Chauncey Giles.

Progress in spiritual knowledge online

. (page 9 of 26)
Online LibraryChauncey GilesProgress in spiritual knowledge → online text (page 9 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


receiving His love and wisdom in ever-increasing fulness
and joy.

The truth that the Lord is an ever-living, present, and
perpetual Creator is one that men are very slow to learn.
Men will not believe that the Lord is now doing what He
has always done, that He is unchangeably active. ' ' My



Ii8 PROGRESS IN SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.

Father worketh hitherto," said our Lord, "and I work."
This truth brings the Lord near to us as a present, living
God, and not merely an historical being. The whole uni-
verse is the effect of His working to-day, is made up of
the forms which His love and wisdom have assumed and
do assume to-day ; and they are as truly tokens and mes-
sages of His love as the work which any man does is an
evidence of his present, living power and of his wisdom
and skill. It is the Lord who feeds the blazing furnace
of the sun by emanations from Himself, and every ray
of light and heat that falls upon our world comes from
the Lord through the sun, and is a message of the Lord's
love and wisdom. It is the Lord who creates from a
living, spiritual sun the innumerable hosts of stars that
gem the heavens and fill the immeasurable space. With
this truth in our minds we look up to the sky on a cloud-
less night, and our thoughts do not travel back vast ages
to admire and wonder at a mighty power once exerted,
but we are filled with amazement and awe at what He is
now doing. The stars are now creating and created from
Him. He now marshals them in their harmonious order,
and sends them on their shining way. ' ' See, ' ' says the
devout soul, ' ' what my Father is now doing. ' '

As he looks over the earth in the spring and sees the
bare trees and dead mould clothed with the beautiful
garment of organized forms ; as he sees the beautiful
flowers bursting from the cold clod, and delicate petals
gently unfolding from the hard, woody stems until the
valleys are clothed with a new beauty, and the hills with
a new glory, " See," he says, " how my Father works."
It is His hand that weaves the delicate texture of leaf



THE DIVINE METHOD OF CREATING. 119

and blossom. It is His hand that distils the farina of
wheat and the sweet juices of the various fruits, and
rounds them into such beautiful and graceful forms, and
paints them with such delicate and various hues. It is
not dead nature ; it is not primal and abstract law ; it is
not gas or electric fires. Matter is but the thin veil be-
neath which He works. Galvanic forces are but the
swift shuttles with which He weaves the web of organic
forms. The falling stream falls not of itself, but runs and
sings in sweet accord with His attractive power. The
dewdrop does not round itself, but the fine particles of
mist leap and cling to each other's embrace by His will.
The bird does not organize itself, or sing an idle, sense-
less song. It sings His praises in a voice which is one
chord in the harmonies of His nature.

Look up, the worlds are not rushing on aimless er-
rands by self-impelled forces, but each pursues its swift
and shining way by certain paths for certain ends. Look
around you, the whole earth is tremulous and living with
His all-pervading presence. He speaks to you in the
loving voice of wife and child ; He smiles upon you in
their sweet lips ; He ministers to you in their gentle
hands. Look, I pray you, my brother; look through
the thin veil of nature and the sweet disguises of material
forms and see the presence and power of your Heavenly
Father. For He is present and working there. From
Himself, by instruments formed from Himself, He now
creates all.



MAN A FORM RECEPTIVE OF LIFE.

" / am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in tne,
and I in him, the same bring eth forth much fruit ; for without
me ye can do nothijtg.^^ — ^John xv. 5.

'X'HE general truth contained in this portion of the
•*■ Divine Word is this : that man's Hfe consists in his
conjunction with the Lord, and that severed from Him
he is nothing. The doctrines of the New Church teach
the same truth when they declare that ' ' man is a mere
organ of life." It is this truth to which I wish to invite
your attention, a truth fundamental to all knowledge of
man's own nature and of his relations to the Lord.

Let us look first at the truth itself. ' ' Man is a mere
organ of life, " or as it is expressed in other words, ' ' a form
receptive of life. ' ' This is not a figurative or relative ex-
pression. Man is just as truly a mere form or organ of life
as a tree. He has no more life in himself — that is, no more
life that has its origin in him — than a piece of granite has.
For there can be only one being who has life in himself,
— that is, underived life,— for to have life in one's self is
to be self- existent, and to be self-existent is to be un-
created, and to be uncreated is to be Divine, to be God.
All men who acknowledge a God assent to this truth
in some form. But still it is generally supposed that
man is endowed with certain faculties or powers and then
left to himself in some measure to work out his destiny,
or to live ; and thus the idea is entertained that man has
120



MAN A FORM RECEPTIVE OF LIFE. 121

independent and self-acting power, though in the begin-
ning he was created. The Creator gave him a start, as it
were, made him to be seif-existent, and then left him to
himself so far as mere living is concerned, and only
teaches him from without, as we teach one another, how
to live. Most men who think at all upon the subject
doubtless suppose that the Lord made man somewhat as
a man forms a machine, with the difference that man is a
self-acting machine, and when once created they suppose
that he goes on perpetuating himself without any imme-
diate, special agency of the Creator.

The practical effect of this doctrine is the denial of the
immediate and constant agency of the Lord in life. We
rarely, if ever, think of the origin of our life, and re-
member only that we now live and seem to live of our-
selves. Now, the plain, simple truth is that man is a
mere organ of life, or a form by which life from the Lord
is manifested, and it is by a constant action of the Divine
life upon or through this form that man has any life. It
is the Divine influx or inflowing that gives life to this
form that we call man.

So far as our observation extends we know that this is
a universal law. No finite thing that we have any knowl-
edge of has any life in itself, and all that we call its life is
a constant inflowing into it. If we look at the human
body we shall find abundant illustration of the principle.

The human eye is a mere organ of sight. It has no
light in itself No phenomena appear until the eye is
acted upon, until it is set in motion by the influx of the
ether. When its waves flow in, this organism is set in
motion, and. the result is sight. When they cease, sight

F II



122 PROGRESS IN SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.

ceases. So the ear is a mere organ or form of hearing',
and is adapted in every respect to the air. When the
waves of the air flow in, the organ is set in motion, and
the effect is a sound. It is with the ear just as it is with
the pipe of an organ ; when the inflowing wave ceases,
then the sound ceases.

The same is true of taste and of touch. No sensation
is excited unless something acts upon the organ formed
for that sense and excites it, and when the action ceases
the sensation ceases. So the whole human body, in
every part, from the least to the greatest, within and
without, is made up of mere organs. They are not all
organs of sensation. The brain is the organ of thought,
the tongue and larynx are organs of speech, the heart is
an organ for propelling the blood, the lungs for breathing,
the feet and legs are the organs of locomotion. Not one
of them has the least life in itself, or acts unless it is
impelled ; when the motive power is shut off the organ
ceases its motion, as a wheel ceases to revolve when the
propelling force ceases to act.

The heart does seem to expand and contract of itself,
but we know that it does not ; for when the spirit leaves
the body the heart has no motion. If it were really self-
acting it would keep on. The human body, then, is
a series and congeries of organs, and every action,
motion, and affection that we can predicate of it is
caused by some force flowing into these forms and set-
ting them in motion.

This law or mode of the Divine operation is universal,
so far as our observation extends. Is it rational to sup-
pose that the action of the law is limited by man's powers



MAN A FORM RECEPTIVE OF LIFE. 123

of observation? Certainly not. As far as observation
extends, it teaches us that the Lord never contradicts
Himself, that He works after the same general plan
everywhere. Reason, then, may take up the thread
when observation can go no further, and show by the
laws of analogy and correspondence how the Lord works
in degrees or planes of the mind entirely above our ob-
servation.

When we pass from the study of man's body to his
spirit, we conclude that as the combination of material
organs compose the body and make the material form of
man, so, as to his spirit also, man is a mere organ of life,
an organ composed of a series and congeries of spiritual
forms, which in their combination make up the human
form. There is no more life in itself in the spirit than
there is in the body. It is an organ receptive of life.
There is a spiritual eye and a spiritual ear and heart ;
there are spiritual lungs and hands and feet, and all the
other organs, internal and external, that make up the
human form, and they are composed of spiritual sub-
stances, and are as perfectly adapted to a world composed
of spiritual substances as the material man is to the
material world. The eye is set in motion by waves of a
spiritual ether, the ear vibrates to a spiritual air, the lungs
breathe a spiritual atmosphere. The heart propels spir-
itual blood. When the natural body is laid aside, the
spiritual senses are affected by contact with spiritual
forms ; the foot treads upon a spiritual earth, which is
composed of a greater variety of forms than the material
earth. Men live in spiritual houses and wear spiritual
garments and engage in various uses suited to the world



124 PROGRESS IN SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.

they are in, and yet that whole world and all who are in
it are mere organs of life, having the same relations to
one another that material forms have. If we ascend to
the highest angel we shall find him a mere organ of life,
having no more life in himself than a string or pipe of a
musical instrument, and no more power to set himself in
motion or to live from himself.

We come to this conclusion, then, that the whole uni-
verse of angels, spirits, men, animals, vegetables, and
worlds is a vast complicated organism, having no life in
itself in any of its parts or forms. It is created by the
Lord to be the organ of life which flows into it from Him,
and sustains and animates it. The Lord constantly
creates and gives ; all that created things or beings can
do is to receive. And this is the next principle which I
wish to notice. The measure and quality of the life we
receive depend upon our capacity or ability to receive.

This is also a universal law. The Lord is omnipresent
in all His fulness, but He can only be received according
to the capacity of the recipient form. This diversity of
ability is illustrated in the human body in the same
manner as diversity of form. The vibrations in the air
that produce the sensation of sound are just as much
present to the hand and eye as they are to the ear, but
they are received and perceived only by the ear because
that is the only organ whose form is adapted to the pur-
pose. The modulations of the ether float all around us
and fall upon us from every direction, but the eye only
has any knowledge of them, because it is the only organ
formed to receive them. All the causes which excite the
sensations of sight, smell, taste, and hearing may be



MAN A FORM RECEPTIVE OF LIFE. 125

present to the hand ; all their undulations may fall upon
it, but it does not discern their presence, though one of
the most wonderful organs in the body, simply because it
is not fitted to receive them. Place a person destitute of
eyes in the midst of a beautiful landscape. The flowing
stream, the quiet valley, the gently-rising upland, and
the varied outlines of a wide sweep of hills, diversified
with innumerable forms of tree and rock and animal,
canopied by the blue sky or the ever-shifting forms and
hues of the clouds lighted up by the glories of the rising
or the setting sun, — all this infinite variety of form and
color and beauty is a blank to him, though the causes
which should reveal its presence, the undulations in the
ether reflected from them, fall upon him from every
point. The only want is in him. He has no organs to
receive these motions, and consequently they are to him
as though they were not. What is true of the eye is
true of the ear and of every material organ. All ma-
terial organs are made and adapted to be acted upon by
material agents, and the manifestations, effects, or phe-
nomena are in exact accordance with the power and
degree of reception. The higher the form of the organ,
the nobler its functions, the more excellent the forces of
life which it receives and to which it responds.

If, now, we ascend to the spiritual forms, we shall find
the same general law, only varied in its effects with the
capacity of the form. The Lord is present to every
man's spirit with all His love and wisdom, but He can
communicate only what can be received, and what can be
received depends upon the quality of the organ. The
phenomena or the resulting effects of influx into the

II*



126 PROGRESS IN SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.

spiritual organs which compose the man are thoughts
and affections. Thoughts and affections are changes of
state and activities of spiritual forms, just as sound and
light are the effects of the air and ether falling upon and
setting in motion the organs of the ear and eye. And
the thought and affection are exactly according to the
measure of reception.

We should rationally expect that forms composed of
substances so eminent in excellence would be susceptible
of corresponding effects, and we find it is so. Our ob-
servation also, as far as it extends, teaches us that the
higher the form and medium, the more varied and noble
the results. The rock receives only sufficient influx,
which we call attraction, to hold its particles together.
It is a mere mass. In the vegetable world we first find
organized forms, but each form is fixed to one spot. It
has growth within certain limits, but no sensation. The
animal kingdom possesses locomotion and sensation, and
it possesses them by virtue of its higher organization.
Man possesses all these, and within and above them a
spiritual and celestial organism, and it is these highest
forms which really constitute his humanity and elevate
him above the animal.

The pre-eminent quality of a spiritual form is that it is
not subject to the laws of fixed time and space. Organs
formed of matter grow chiefly by increase in size. But
a spiritual form grows by perfecting its state. Spiritual
forms are as clearly defined and distinct from one another
as material, and appear to be, and are in one sense, in
space, as much as material forms ; but the spaces are not
fixed and independent of the mind, but conform to it.



MAN A FORM RECEPTIVE OF LIFE. 127

From this quality of spirit it will be readily seen that
there are no limits to its growth. A spiritual form may
increase in the quality of its state to eternity, — that is,
without any limitations as to time and space. Nor can
it be destroyed or dissipated as a material form can,
which can communicate itself only by giving away a part
of itself A sum of money, a piece of land, or a body
of water is diminished by whatever is removed from it.
But with the spiritual forms it is not so. It matters not
how often a thought or affection is communicated to
another, it still remains in the mind, and has even been
increased by the efforts to communicate it. Thus it can
be readily seen that it is impossible to dissolve and dis-
perse a spiritual form. Spiritual death is not the disso-
lution of the soul, its ceasing to exist as a form, but its
malformation, its disorderly action.

Another peculiar and prominent quality of the spiritual
forms which constitute the human mind is, that they
retain every motion that is communicated to them. This
quality, with the power of reproducing every motion and
change of state which has ever been excited in the mind,
we call memory. Thus all our states return, and may
return to eternity, though modified by all succeeding
states.

Another quality peculiar to the most perfect spiritual
forms Is that their activities are attended with conscious-
ness. We know that we love and think. The rock does
not know that it exists, the tree does not know that it
grows, nor has the animal any power to reflect upon the
fact of its existence.

Another quality of the highest human faculties is that



128 PROGRESS IN SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.

they act in freedom. Their freedom is just as much a
gift of the Lord as the power of motion or thought, or
any other power. We can act as of ourselves. While
it is true that all life comes from the Lord, it so comes
that we do not perceive its influx. Our first intimation
of it is in its effect upon ourselves. Thus we seem to
live of ourselves. This is of the Lord's love, that man
might not be a mere machine, but a free and intelligent
agent. Thus man has the power constantly given to him
to receive or to reject the Lord's influx into him. He
can turn himself away from Him, or he can turn himself
towards Him. He can live in order or disorder.

Man's spiritual form is constantly perfected by right
action and injured by wrong action. It is at first a mere
possibility, but constantly unfolds and develops by use.
And it develops in two ways ; each organ becomes more
perfect, and new degrees of life or higher spiritual forms
are constantly coming forward. Every new truth re-
ceived into the mind, and woven into its tissues by the
affections, becomes a new organ for the reception of a
larger measure of the Divine life. And every heavenly
affection of charity to the neighbor or love to the Lord
is, in itself considered, an harmonious modulation of the
whole spiritual form, and has a permanent effect. It
tends to induce a state of such orderly and heavenly ac-
tion that the form is more easily set in motion in the
same way again. In time a habit, as we term it, is
formed, — that is, the form takes on these motions spon-
taneously without any effort of the will, whenever the ex-
isting cause is present, as the aeolian harp rises and falls
in harmonious chords when the wind breathes upon it.



MAN A FORM RECEPTIVE OF LIFE.



129



The highest attainable perfection, then, of any created
being, is this abiUty to receive the Divine life in the
largest measures and highest forms. To be a recipient
of the Divine love and wisdom is the very end for which
man was created. The Lord made him in His image
and likeness, that he might be a form in every respect
adapted to the reception of life from Him. Man is a
mere organ, but an organ after a Divine pattern. All
that the Lord asks of man is to receive Him and to enjoy
the blessedness of conjunction with Him.

This is a great practical truth of paramount importance
to every created being. Let us state it clearly. ' * Man
is a mere organ of life. ' ' He is a combination of forms
connected together in series and degrees, one within an-
other, and all so related, though indefinite in number
and degree, that they form a one, which in the complex
we call man. All the phenomena of life, all affection,
thought, sensation, all that we perceive as pleasure or
pain, every possible quality that we can predicate of man,
is caused by influx into this wonderful combination of
forms. The influx, with its effect and manifestation, is
always determined by the form, as the quality of a mu-
sical sound is determined, other things being equal, by
the nature and quality of the instrument.

The Lord is present to every created being and to
every created thing with all His love and wisdom, to the
highest angel in heaven and to the lowest devil in hell,
to the wisest sage upon earth and to the infant just born,
to every animal and tree and rock ; but each one can re-
ceive only that which its form adapts it to receive.

The Lord is present to each one of us now, but we see



130 PROGRESS IN SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.

Him not, because we do not receive Him. We should
not any of us need to move from our places to see the
ineffable splendors of the celestial heaven and groups of
angels of a loveliness and beauty beyond our conception,
and to hear harmonies such as never fell upon mortal
ear, if we had the organs to receive such a revelation.
We stand in the universe like a statue in a garden. The
sun pours his mid-day splendors, his rising and his set-
ting glories, upon it ; those motions in the ether which
would communicate to the living eye the forms and colors
of all surrounding objects fall upon the stony eyeball ; the
fragrance of a thousand flowers is wafted on every breeze,
and the minstrelsy of a thousand winds plays around the
well-cut ear, but it stands with dead and stony gaze
through summer's heat and winter's cold, unmoved by
the beauty of spring or the golden wealth of autumn.
Why ? Because it has no organism within to receive and
be played upon by these manifold forces. So we stand
in the midst of the spiritual world because we deny our
higher life. We turn away from the Lord and refuse to
receive Him. He stands at the door and knocks ; He
presses upon every avenue as the air presses upon us.
But we can only receive what we have the organs to
receive.

There are in every human soul the possibilities of only
less than infinite power and blessedness, but they remain
mere possibilities, like the germ of a seed before it begins
to grow, because we do not suffer life from the Lord to
flow into them and bring them out into definite form and
fill them with the activities of His own love. By our
evils and falses we bar every access of the Lord to our



MAN A FORM RECEPTIVE OF LIFE.



131



souls, over which we have control, and by the perversion
of our spiritual forms we change all that does flow in,
from the perfect order, beauty, and harmony of heaven
into infernal ugliness and grating discords. We suffer
the cursed dust of mere earthly loves to settle down upon
the fine but unused tissues of the higher faculties within
us, and the damp mould of earthly passions to gather
upon them, or the scorching fires of selfish and worldly
loves to sear and wither their fair forms. We are dwarfs
in spiritual stature, and our life is poor and mean, because
we will not admit the Divine love and wisdom into our
souls. We are like the stunted shrubs of arctic climes
because we turn away from the sun of heaven.

How poor and disjointed and lean is even the best life
compared with what it might be, and would be if we would
receive what the Lord wishes and strives to give us !
Here we stand in the midst of the infinite : organs of life
after the image and likeness of the infinite. The Lord
calls to us in every conceivable form, "Ho, every one
that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, . . . yea, come,
buy wine and milk without money and without price."
But we heed it not. The sweet, heavenly melody of His
voice is swallowed up and lost amid the din and roar and
harsh discords of worldly life. We are hurrying to and
fro to get something to satisfy the clamorous appetites of
selfish and worldly desires. We give free access to the
influx into the organs of sensual and natural life, and they
grow strong and huge and many-handed, grasping and
crushing on every side, while the angels, who come to
bring us heaven and eternal life, sit alone, unheeded in the
dusty, dwarfed, and desolate upper chambers of the mind.



132 FJ^ OGRESS IN SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.

The Lord has created us forms receptive of life, — of
His life. He has so made us that we are free to receive
it in true order or not. We can receive it into the
lower or the higher forms of our mind. He offers us
the highest good and the lowest. We can receive either
only by becoming its form. The question for every man
and every woman to determine is this, and it is of all
questions the most important : What kind of a form shall



Online LibraryChauncey GilesProgress in spiritual knowledge → online text (page 9 of 26)