spiritual consciousness, and by his satisfaction therein has learnt that he has reached not only his own true self and centre, but

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the true self and centre of existence itself, does life and its material agents to the category of the phenomenal and transient, and make the supreme object of his culture the spiritual life, together with its source, the spiritual Sun and Soul of all, whose power, wisdom, and love he formerly adored under their material symbols of light and heat, and the attributes of Sex, though he did so unconsciously, through mistaking the symbol for the substance, “Nature” for God.

 

            All religious history, whether of the race or of the individual, shows that it is not with “Nature,” the outward, phenomenal, and derived, that the developed consciousness can rest content as the ultimate object of culture and aspiration – this suffices only the worshipper who is outside the sacred mysteries – but the animating soul of Nature, the infinite, eternal Spirit, at once immanent in and transcending Nature as a body voluntarily and for a time and purpose assumed. Only when man recognises a portion of that spirit as subsisting in and constituting his own true substance and self; only when he has received demonstration of his essential oneness with the universal substance, even God, does he find satisfaction and content. To him, then, the material and phenomenal are comparatively as nought, for he does not consist of them, enter though they may for a time and purpose into

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association with him. Rather are they apt to minister to the obscuration of his spiritual perceptions, and of his attainment of that peace which, by virtue of its appertaining to the spiritual and not to the intellectual part of him, “passes understanding.” Such temporary obscuration, however, must be regarded as constituting an essential stage in his development. Even the soul-germ must be nourished in darkness.

 

            The doctrine of correspondence between the spiritual and physical regions of existence once suggested to me, it soon proved to be the key not only to the relations subsisting between the individual and the whole, showing man to be in very fact but a repetition in small of the universe at large, and of the solar system in particular, but also to the history of the race. Following this clue, I was led to see in Israel a typical or solar people, whose history represented a series of solar cycles corresponding with the “days” of the earth’s physical creation as given in Genesis. And it was the examination I made of the course of development of the religious consciousness of the Hebrews that led me to the threshold of the discovery of the place of the present epoch in the scheme of the word’s development as set forth in my book, I had ascertained, as I believe, indubitably, that while a close correspondence subsisted between the stages ascribed to the earth’s physical and

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those of its spiritual creation, as exhibited especially in the religious development of Israel – as representative people of the dark races – the process had not been completed in Israel; but that in consequence of the rejection of Jesus, who represented for them the full manifestation of the Soul, it had been transferred to another race and people; so that the development of man’s religious consciousness was still proceeding, in the same order and under the same impulse, towards its ultimate completion, although the people originally chosen to be the medium of its development had forfeited , the distinction. That is, while a few in Israel had carried the culture of the true self, or soul, to such perfection as to have received in Jesus the demonstration they sought of the substantial identity of man and God, of the individual and the universal soul, the nation at large rejected that demonstration, and thereby forfeited its share in the full consummation of its spiritual development. This revelation of “Christ,” as the fullest expression in humanity of the nature and character of the supreme spirit of the universe, at the end of what I had found to be the “fourth day” of the world’s spiritual creation, corresponded with the apparition of the sun at the end of the fourth day of the world’s physical creation. The “fifth day,” during which we specially, as representative people of the white races, have “peopled

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the waters” with our own highly vitalised race, and thus fulfilled the correspondence with the fifth day of Genesis, is now completed. And it is upon the “sixth day” of its spiritual creation that the world is now entering. That day, in the physical creation, was devoted to the making of man “in the image of God, male and female.” It is, I was shown, the spiritual correspondence to this that has now to be fulfilled. Hitherto, during the spiritual “fifth day,” under the sacerdotal degradation of the character and doctrine of Christianity, the idea of “Christ” as a “man-child” has “ruled the earth with a rod of iron;” so terrible a foe to the true development and regeneration of the world has been the system which has usurped the name and authority of Christianity. Now, as all signs show, the time is approaching for the recognition of the element in the nature and doctrine of Christ, hitherto so fatally neglected. Not as a “man-child” or with a “rod of iron” is “Christ” henceforth to be known; and not by the sacrifice of others, but by “love,” will the world be saved. Hence the doctrine of the “sixth day,” on which we are now entering, will consist in the practical recognition of the divine nature as comprising the feminine as well as the masculine elements of existence; and in the accordance to both sides of the dualism of which Existence consists, that

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equal rank and influence which are essential to the full constitution of man “in the image of God,” and of the true Christ, “male and female.” The “man-child” regime of force and will, and the sacrifice of others to self, and of intuition to reason, of sympathy to selfishness, of the feminine to the masculine, has but plunged the world deeper and deeper into evil. It is by the exaltation of the other side of the dualism to its proper place, by a regime of love and self-sacrifice, and the subordination of our own lower to our own higher, and the culture of the intuitions and sympathies of the soul, that the world’s redemption is about to be accomplished. The race is approaching that stage which in the individual corresponds to maturity, even the maturity of the spirit, in which man recognises woman not as his servant and plaything, and companion on but one and that the lower plane of his nature, but as his complement and supplement on all planes. It was because the impending cataclysm was to issue in the completion of the work of the sixth day of the spiritual creation, by the full recognition of the Soul and its essential dualism, that the powers of evil were gathering together once more to seek to defeat the divine ends by thrusting themselves, in the shape of the as yet unvitalised Empire of the North, between England and the East as representatives respectively of the

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light and dark, the male and female, divisions of humanity.

 

            A brief recapitulation will aid the comprehension of the process of development. While the object of prime solicitude, and therefore of worship and culture, is the existence of which all men recognise themselves as a portion, it is only on the completion of their system of thought that they are able to recognise the soul as the basis of that existence. It is life, the physical life, that first claims our devotion, while that is to the outer and undeveloped sense the sole constituent of the individual. But to rest content with this stage, and make the self consist in the bodily organism, is to remain in a merely animal condition. Consisting as does man of a manifold nature, there are many spheres to be penetrated ere, starting from the outermost orbit of sense, he wins his way to the true centre and sun of the spirit. Once there, he sees all things from the centre of his system and of all systems, and knows that he has reached the inmost sanctuary both of his own consciousness and of all consciousness, and that the consciousness of the part is that also of the whole, even God. But above and beyond the fact of this identity between his own and the universal soul, he has yet to learn the nature of the common soul of existence. The study of religion, whether carried on by an

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examination of one’s own consciousness, or by that of its history in the world, leads necessarily to the discovery of the identity of the individual with the universal soul – that is, of the truth of the ancient pantheism – and this prior to the attainment of any insight respecting the soul’s precise nature. The latter is a matter of personal development both for race and for individual; and the steps whereby the development is attained are the same for both in all cases. It is by a regular law of growth that man attains the knowledge of the nature of the individual, and thence of the universal soul. Only in an advanced stage does he discover the correspondence between his inner and outer nature, and find that as is the body so is the soul; as is the individual so is the universal. The knowledge which is of the intellect alone will lead him to regard the soul that he has come to discern as the source of all as one and single. Only when he reaches the stage at which the affections are developed does he find that duality is essential to production, and that therefore the soul, individual and universal alike, must be dual. It is still the soul of the universe that is manifesting itself in humanity, as that of the sun does in the planet. It is the spiritual Sun of Suns that is seeking to suffuse with a higher life the world that has been projected from its physical counterpart. But man must first recognise the

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existence of that spiritual sun, the universal soul, and his own portion in it, before he can proceed to the comprehension of its nature. To do this he must turn his gaze inwards, where it shines in his own inner self, precisely as he must look from the earth to the physical sun if he would learn concerning the system, and step thither in idea. So far from being competent now to discern the nature of the soul, man has almost lost, his consciousness of its existence. To this end a new dispensation is requisite, even one which, while it shall repeat and renew the work of old, will also complete and fulfil it. The spiritual Sun has now to re-manifest itself to man’s darkened gaze, and to do this in such guise that man shall recognise both its existence and its nature. Learning from the individual the universal, or from the universal the individual soul, he learns at once himself and God, and completes the cycle of his development by ascertainment of their essential oneness. Such are the principles on which the ancient religions were framed. Interiorly and really they were a worship of the Soul itself at once of each and all. Exteriorly and apparently they were a worship of material expressions and limitations of that Soul in the visible world.

 

            I had thus ascertained that for all religions alike there was but one name given under heaven

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whereby men could be saved; and that was the Soul, at once of the individual and of the universal, whose dual nature found its fullest manifestation in “Christ.” The culture of the soul, I had found as I advanced in my comprehension of the ancient pantheisms, had for Gentile and Hebrew alike, whether popularly recognised or not, constituted the basis of all religion. The relationship between the soul as universal and as individual was as that between parent and son. The systems varied mainly in that in some the masculine and in some the feminine element was the most conspicuous. But in all both were recognised; and while all insisted on the unity, none ignored the duality of the divine existence. The main distinction between the Hebrew and Gentile systems was this: while with the Gentile, the knowledge of the doctrine of the soul was reserved for those who, being deemed competent, were received and initiated into the sacred “mysteries” and taught the full significance of the doctrine of universal identity on the spiritual plane, the masses being, for their inability to rise to such spheres of thought, left to the practice of a sensuous polytheism, or the worship of the universal under individuated aspects; with the Hebrews it was sought to comprehend the whole of the people within the same rule. For them all must be

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partakers in the worship and culture, directly, and not mediately, of the one God and soul of the race; all must be built up to be a pure and perfected body for that soul, which, as incarnated in their race, they regarded as the “son” of the universal existence, whom they personified under the name of Jehovah, or the great “I Am.” Christianity thus existed potentially in, and was the proper development from, the systems both of Jew and Gentile; for the essential object in both was the accomplishment of such perfecting of the body as was conducive to the full infusion or “incarnation” of the spirit. Such an incarnation of the soul of the nation or race it was that constituted alike the “sun gods” and “saviours” of the Gentiles, and “Messiah” of the Jews. All peoples alike were “animists” to use the expression of a modern school that regards the soul as an illusion – chiefly, apparently, on account of the universality of its recognition; and all looked fervently for some “coming man” who should constitute in the flesh the full manifestation of the national soul. But it depended on the stage of development of the individual consciousness – that is, it depended on the place recognised by the individual as that of the true self – whether such full expression of the national soul was expected to demonstrate its divinity by its pre-eminence on the physical

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or on the spiritual plane. The multitude, immersed in sense, looked for an earthly conqueror. The few, highly cultured in spirit, looked for a spiritual perfection in him who, by achieving the conquest over matter, sense and death, was to demonstrate the identity of God and man.

 

            I had thus found that so far from the religious history of man presenting a scene of aimless confusion, it had followed a consistent course throughout; and that notwithstanding the persistent efforts of man’s outer nature to obstruct the development of his inner, each successive stage had served only to bring man nearer and nearer to the complete recognition of the reality, nature, and substantial identity of God and the soul, and of the absolute perfection of the real existence. And not only were the religions identical in object and aim, but the histories and characters of those in whom they culminated were identical also. Representing the full incarnation of the soul, the “saviours” of mankind had in all essential respects the same history, by virtue of the fact that while the soul, or being, is one, the body, or seeming, is one also. And as man physically is a portion of the matter of the solar system, while spiritually he is a portion of the soul of that system, it followed by virtue of the law of heredity that the more perfectly he represented his divine parent in essential being,

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the more nearly would his external history indicate a correspondence with the physical solar phenomena. Neither through accident, imitation, nor superstition did it come that the characters and careers of Chrishna, Osiris, Mithras, Buddha, Jesus, and other of the world’s recognised “saviours,” bore so close an analogy to each other and to the phenomena of the sun’s annual course. It was due to the fact that man’s history in both his physical and spiritual regions is one, and that between him and the system of which he is a part there subsists a family resemblance which is strong or weak, according to the measure in which he possesses the spirit of that system. The function of all the religions was the culture of the soul. And the method consisted in the perfecting of the body by means of pure living, in respect of diet and habit, and of the mind by the practice of pure thinking and feeling, and the cultivation of the intuitions and sympathies, and the encouragement of aspiration towards the highest perfection conceivable. According to the completeness with which this rule, the rule of perfection on all planes, was followed, would be the degree of development of the spiritual consciousness, and the perfection of the manifestation of the spirit in the flesh, whereby demonstration was to be given of the oneness of deity and humanity. For a “saviour” was one who, by manifesting

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in his life the perfection possible to those only who, by virtue of their having “the spirit without measure,” were exempt from the ordinary limitations of humanity, demonstrated on one or more planes of his nature the identity of the human with the universal soul. The “Hero,” or demigod, was a “Saviour” on the physical plane. The “Christ” was a “Saviour” on all planes, and notably on the spiritual.

 

            While I had thus reached the conclusion that the world’s religions were all designed, interiorly at least, with a view to the culture and development of the soul as constituting the point of identity between man and God, and as being the part of man alone worthy the highest consideration, inasmuch as it was his only real and permanent element, I had still to ascertain the grounds of the confidence with which the reality and immortality of the soul were regarded. It is one thing to see intellectually that a thing must be; it is another thing to know absolutely that it is. It was by a process purely intellectual that I had come to regard the pantheistic hypothesis, which involved the reality and indestructibility of the soul, as a necessary truth. But it was evidently more than an intellectual conviction that had been attained by the ancients. Their whole system was constructed on a basis

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of positive assurance – an assurance which l had found, to my surprise, was not confined to the non-Hebrew systems. For it is a mistake, I found, to suppose, as is ordinarily done, even by “professors” of comparative theology, that the Hebrews did not share the general belief on this point. So far were the Israelites from rejecting or ignoring the doctrine of the existence and immortality of the soul, with which they had been familiar in Egypt, that the whole Mosaic system was built on the assumption of the existence of a world invisible to ordinary sight, and tenanted by spirits unembodied and disembodied. It was simply because no doubt existed on the subject, that any specific declaration was deemed superfluous. The Hebrew pantheist saw, with his fellows, that the doctrine of the identity of the individual with the universal self, involved the continuance of the individual. No mere earthly or external end had all the long and arduous course of purification, edification, consecration, and sanctification, sacrament and ceremony, enjoined in his law, any more than in that of the corresponding “mysteries” of the Gentiles. It was for the sake of the spirit that the body also was to be made perfect. Only a pure body could be a fitting abode for the “son” of Jehovah, the soul that was seeking to incarnate itself fully in Israel as its chosen people. But how came

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they and the initiated of the kindred religions to attain the certainty they enjoyed? For, that certainty had been attained by them is manifest in every fragment that has survived of the ancient rituals, as witness the ritual of Osiris, the Orphic and Pindaric hymns, and abundant other remains. “The vulgar,” says Plutarch, “believe that nothing remains after death. But we, initiated in the sacred rites of Bacchus, and witnesses of his holy mysteries, know that there is a future state.” Many writers, including Strabo, Isocrates, and Eusebius, express themselves in like manner. Hence it was evident to me that until I had either attained the like certainty for myself, or discovered the grounds of the certainty enjoyed by them, I had not found the ultimate solution of the problem of the world’s religions, as they were interiorly and really. Nevertheless, though utterly in the dark on the point, I worked on, rejoicing in the light that continued to pour on me with ever-increasing plenitude, and revelling in the surprises which were constantly greeting me, as proving beyond all doubt that I was on the right road; and not despairing of being enabled, sooner or later – though how, where, or when, I could by no means divine – on my own part, with the initiated in the sacred mysteries of old, to exclaim, “I know that I am immortal.”

 

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            It was with no small satisfaction that I found that the pantheistic doctrine of salvation by the culture of the soul, was based on a conception of the perfection of the divine character, to which the idea of vicarious sacrifice was wholly repugnant. The system of seeking to appease the deity by offerings consisting of the blood and agony of others, instead of by pure living and the subjugation of one’s own lower nature, was, I found, no essential part of religion, but was a concession to the grosser notions of the masses who, immersed in sense, required, for their own satisfaction, some visible token of atonement and reconciliation, and preferred acquiring it at the cost of others. It was a tribute to sense from which the spirit wholly recoiled; and one that, by being elaborated by priests into a system and accepted by the vast majority of mankind, came in time to constitute that sacrificial regime which has been the world’s greatest bane.

 

            With regard to the sacrificial part of the Mosaic system, the clearer my insight became, the more forcibly my choice was narrowed to one of two hypotheses: Either that in deference to the prejudices of the masses of the Israelites, Moses condescended to the permission of sacrifice to a very limited extent; or that he forbade it wholly, together with all bloodshed; and that the sacrificial

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system of the Hebrews was an after invention of a degenerated sacerdotal order.

 

            In passing beyond the limits of the initiated into the sphere of the ignorant, religion has always become degenerated into a fetish-worship, varying in its degrees of cruelty and sensuality according to the general status of the people and their priests. And these two regions of its manifestation, the inner and the outer the spiritual and the material, the sympathetic and the selfish, the intuitional and the sensible, became in the hands of their respective representatives – the prophet and the priest – as essentially antagonistic to each other as light and darkness. The prophet, cultivating the intuitions and the sympathies, and appealing directly to the soul and God, represented the spiritual side of man’s nature; while the priest, cultivating forms and appearances, appealed to sense and the outer self, and made salvation dependent on the sacrifice of others for self instead of on the sacrifice of the lower self to higher by the leading of a better life. The process whereby I had thus been led to discover the true nature and source of the conflict ever raging in the world, between the soul and sense, being and seeming, prophet and priest – a process of which the abandonment of a flesh-diet was an essential part – proved to be indispensable to my

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preparation for the work l destined to perform. For the main object of England and Islam is to exhibit the world’s present evil plight as the inevitable result of man’s persistent attempt to build himself up in defiance of all the true principles of his existence. Both his politics and his science represent the attempt to construct society on the simple basis of the body, the Soul and God being ignored. And in his religion, he has built on the doctrine of a deity who so far from being a Parent to his creation, is evil and a lover of blood. Recognising the dualism of his own and of all existence only to suppress one essential moiety of it, he has made its masculine constituents all, and its feminine naught. And, finally, he has rejected the teachings of intuition, experience, and of the facts of his own structure, in order to degrade himself from the ranks of the frugivorous and teachable to that of the carnivorous and intractable animals. With his very life-springs poisoned at their fount, through the ignorance or treachery of his counsellors, until the very art of healing has become but a synonym for the introduction into his system of fresh poisons, it is for those who have preserved their spiritual vision no occasion for wonder, but an invincible necessity, that the patient should at every point present symptoms of the disease raging within; or that a crisis should arise from which he could

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be extricated only through intervention on the part of some higher power. His own soothsayers have proved themselves at their wits’ end when, true to their traditions of blood, they counsel, no sacrifice of that to which the mischief is due – the patient’s own evil habits of life – but a fresh sacrifice, and on a vaster scale, of some other.

 

            It was thus in man’s past history that the clue to and cure for the present was to be found. How I came to learn positively and definitely that my work was to be not exegetic but didactic, and that it was to consist in the exposure of the true nature and inevitable results of the prevailing system; and how I attained certainty respecting the reality of the soul, and was enabled, with the initiated in the ancient mysteries, to exclaim, “I know that I am immortal,” will appear as we proceed. The stage thus far reached is that in which the phenomena presented by man’s religious history are seen to be wholly inexplicable, save on one hypothesis – namely, that there is on part of the world a constant effort ever exhibiting itself in an ascent through grades innumerable of consciousness, to attain full recognition of the soul by which it feels itself to be animated; an effort in which, while it is perpetually obstructed by the lower elements which enter into its composition, it is

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perpetually seconded by a corresponding effort on part of the soul itself, which is at once that of the individual, the planet, the system, and the universe at large, to infuse itself more and more fully into the world. The confirmation of this hypothesis, together with the further discovery that it is through the meeting and combination of the ascending soul of the world, on attaining its full development in some one of its children, with the soul of the universe, which has descended upon it, that humanity obtains that full recognition of its nature and source which has ever been recognised as a special manifestation of God in the flesh, were shown me during the delivery of England and Islam. Then only was I enabled fully to perceive that the “Christ,” in whatever age and people, is he in whom such union of the ascending and descending, the human and divine souls, is recognised as having taken place; and that it is by virtue of the filial relationship borne by man to the spirit of our system, whose material symbol is the sun, that the correspondence is due between the phenomena of the sun’s annual course and the histories of the world’s Saviours or “Sun Gods,” and proportionately for every man according as he resembles his divine Parent. Many facts illustrating this correspondence had already been exhibited by me in the little volume

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entitled The Keys of the Creeds, which constituted my last stepping-stone from the region of intellectual to that of spiritual perception, by the attainment of which alone man completes his system of thought.

 

 

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