If we ask how the cosmos came into existence we shall find that ultimately we can only attribute it to the Self-Contemplation of Spirit. Let us start with the facts now known to modern physical science. All material things, including our own bodies, are composed of combinations of different chemical elements such as carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, &c. Chemistry recognizes in all about seventy of these elements each with its peculiar affinities; but the more advanced physical science of the present day finds that they are all composed of one and the same ultimate substance to which the name of Ether has been given, and that the difference between an atom of iron and an atom of oxygen results only from the difference in the number of etheric particles of which each is composed and the rate of their motion within the sphere of the atom, thus curiously coming back to the dictum of Pythagoras that the universe has its origin in Number and Motion. We may, therefore, say that our entire solar system together with every sort of material substance which it contains is made up of nothing but this one primary substance in various degrees of condensation.
Now the next step is to realize that this ether is everywhere. This is shown by the undulatory theory of light. Light is not a substance but is the effect produced on the eye by the impinging of the ripples of the ether upon the retina. These waves are excessively minute, ranging in length from 1-39,000th of an inch at the red end of the spectrum to 1-57,000th at the violet end. Next remember that these waves are not composed of advancing particles of the medium but pass onwards by the push which each particle in the line of motion gives to the particle next to it, and then you will see that if there were a break of one fifty-thousandth part of an inch in the connecting ether between our eye and any source of light we could not receive light from that source, for there would be nothing to continue the wave-motion across the gap. Consequently, as soon as we see light from any source however distant, we know that there must be a continuous body of ether between us and it. Now astronomy shows us that we receive light from heavenly bodies so distant that, though it travels with the incredible speed of 186,000 miles per second, it takes more than two thousand years to reach us from some of them; and as such stars are in all quarters of the heavens we can only come to the conclusion that the primary substance or ether must be universally present.
This means that the raw material for the formation of solar systems is universally distributed throughout space; yet though we find that millions of suns study the heavens, we also find vast interstellar spaces which show no sign of cosmic activity. Then something has been at work to start cosmic activity in certain areas while passing over others in which the raw material is equally available. What is this something? At first we might be inclined to attribute the development of cosmic energy to the etheric particles themselves, but a little consideration will show us that this is mathematically impossible in a medium which is equally distributed throughout space, for all its particles are in equilibrium and so no one particle possesses per se a greater power of originating motion than any other. Consequently, the initial movement must be started by something which, though it works on and through the particles of the primary substance, is not those particles themselves. It is this “Something” which we mean when we speak of “Spirit.”
Then since Spirit starts the condensation of the primary substance into concrete aggregation, and also does this in certain areas to the exclusion of others, we cannot avoid attributing to Spirit the power of Selection and of taking an Initiative on its own account.
Here, then, we find the initial Polarity of Universal Spirit and Universal Substance, each being complementary of the other, and out of this relationship all subsequent evolution proceeds. Being complementary means that each supplies what is wanting in the other and that the two together thus make complete wholeness. Now, this is just the case here. Spirit supplies Selection and Motion. Substance supplies something from which selection can be made and to which Motion can be imparted; so that it is a sine qua non for the Expression of Spirit.
Then comes the question, How did the Universal Substance get there? It cannot have made itself, for its only quality is inertia, therefore it must have come from some source has the power to project it by some mode of action, not of a material nature. Now the only mode of action not of a material nature is Thought, and therefore to Thought, we must look for the origin of Substance. This places us at a point antecedent to the existence even of primary substance, and consequently, the initial action must be that of the Originating Mind upon Itself, in other words, Self-contemplation.
At this primordial stage neither Time nor Space can be recognized, for both imply a measurement of successive intervals, and in the primary movement of Mind upon itself, the only consciousness must be that of Present Absolute Being, because no external points exist from which to measure extension either in time or space. Hence we must eliminate the ideas of time and space from our conception of Spirit’s initial Self-contemplation.
This being so, Spirit’s primary contemplation of itself as simply Being necessary makes its presence universal and eternal, and consequently, paradoxical as it may seem, its independence of Time and Space makes it present throughout all Time and Space. It is the old esoteric maxim that the point expands to infinitude and that infinitude is concentrated in the point. We start, then, with Spirit contemplating itself simply as Being. But to realize your being you must have consciousness, and consciousness can only come by the recognition of your relation to something else. The something else may be an external factor a mental image; but even in the latter case to conceive the image at all you must mentally stand back from it and look at it—something like the man who was run in by the police at Gravesend for walking behind himself to see how his new coat fitted. It stands thus: if you are not conscious of something you are conscious of nothing, and if you are conscious of nothing, then you are unconscious, so that to be conscious at all you must have something to be conscious of.
This may seem like an extract from “Paddy’s Philosophy,” but it makes it clear that consciousness can only be attained by the recognition of something which is not the recognizing ego itself—in other words, consciousness is the realization of some particular sort of relation between the cognizing subject and the cognized object; but I want to get away from academical terms into the speech of human beings, so let us take the illustration of a broom and its handle—the two together make a broom; that is one sort of relation; but take the same stick and put a rake-iron at the end of it and you have an altogether different implement. The stick remains the same, but the difference between what is put at the end of it makes the whole thing a broom or a rake. Now the thinking and feeling power is the stick, and the conception which it forms is the thing at the end of the stick so that the quality of its consciousness will be determined by the ideas which it projects, but to be conscious at all it must project ideas of some sort.
Now, for one thing, we may be quite sure, that the Spirit of Life must feel alive. Then to feel alive it must be conscious, and to be conscious it must have something to be conscious of; therefore the contemplation of itself as standing related to something which is not its own originating self in propria persona is a necessity of the case; and consequently the Self-contemplation of Spirit can only proceed by its viewing itself as related to something standing out from itself, just as we must stand at a proper distance to see a picture—in fact, the very word “existence” means “standing out.” Thus things are called into existence or “outstanding” by a power which itself does not stand out, and whose presence is therefore indicated by the word “subsistence.”
The next thing is that since in the beginning there is nothing except Spirit, its primary feeling of aliveness must be that of being alive all over; and to establish such a consciousness of its own universal livingness there must be the recognition of a corresponding relation equally extensive in character; and the only possible correspondence to fulfil this condition is, therefore, that of a universally distributed and plastic medium whose particles are all in perfect equilibrium, which is exactly the description of the Primary Substance or either. We are thus philosophically led to the conclusion that Universal Substance must be projected by Universal Spirit as a necessary consequence of Spirit’s own inherent feeling of Aliveness, and in this way, we find that the great Primary Polarity of Being becomes established.
From this point onward we shall find the principle of Polarity in universal activity. It is that relation between opposites without which no external Motion would be possible because there would be nowhere to move from, and nowhere to move to, and without which external Form would be impossible because there would be nothing to limit the diffusion of substance and bring it into shape. Polarity, or the interaction of Active and Passive, is, therefore, the basis of all Evolution.
This is a great fundamental truth when we get it in its right order; but all through the ages, it has been a prolific source of error by getting it in its wrong order. And the wrong order consists in making Polarity the originating point of the Creative Process. What this misconception leads to we shall see later on, but since it is very widely accepted under various guises even at the present day it is well to be on our guard against it. Therefore I wish the student to see clearly that there is something which comes before that Polarity which gives rise to Evolution, and that this something is the original movement of Spirit within itself, of which we can best get an idea by calling it Self-contemplation.
Now, this may seem an extremely abstract conception and one with which we have no practical concern. I fancy I can hear the reader saying “The Lord only knows how the world started, and it is His business and not mine,” which would be perfectly true if this originating faculty was confined to the Cosmic Mind. But it is not, and the same action takes place in our own minds also, only with the difference that it is ultimately subject to that principle of Cosmic Unity of which I have already spoken. But, subject to that unifying principle, this same power of origination is in ourselves also, and our personal advance in evolution depends on our right use of it; and our use of it depends on our recognition that we ourselves give rise to the particular polarities which express themselves in our whole world of consciousness, whether within or without. For these reasons, it is very important to realize that Evolution is not the same as Creation. It is the unfolding of potentialities involved in things already created, but not the calling into existence of what does not yet exist—that is Creation.
The order, therefore, which I wish the student to observe is, first the Self-contemplation of Spirit producing Polarity, and next Polarity producing Manifestation in Form—and also to realize that it is in this order his own mind operates as a subordinate centre of creative energy. When the true place of Polarity is thus recognized, we shall find in it the explanation of all those relations of things which give rise to the whole world of phenomena; from which we may draw the practical inference that if we want to change the manifestation we must change the polarity, and to change the polarity we must get back to the Self-contemplation of Spirit. But in its proper place as the root-principle of all secondary causation, Polarity is one of those fundamental facts of which we must never lose sight. The term “Polarity” is adopted from electrical science. In the electric battery, it is the connecting together of the opposite poles of zinc and copper that causes a current to flow from one to the other and so provides the energy that rings the bell. If the connection is broken there is no action. When you press the button you make the connection. The same process is repeated in respect of every sort of polarity throughout the universe. Circulation depends on polarity, and circulation is the manifestation of Life, which we may, therefore, say depends on the principle of polarity. In relation to ourselves, we are concerned with two great polarities, the polarity of Soul and Body and the polarity of Soul and Spirit; and it is in order that he may more clearly realize their working that I want the student to have some preliminary idea of Polarity as a general principle.
The conception of the Creative Order may, therefore, be generalized as follows. The Spirit wants to enjoy the reality of its own Life—not merely to vegetate, but to enjoy giving—and therefore by Self-contemplation it projects a polar opposite, or complementary, calculated to give rise to the particular sort of relation out of which the enjoyment of a certain mode of self-consciousness will necessarily spring. Let this sentence be well pondered over until the full extent of its significance is grasped, for it is the key to the whole matter Very well, then: Spirit wants to Enjoy Life, and so, by thinking of itself as having the enjoyment which it wishes, it produces the conditions which, by their reaction upon itself, give rise to the reality of the sort of enjoyment contemplated. In more scientific language an opposite polarity is induced, giving rise to a current which stimulates a particular mode of sensation, which sensation, in turn, becomes a fresh starting-point for still further action; and in this way each successive stage becomes the stepping-stone to a still higher degree of sensation—that is, to a Fuller Enjoyment of Life.
Such a conception as this presents us with a Progressive Series to which it is impossible to assign any limit. That the progression must be limitless is clear from the fact that there is never any change in the method. At each successive stage the Creating Power is the Self-consciousness of the Spirit, as realized at that stage, still reaching forward for yet further Enjoyment of Life, and so always keeping on repeating the one Creative Process at an ever-rising level; and since these are the sole working conditions, the progress is one which logically admits of no finality. And this is where the importance of realizing the Singleness of the Originating Power comes in, for with a Duality each member would limit the other; in fact, Duality as the Originating Power is inconceivable, for, once more to quote “Paddy’s Philosophy,” “finality would be reached before anything was begun.”
This Creative Process, therefore, can only be conceived of as limitless, while at the same time strictly progressive, that is, proceeding stage by stage, each stage is necessary as a preparation for the one that is to follow. Let us then briefly sketch the stages of which things in our world have got as far as they have. The interest of the inquiry lies in the fact that if we can once get at the principle which is producing these results, we may discover some way of giving it personal application.
On the hypothesis of the Self-contemplation of Spirit being the originating power, we have found that a primary ether, or universal substance, is the necessary correspondence to Spirit’s simple awareness of its own being. But through awareness of being is the necessary foundation for any further possibilities it is, so to say, not much to talk about. The foundation fact, of course, is to know that I Am; but immediately on this consciousness there follows the desire for Activity—I want to enjoy my I Am-ness by doing something with it. Translating these words into a state of consciousness in the Cosmic Mind they become a Law of Tendency leading to localised activity, and, looking only at our own world, this would mean the condensation of the universal etheric substance into the primary nebula which later on becomes our solar system, this being the correspondence to the Self-contemplation of Spirit as passing into specific activity instead of remaining absorbed in simple awareness of Being. Then this self-recognition would lead to the conception of still more specific activity having it’s the appropriate polar opposite, or material correspondence, in the condensation of the nebula into a solar system.
Now at this stage Spirit’s conception of itself is that of Activity, and consequently, the material correspondence is Motion, as distinguished from the simple diffused either which is the correspondence of mere awareness of Being, But what sort of motion? Is the material movement evolved at this stage-bound to take any particular form? A little consideration will show us that it is. At this initial stage, the first awakening, so to say, of Spirit into activity, its consciousness can only be that of activity absolute ; that is, not as related to any other mode of action because as yet there is none, but only as related to an all-embracing Being; so that the only possible conception of Activity at this stage is that of Self-sustained activity, not depending on any preceding mode of activity because there is none. The law of reciprocity, therefore, demands a similar self-sustained motion in the material correspondence, and mathematical considerations show that the only sort of motion which can sustain a self-supporting body moving in vacuo is a rotary motion bringing the body itself into a spherical form. Now, this is exactly what we find at both extremes of the material world. At the big end the spheres of the planets rotating on their axes and revolving around the sun; and at the little end the spheres of the atoms consisting of particles which, modern science tells us, in like manner rotate around a common centre at distances which are astronomical as compared with their own mass. Thus the two ultimate units of physical manifestation, the atom, and the planet, both follow the same law of self-sustained motion which we have found that, on a priori grounds, they ought in order to express the primary activity of Spirit. And we may note in passing that this rotary, or absolute, motion is the combination of the only two possible relative modes of motion, namely, motion from a point and motion to it, that is to say centrifugal and centripetal motion; so that in rotary, or absolute, motion we find that both the polarities of motion are included, thus repeating on the purely mechanical side the primordial principle of the Unity including the Duality in itself.
But the Spirit wants something more than mechanical motion, something more alive than the preliminary Rota, and so the first step toward individualized consciousness meets us in plant life. Then on the principle that each successive stage affords the platform for a further outlook, plant life is followed by animal life, and this by the Human order in which the liberty of selecting its own conditions is immensely extended. In this way, the Spirit’s expression of itself has now reached the point where it’s polar complementary, or Reciprocal, manifests as Intellectual Man—thus constituting the Fourth great stage of Spirit’s Self-recognition. But the Creative Process cannot stop here, for, as we have seen, its root in the Self-contemplation of Spirit renders it of necessity an Infinite Progression. So it is no use asking what is its ultimate, for it has no ultimate—its word is “Excelsior”—ever Life and “Life more Abundant.” Therefore the question is not as to finality where there is none, but as to the next step in the progression. Four kingdoms we know: what is to be the Fifth? All along the line, the progress has been in one direction, namely, toward the development of a perfect Individuality, and therefore on the principle of continuity, we may reasonably infer that the next stage will take us still further in the same direction. We want something more perfect than we have yet reached, but our ideas as to what it should be are very various, not to say discordant, for one person’s idea of better is another person’s idea of worse. Therefore what we want to get at is some broad generalization of principle which will be in advance of our past experiences. This means that we must look for this principle is something that we have not yet experienced, and the only place where we can possibly find principles which have not yet manifested themselves is in Gremio Dei—that is, in the innermost of the Originating Spirit, or as St. John calls it, “in the bosom of the Father.” So we are logically brought to personal participation in the Divine Ideal as the only principle by which the advance into the next stage can possibly be made. Therefore we arrive at the question, What is the Divine Ideal like?