The Foundations of Christian Mysticism
An examination into the mysteries of Theosophy from the point of view of the Christian religion, according to the doctrines of
The Great German Mystic of the fourteenth century. Compiled and translated
BY FRANZ HARTMANN.
Serialized in Lucifer, Volumes 11-13, 1893
I. The Soul and its Powers.
III. The Nature of the Soul.
IV. The Absolute.
X. The World of Ideas and the Sensual World.
XI. God and Creature.
XII. The Kingdom of the Creatures.
XIII. The Angels.
PART II. The Union of the Soul with God.
In compiling the following pages I have, to a great extent, followed the plan adopted by A. Lasson in his work on “Meister Eckhart”; but this book is not a translation of the latter, nor is it intended to deal exclusively with Eckhart’s views. Its purpose is to be a guiding light for the comprehension of the mysteries of the Christian religion, and if, in the representation of occult truth, I draw upon Eckhart’s writings more liberally than upon those of any other mystic, it is because he seems to exceed all others in profundity of knowledge and in that clearness of expression which gained for him the title of a Master in the knowledge of Christ.
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me (St. John, xiv. 6).
This noble truth concerning the destruction of sorrow, was not, O Bikkhus! among the doctrines handed down; but there arose the eye; there arose the knowledge; there arose wisdom; there arose the light (Gautama Buddha).
There appears to be at present a great confusion of ideas in regard to the true meaning of the terms “Mystic,” “Mysticism,” and “Theosophy,” and this is by no means surprising, because no man can be a real Mystic unless the spirit of eternal truth has become a living power within his own consciousness; no man in his aspect as a merely intellectual being can be a real Theosophist, because Divine Wisdom is above all terrestrial comprehension, and belongs only to the divine part of man; nor does real Mysticism consist in an intellectual speculation about certain secrets of nature, serving at best for the purpose of gratifying a morbid curiosity. Divine Wisdom is not a set of new doctrines; the new doctrines serve at best to aid the student in overcoming the obstacles which hinder him from perceiving the truth. Real Theosophy means divine Self-knowledge, such as one can attain only by finding the truth within his own self. Theosophy is not a theory, invented for the purpose of “converting” a man from his belief in one set of religious opinions to another set; but it is a power, a light from God, which reveals to every one whatever is true in his or her own scientific or religious system.
This light is not attainable by anybody by his or her own personal exertions; it cannot be manufactured, no more than the light of the sun can be created by man. Man’s wisdom, based upon the illusion of self, has no foundation in truth and is an illusion; his science deals only with appearances and not with that which is eternal and real. But Divine Wisdom is everywhere, the light of eternal truth is within ourselves and outside of us, and there is nothing to hinder it becoming manifest in ourselves except our own prejudices and errors, our loves and desires for that which is not permanent, but illusive and evanescent. We cling to the shadows and illusions of life, because we do not realize their real nature. We adore the form and lose sight of the spirit. Thus we remain ignorant of our own real nature and do not experience the presence of a divine power in us, because we are entombed in a chrysalis of flesh and blood, and listen to the voices of material nature, and revel in the imagery which the sensual world produces within the mirror of our mind. Spiritual knowledge belongs not to the material man, but to the spirit dwelling within his material nature. He must rise above his own lower nature and free himself from the servitude imposed upon him by his incarnation in matter, before he can realize the divine state to which his true nature belongs. Only then will a new realm of consciousness, new perceptions and memories arise before him; he will find himself another being, not bound to earth, and that which heretofore appeared occult and mysterious to him will appear clear.
From this realm issue the occult teachings, which are necessarily true, because they originate from the self-perception of truth, and not from any philosophical speculation. But however great a reality the truth may be to him who lives in the truth and possesses the truth, its representation can be nothing more than a theory to those who do not perceive it. The Theosophical teachings ought therefore not to be confounded with Theosophy itself. The former are a series of doctrines intended to supply us with correct information as to the constitution of Nature and Man, and thus aid us in overcoming the misconceptions which are in our way for the attainment of the self-perception of truth; but Theosophy itself is as much above all theories as reason is above reasoning. It requires no arguments for proving its existence, it is itself its own proof, if it is once attained; it is divine self-knowledge, the self-knowledge of the true Self in Man.
The modern Theosophical movement has unearthed vast treasures of mystic lore from the Eastern scriptures, aiding us in forming a true conception of man’s relation to the power from which he and all Nature originated. The light emanating from the writings of the East has aided us in comprehending the mysteries hidden in the religious teachings of the West, and in looking deeper into the meaning of the doctrines of the Bible, which heretofore have been studied only in an external, superficial, or historical sense. Many have begun to think that the Bible is nothing more than a collection of parables and allegories intended to convey spiritual truths; but few have experienced these truths.
Truly, no one can really know the things of the spirit, unless he has attained that spiritual state in which alone the self-perception of truth is possible—a state at which only a few will arrive in this present age; but there is a way in which we may arrive at least at a correct theory about the constitution of Nature, and this is by comparing the various forms and systems in which the truth has been represented by those who have attained the spiritual perception of it.
What is this self-perception of truth, and how is it possible to attain it?
If we study ourselves, we find that we are constituted of a living organism in which various activities, physical, astral, psychical and spiritual, produce ever-changing states of consciousness. Looking within our own soul we behold a world full of various ever-changing sensations, perceptions, thoughts and pictures of the imagination; the whole comparable to a soap bubble in which the rays of sunlight produce a variety of different colours, appearing and disappearing in rapid succession. Every moment of time produces a new sensation, a new colour, a new state of consciousness, with which we by force of habit identify ourselves, producing thereby that idea of self which constitutes our illusive Ego, our imaginary and impermanent consciousness.
But the colours of our soap bubble are only upon the surface; they do not affect the spirit that inhabits our organism. Within that illusive appearance of self, beyond the sphere of this ever-changing state of consciousness, there is a power which does not change; there is something which knows that we know and which knows that of which we know nothing and recognizes our ignorance. This is the sphere of Divine Wisdom, and its Lord is our true real Self, which, for the purpose of distinguishing it from the illusive self, is called “God.” God knows Himself, and as all things are the manifestations of His divine nature, He also knows all things according to their innermost essence. We do not know God, nor His divine nature; but if the Wisdom of God reaches the human soul, then will man’s mind become illumined with that spiritual knowledge which is the attribute of the divine, but not of the terrestrial man.
There have been many such illumined saints and adepts, in whom the light of divine wisdom has become a living power; from the ancient Rishis down to some of the lights of the Church, down to the learned Paracelsus, the illiterate Jacob Boehme and the much reviled and misunderstood H. P. Blavatsky. They all tell the same truth; they all repeat the same old doctrine, that has been taught untold ages ago, namely, that for the purpose of finding God, one must give up his beloved delusion of self.
For the purpose of studying Mysticism, we might therefore select any prominent writer on mystic subjects from the ancient Chinese sages down to Martin Luther or Thomas a Kempis; but of all the German mystics who have taught this divine science, there is no one whose profundity of thought and clearness of expression have been greater than Johannes Eckhart, who has therefore been called “The Master.” There is no better authority than he in all things regarding Christian mysticism. Many of those that came after him were taught by his writings and repeated the ideas originating from him, and it appears certain that many of the sermons that have been attributed to the celebrated Tauler were originally delivered by Eckhart.
Of Eckhart’s life, and of the time of his birth, little is known, Strassburg claims to have been his birthplace. We meet him first as a celebrated teacher in Paris, at the college of St. Jacob, which belonged to the religious order of which he was a member. This was in the year 1302. He was probably a disciple of Albertus Magnus, and he enjoyed so great a reputation for holiness and learning, that when a quarrel broke out between the Pope Boniface VIII and King Philippe IV of France, he was called to Rome for the purpose of advising St. Peter’s successor. He then became a Vicar-General, or inspector of the religious orders in Bohemia, and as such, he preached in many places in Germany and Austria, drawing great crowds, especially at Cologne, where multitudes assembled for the purpose of listening to him, and where he became the head of an extensive community of followers.
At that time there was a great religious movement taking place in Germany. The religious aspirations of the people had outgrown the narrow limits of dogmatism and orthodoxy. There were many who desired to obtain the grace of God directly and without any intercession of priestcraft. Pious communities were formed, requiring no salaried clergy, and living after the principle that all external forms and ceremonies are useless if not enlivened by the spirit of truth, that the best of all religious worship is to allow the will of God to be done upon this earth as it is in heaven.
The old history then repeated itself. The number of paying churchgoers grew less, and as the Church found its financial interests threatened, it turned against what it called “the new sect.” Imprisonment and execution by fire and sword followed, and very soon the possession of any extraordinary degree of virtue or piety becoming known was sufficient to cause a person to be suspected of heresy and to deliver him to the torture-chamber of the Inquisition. The reading of the Bible was prohibited, and the thumbscrew and rack extracted the most absurd confessions from their victims; no insult or cruelty was too abominable to be practised against those who preferred a living Christ to the idols of the Church. The Christian clergy was then almost omnipotent, and the battle continued until the light of the great Reformation broke through the darkness of ignorance and bigotry.
Eckhart was himself accused of heresy. Up to the year 1307 no fault had been found with his teachings; but now, as they began to bear fruit, he was accused of spreading doctrines detrimental to the interests of the Church, and an opposition began to manifest itself against him among the clergy, which culminated in 1326 in his being expelled from his office and prosecuted for heresy. Eckhart was found guilty by the “Holy Inquisition,” and ordered to revoke his doctrines. This he did in so far, as he said, that if any error could be discovered, which he had written or preached publicly or privately, he would abjure and revoke it.
Eckhart’s influence among the people was so great as to make it advisable for the clergy to be satisfied with this conditional revocation. Still in the year 1328, there appeared a papal bull, condemning a number of the doctrines extracted from Eckhart’s writings, without, however, mentioning Eckhart’s name. In the beginning of 1329 Eckhart died, and on the 27th of March of the same year another bull was issued by the Pope, condemning as heretical twenty-eight of his doctrines. In that bull Eckhart was treated as if he had been some obscure or insignificant person, heretofore unknown to his Holiness, and it was claimed that before his death he had abjured all that he ever taught, in so far as it might have been contrary to the acknowledged doctrines of the Church.
It will be readily seen that Eckhart was not an enemy of the Church and its doctrines; he was only an enemy of the greatest enemy of the true spiritual Church, namely of priestcraft and selfishness, and of the misuse of the cloak of religion for the gratification of selfish desires. He recognized the value of the sacraments and ceremonies, but he taught that the mere performance of such ceremonies was not the highest attainable object, and that their true value was to be found in the realization of the living power which these symbols were intended to represent.
The death of Johannes Eckhart did not affect the life of the ideas which he had called into existence and which were now disseminated all over the country by his admiring disciples. Although rejected by the authorities of the external Church, Eckhart became the Master of a whole generation of theologians of a superior kind. He was now regarded as an almost divine being, exalted above the standard of humanity, and the well-known Suso claims that his Master, Eckhart, appeared to him in visions in a clarified body and continued to guide and instruct him. Eckhart’s writings, after having been publicly condemned, were secretly collected and regarded as inestimable treasures. They were passed from hand to hand, published under other names, and are to this day looked upon as the greatest treasures of mystic literature.
Thus Master Eckhart’s teachings became the foundation of modem mystic and spiritual philosophy. The greater part of his writings may have been lost. What we possess, has been collected during eighteen years of patent research by Mr. Pfeiffer.
The following pages are intended to give in an abbreviated form the sum and substance of certain religious teachings—not because they happened to be Eckhart’s views and opinions, but because we find in them, clearer and better expressed than in any other mystic book of the West, the same old truths which were taught by all the sages in the world, ever since the descent of humanity into matter, the same wisdom-religion which constitutes the foundation of ancient and modern Theosophy.
THE SOUL AND ITS POWERS.
Let thy soul be as pure as crystal and firm as a rock, so that it will be a suitable receptacle for the reception of the holy spirit of truth and bring forth a self-conscious immortal being.
The knowledge of one’s own soul is the key to the understanding of the mysteries. For the purpose of obtaining this knowledge all external research and such scientific methods as are used for the investigation of external and objective things are useless and misleading, in so far as no real knowledge can be obtained thereby. For this purpose the power of the soul to know its own self is required. It is that power by which the soul according to its own life and experience gains self-knowledge of its own divine nature, as it awakens to the realization of its own immortal existence as an integral part of the soul of the world. To know all that Augustinus and Thomas, Plato and Aristoteles, or any ancient or modern philosopher may have said in regard to the nature of the soul, will be of little service to us, if we do not know our own soul, or—to speak more correctly—if the soul in us does not know its own self. Such a knowledge does not amount to more than that of a theory, it can at best gratify our curiosity and stimulate us to search for soul-knowledge. A theoretical belief in the possible immortality of the soul cannot make us self-conscious of our own immortal nature; but a soul, recognizing that nature, requires no other proof.
Eckhart says: If anyone knew his own self, he would have the most profound knowledge of all created beings, because he would know the Creator from whom all things originate. No one can know God unless he knows his own self; for his true self is of the nature of God . In the essence of our own soul we can see and know God, and the nearer a man in this life comes to the self-knowledge of the soul, the nearer does he come to the knowledge of God. Within thyself dwells and lives the truth. No one can find it by seeking it in external things. The surest way to find God is to seek Him within one’s own self.
The soul is a celestial power and essence, undivided and immaterial, which penetrates all the parts of the body.1 The body (including the mind) is of a material nature, made of the spirits of the four terrestrial elements; but the soul is of celestial nature and origin. Both are united and destined to be eternally one. The soul is created and has a beginning in time (in regard to its individual existence), but its essence is above all time and corporeity. During terrestrial life the soul is bound to the body for the purpose of gaining self-knowledge by experience (in this and in other existences upon a planet) and can act only in connection with a body . The soul, if separated from a body (material or ethereal), has neither a separate intelligence nor a separate will. It contains the principles and elements of these activities, but does not bring them into action.
This is the difference between “Soul” and “Spirit.” The spirit is the power of the soul; but a power is nothing, unless it manifests an activity; the soul is the vehicle and field of manifestation of the spirit; a soul without spirit is dead. (Spirit is knowledge, the soul in which knowledge becomes manifest is that which knows.)
Thus, in regard to its higher spiritual region, the soul is of a spiritual nature, a spiritual soul, while in regard to its lower, animal powers, the soul touches the animal kingdom. The soul, in possession of spiritual knowledge, is exalted above all created things, elevated beyond all conception of space and time. It is nobler than all material things and, so to say, the intermediate link between time and eternity; reaching eternity with its higher faculties, while its lower ones are resting in time. The soul is that which in man is intelligent and produces physical action; nevertheless no man can justly say, “my soul is doing this or that,” for neither the soul nor the body alone but both together constitute man. Being intimately connected with the body, the soul is contained in every part of the body as a whole. The active part is not the body, which without the soul is without life and power to act, but the soul—and that which constitutes man a human being is above all his soul—in its aspect as a spiritual being, endowed with an external human organism.
In its essence the soul is free of all corporeal things, for the body is within the soul, and not the soul confined and limited in the body. A disease of the body is not a disease of the soul. If the bodily eye is lost, this does not injure the inner sight of the soul, for the soul is not merely in the eye, but also in its fulness and completeness outside of it. The loss of an organ of the body does not cause the loss of an organ of the soul, it merely deprives the soul of the means to manifest the corresponding activity on the external plane—in the same sense as a carpenter losing his saw does not lose the faculty of using a saw, but merely loses the opportunity of exhibiting his power.
For the purpose of manifesting its activity on the external plane, the soul requires instruments, and these instruments are the organs of the physical body. The powers of the soul rest in the soul, but are not its essence. In so far as they come from only one fountain, they are all only one, but in regard to their manifestation they differ from each other. Thus the power of the soul to perceive, manifests itself in the body as the faculty of hearing, seeing, feeling, tasting. smelling. The senses are the avenues for the communication of the soul with the external world, and by means of these avenues the external world makes its impressions upon the surface of the soul. This communication of the soul with the sensual world is also enjoyed by the animal kingdom. Man differs from the animals especially in so far as in him the light of intelligence is active, and this light is far more essential to his human existence than the unimpaired possession of his physical senses.
The higher powers of the soul are memory, the capacity for knowing the truth (self-knowledge, conscience), and the will, by means of which he may restrain or overcome his desires. The lower powers of the soul are the speculative intellect (reasoning), desire for personal possessions and enjoyments, and anger. These are the functions of the soul, but not its essence. They originate in the soul, but the soul does not become absorbed by them. The soul is of a simple and uncomplicated nature; its essence is self-consciousness, meaning the power of the soul to realize its own existence and know its own self. This self-consciousness is independent of space and time. The soul does not require the actual presence of an object which it loves for the purpose of loving it and associating with it in thought, and it is necessary to distinguish between the soul itself and its functions, between the power of the soul and the variety of the manifestations of that power. The soul understands by means of its reasoning power (in connection with the mind), it wills by means of the will, it remembers by means of the memory; whatever the soul performs, is performed not by a change in its essence, but by means of its powers and faculties. Within the essence of the soul all activity is at rest, there is nothing but eternal tranquility.
The soul leads an interior life, and the investigation of the ever-changing variety of appearances in the external world is not a matter which concerns our innermost being, but belongs to the external mind, which is itself complicated, unstable and subject to change. If in this life we were to see and know all things at once as in a mirror, we would not have to run from one thing to another, and the attention of the soul would not be divided. The more the attention of the soul is attracted to many different directions, the less will there be a manifestation of the one true and real knowledge—of the knowledge of self.
The soul is intermediate between God and the creature (between the true and the illusive self), facing on one side that which is eternal, and on the other side that which is temporal. The soul possesses a light in common with the angels, in which it may behold God (its own divine Ego), and this light is the property of the soul by right of the soul’s divine origin; it is the light of reason, by means of which, and without any intermission, divine wisdom is communicated to the soul. But when the divine self-consciousness of the soul is clouded by material thoughts and desires; when the soul’s attention is led astray by the imagery of the senses, that light becomes hidden from view by the darkness of the material mind.
Within the inner and higher region of the soul the divine Self (God) acts continually by means of the light of its wisdom, although the soul is not conscious of it. Within the outer and lower regions the impressions coming through the avenues of the senses enter, producing emotions, desires, and passions, and disturbing the tranquility of the soul. This lower region of the soul (the mind) is the battle-field, where storms rage and waves clash together, where opinions wage war with each other, where dreams and illusions exist; but in the celestial kingdom within there is peace and tranquility and the eternal light of the self-knowledge of God.
The soul is the vivifying principle in the body, not only in the bodies of men and animals, but in everything. God is as much in a stone or in a stick of wood as in a sage or a saint; but only the soul of man, and not that of a stone or a stick of wood, is capable of serving as a vehicle for the manifestation of his divine self-consciousness. In one sense the soul is like a prisoner in a dungeon, while it is incarnated in a body; but not the whole individuality of the soul is shut up in a personal body or form, its essential nature is free and unchangeable, independent of time and space and personal existence, and the attainment of the self-knowledge of one’s own soul renders man a free being and independent of material limits.
The expression “soul” refers to that principle in man to which belongs his essential character. In a similar sense we may speak of a certain person as being a carpenter, although first of all he is a human being, and no carpenter can be found in him after his death. The “soul” is, in fact, a nameless principle, which, by becoming manifested in a body, manifests by means of its functions certain attributes, known as “soul powers.” Without these powers the soul could not manifest its activity, and without the soul no soul activity could exist.
The soul has been called a secret fire, a divine spark, a light, a number. All these appellations are merely attempts to describe that which is nameless and beyond all limited conception. No external scientific investigation will ever discover the true nature of the soul. The soul can be known only to its own self by means of its power to attain self-knowledge.
There are three ways of attaining knowledge:
1. By means of the impressions received through the senses.
2. By means of reasoning.
3. By means of the interior illumination from the light of divine wisdom.
All recognition begins by perception. The sensual perception refers to material and corporeal objects, but the mind does not perceive these objects themselves; it merely receives the impressions which the soul gathers from these objects and carries them to the consciousness of the mind by means of the senses. The eye as well as the mind is a mirror in which the images of visible things are reflected. For the purpose of perceiving one image clearly the mind must be free of other images. The visible can be seen only by means of the invisible; the eye could see nothing corporeal if there were not something incorporeal which enables the eye to see. I do not see a hand or a stone, I only see their images mirrored in my eye and in my soul, and these images I see not by means of any other medium, but directly.
I see a colour by means of the light; the colour does not enter my eye, and my eye must be free of all colour to enable me to see it. Thus what we actually see are the spirits or forms of things, and only by means of these forms or images can they enter the mind.
Each organ of sense has its own sphere of activity; but the root of all is the touch. To touch a thing with the sense of seeing is to see it, to touch it with the power to smell is to smell it, etc. The sensual perceptions give rise to thoughts and reasoning, but the highest is Reason itself without becoming manifested as reasoning, and the more pure Reason is tranquil and free from activity, and the more Reason itself is pure and undefiled by material images, the more will it be capable of the reception of real knowledge. Pure Reason recognizes the truth in all things apart from their external appearances, for pure Reason is God, and when the mind is tranquil, God Himself takes the place of reasoning and exercises the functions of the soul.
The reasoning mind has no rest so long as it has not found the truth and the essence of the object of its search. It seeks and tumbles about until it has discovered the foundation upon which to rest. Therefore there is no rest in this life for a mind which has not yet found the truth. There is truth in all things, and there is truth within the foundation of the soul; but it is hidden from the self-seeking mind, and reason finds no final rest except in the truth. For this reason there is nothing within the world of created things that will permanently satisfy the mind until it has found the one eternal truth itself; which means to say that it must rise above the variety of forms to the Unity of the All. The lower powers of the soul are instruments, each having its own object to accomplish; but the object of all is to lift up the mind to the highest perception of truth.
Thought is a power by means of which we may free ourselves gradually from the world of objective perceptions and rise above the conception of space and time. The true inner light of reason is of such a noble origin, and so powerful, that all created things are for it too narrow and low. It is nobler than all material things, and every being, when illuminated by the light of Divine Reason, becomes thereby ennobled, luminous, purified and elevated above the world of matter.2 The mind has the capacity of being impressed with the forms of all things. If the spirit is to recognize the essence of all things, it must have the principles of all these things within its own constitution. The mind receives the impressions of the forms of things, but the spirit recognizes their essence. The truth and essence of everything is hidden behind its outward appearance; this essence is not seen by the eye, but can be known by the spirit, and the more a thing is true and essential, the easier can it be known. The spirit (the character) is the basis of the external form; if both are in harmony with each other, they represent the most perfect expression of truth.
Thus, by the act of recognizing the truth in a thing, the image of that thing attains such a form within the mind as will correspond to its real nature; this is the form which belongs to such things or beings universally, and the universal being is the real state of being of every thing. To arrive at real knowledge of a thing its fundamental cause ought to be known. The progress in knowledge is a continual progression from superficial to still deeper causes, until one arrives at last at the one great and universal Cause which is the foundation of all existence. Each effect comes from a cause, each action from a power, each power from the essential being. Therefore we must penetrate from essence to essence, until we arrive at the essential source of all things, which is one universal principle. The soul continually strives to rise up from the state of differentiation in its relation to things, to the unity of all, the Be-ness of all being, which is not a being, although it is not the negation of being, but rather its exaltation and purification. This only is the true state of the spirit for the recognition of the form less universal, the Absolute; but this state the mind cannot attain by the exercise of any special power or activity, it cannot enter the one universal being, so long as it is divided in its activities. A liquid poured into a vessel adopts the form of that vessel, and likewise an object of understanding is understood according to the capacity of the knower and not according to its own qualities. Whatever enters the soul is formed within the soul according to the soul’s nature. Every kind of objective scientific knowledge is at the same time a process of distinguishing one thing from another, and therefore all such knowledge is limited and temporal; only he who knows the one universal All in everything has the true understanding. That which was formerly known as a perishable body is now recognized as being imperishable, things are perceived as such as they are in truth, without any parts and as manifestations of one Unity. There will be no past and no future, only one eternal presence. The knowledge of the Absolute is absolute knowledge, a transcendental knowledge wherein the soul finds rest and the mind permanent happiness.
The nobler a thing is, the commoner it will be. God is the one, common to all numbers, and without Him nothing could exist. He is the essence of life in all things. I would sooner sacrifice my eye than my life, for I can live without an eye, but not see with out life; and I would sooner give up my life than my own essential being (God) for I can be without living, but not live without being. Universal being is more essential than life in a limited form.
There is no real knowledge possible unless a certain equality exists between the knower and the object which is to be known. Perception is a unification between the perceiver and the object perceived. If I look at a stick of wood, the stick remains what it is; but what I perceive in my mind is not wood, but a form, and this form has become a part of my own constitution, being incorporated into my mind. If a thing were of an entirely spiritual nature and nevertheless visible to my eye, it would, in the act of my seeing it, become itself united to my own consciousness, so that I and that thing would constitute only one being. True and real knowledge is therefore the identification between the perceiver and the object of his perception. The soul in attaining the true recognition of God, becomes God, and receives His divine wisdom, which mean s the true knowledge of self.
THE NATURE OF THE SOUL.
The fact that the soul has the inherent faculty of attaining self-knowledge in God, proves its divine nature and origin. In its temporal manifestation as a terrestrial form its true nature is not expressed. In attaining divine wisdom the soul becomes free of all materiality and limitation of time and space, and retains only its own pure and essential being. The process of its purification begins with sensual perception and rational thinking, and finishes with the recognition of its own eternal, universal and unlimited state. In its very foundation the soul is itself God and remains God, independent of the form in which it appears. The relations of the soul to the sensual world only extend to its surface. That which fills the noblest part of the soul does not enter through the bodily senses. All sensual perceptions serve merely for the purpose of instructing the soul in the lower degrees of her initiations preparatory to entering into a higher state. They serve for awakening the slumbering soul and stimulate its activity. The soul remaining within the pure light of Divine Reason, stands in no relation to any material things, and receives no impressions from them.
Whatever is to be known of any object can be known only by means of the images of the objects of one’s recognition. The soul possesses such images only of external things and has no image of its own self. Therefore the soul knows all things, but not its own self; there is nothing of which the soul has less knowledge than of its own self, and it is therefore as inexpressible and incomprehensible as God. The soul never grows old, but always remains young;3 the more we find in it its own origin manifest, the younger is such a soul; for to be young means to be near one’s birth or one’s origin. The soul is still as young as it was when its creation took place; what appears old, is the body and its activity. I should be sorry if my soul were not younger tomorrow than it is today; because I hope that I shall every day come nearer to God. That part of the soul’s quality which clings to the material body, is not a vehicle for the highest truth; but the true essence of the soul is the Truth itself,4 and therefore the soul finds no peace until it has found its true self, become purified of all that is foreign to its own true nature and attained again its true state.
The powers which lift the soul towards its own divine origin are reason and will; their activities are spiritual knowledge and love. These two activities are the feet upon which the soul must stand firmly and stride forward over all material things, so that it may not become soiled by the dust of that which is doomed to perish. Our salvation and happiness consist in the presence of God in us. God is in all of His creatures; but they do not all know it, and therefore they are not all blessed with happiness. The substance of happiness is in the recognition of God’s presence in us.5 “This is the true life, that one recognizes Thee as the true God.” The will grasps God in His aspect of goodness; pure reason grasps Him without any attributes, in His own essence or non-being. Soul-knowledge guides the will and precedes its manifestation as love. We cannot love God if we do not recognize Him; the foundation of all existence is consciousness, without consciousness or soul-knowledge there can be no love. If the will alone were sufficient, there could be no oneness with God. God and I are one, and this oneness does not exist for me unless I am conscious of it in my heart. The will has two functions, desire and love; but reason has only one function, namely recognition, and reason does not rest until it has embraced its object in its true essence without any mask or form. Therefore reason precedes the will and tells the will what to love. As long as we desire a thing, we have it not; if we are in possession of it, we love it, and there is an end of desire. Reason is the head of the soul. Love is directed towards that which is good in God, but wisdom goes directly to that cause which causes the good to be good. Love grasps for God in so far as He is lovable, but wisdom rises higher and realizes His essence.
Reason and will must work together in unity; reason must be penetrated and fructified by will. In the activity of reason there is a motion which impregnates the soul with the images of external things, and the beginning of such a motion creates the substantial forms of the soul in union with the true essence of the objects of its perception, which become objective images in the mind by the power called “imagination”; but the recognition of sensual things is not the highest function of reason, its highest function is the recognition of absolute truth.
Some teach that love is superior to reason; but love without knowledge is blind, and wisdom cannot exist without love. We say that true happiness is found neither in love nor in knowledge separately, but that there is something within the soul from which springs knowledge and love. It knows not and loves not like the powers of the soul, it has no “before” and no “after,” it needs no addition from out ward things, it does neither increase nor decrease, it is itself, and enjoys its own self as God. Divine Reason or wisdom receives everything directly from God; it is it self the wisdom of God and sees Him for ever face to face. Happiness is neither within the will nor within reason, but stands above both. Whatever desires in desire, or what can be comprehended by mind, is not God. Where the comprehension of the mind and the desire of the will ends, there begins the darkness in which is the light of God. Holiness is happiness, and is within the foundation, in the apex of the pyramid constituting the soul. In this foundation will, reason, and memory are only one.
The highest region of the soul qualities is called by Eckhart the “man” (reason); the lower regions the “woman” (the will). All the powers of the soul must be subject to divine reason to enable the soul to rise up in its consciousness to its own higher spheres, where it becomes illuminated by the light of divine wisdom.6 There the powers of the soul remain behind, as it enters the innermost temple and stands in naked purity before the throne of its creator. This highest portion of the soul is always in the presence of God, and knows nothing about time nor of the existence of the physical body. It is always in eternity, where there exists no past and no future. Animal man knows in time and locality; the spiritual self-knowledge of the divine man is above time and locality. The “now,” however momentary it may be, is still related to time and has to be abolished. The same is to be said of space. Whatever is on the other side of the ocean is as near to the soul as if it were on this side. All ideation and thinking takes place in time; true self-knowledge knows everything independent of time. As long as you wish to be something distinguished you cannot be all; rise above all distinction and you will be and possess everything. There is nothing that hinders the self-knowledge of the soul in God so much as the illusions of time and space. They are divisions; but God is One. Therefore, if the soul is to know God, it must rise above the conceptions of space and time; for God is neither this nor that; it is the truth within all.
Nothing can enter the highest region of the soul, its divine nature; but the light of divine wisdom and the divine soul is perpetually in God. By means of the highest power of the soul man recognizes all things; not as things that appear to be, but such as they are in God; divested of their material part, only their beauty remains. This power is a light which can never become extinguished, a spark within the soul which renders it possible even for the greatest sinner to return again to God. Sorrow and pleasure affect only the lower powers of the soul; the divine spark is always directed towards the divine state, and battles continually against that which is opposed to its own divine nature. It is not a special power; it is neither this nor that; it is of the nature of God, omnipresent and absolute. Whatever it is, it is it through God and one with Him. It is in the unity of God and from this “spark” the soul receives its essence and life. Only this essence is fully in God, all the rest has to remain “outside.” It is uncreated,eternal. Wherever the soul wears its natural terrestrial aspect there is no truth. It is not nothing; but it is above and beyond everything; it is itself the Creator, having within itself the images of all creatures, but without any forms and above all formation. It is itself an image of God and yet not an image, but the power to manifest and restore in man the true image of God. In thus producing this manifestation it remains without form, containing the image of all images. It rests in eternal tranquility, performing no work itself, and nevertheless all that is performed takes place through its essence and power.7 The mind is the sum and substance of the higher functions of the soul, the dwelling of ideas and rational conceptions. There the attributes of the manifestations of God can be known. If we penetrate deeper into the essence of the soul, we find that divine reason which has the power to know God without any attributes in His own essence.
This “spark” like God has no name. It may be called the spirit of the soul or the innermost man in contradistinction to the external sensual man and to the inner man, who still retains the sense of separateness and “self.” It may also be called the Light of Divine Wisdom, in which no darkness exists.
The conception of the triune God is not the conception of the Absolute, because in the Absolute there is no differentiation of aspects. The Absolute is beyond the reach of any intellectual conception, and the soul that desires to approach it must rise above all ideation and thinking, it must rise above the conception of a triune or manifested God, to that which includes God and everything. The organ by which this rising is possible is the divine spark.
This “spark” is above all being, it is “be-ness,” the essence of all bring (Sat); it is nothing, and, nevertheless, the foundation of everything, and there is in it no differentiation nor relation to anything. This foundation is eternal stillness, immovable, and, nevertheless, the cause of all motion and meditative life. Reason (not reasoning) penetrates with its eye all the secret corners of Divinity, grasping Son in the heart of the Father within the foundation. Reason is not satisfied with having found goodness, or wisdom, or truth; not even with the possession of God. It never rests until it penetrates into the foundation from which goodness and truth originate and grasps the principle from which they spring.
The soul has the capacity to know everything, and therefore it rests not until it has grasped the highest; that in which all things are one unity. When the soul becomes transformed into its first principle, absolute “be-ness,” where it perceives God before He clothes Himself with being and knowledge; then is the soul in pure self-knowledge, capable of realizing the essence of being. The soul rises up into the simple unity above all things and forms into that which is unknowable to forms on account of their limitation; formless it enters the formless Deity.
Within the deepest essence of the soul, wherein there is neither will nor cognition, no power of any kind, no conception, not even God can penetrate, in so far as there is connected with the term “God” the idea of something distinguishable from other things. If God is to penetrate within the Absolute, He has to lose or leave behind all the attributes connected with the id ea of “God,” He can penetrate into the Unity only as Unity without any attributes. In the Absolute He can be neither Father nor Son nor Spirit, and still He is there, something (Parabrahman) which is neither this nor that, but All.
Every activity of the mind is imperfect, for the mind sees all things in ideal forms (existing within itself), it distinguishes one thing from another; to see God as an image, a trinity, is still not yet the summit of perfection. Only after all forms have been abandoned and the soul sees the pure and uncomplicated Unity, not till then will the soul find the pure and formless essence of Divine Oneness, which, being above all being and without activity, rests in itself.
The doctrine which teaches the difference between God and Deity treats of one of the greatest of all mysteries. God is not the Absolute; the Absolute, which includes God and all, is called “Deity.” It is also not the “Essentia Divina” (Mulaprakriti), nor is it the Divine Nature (Hiranyagarbha), but that which, in the absence of any attribute, can only be negatively described, and which is, therefore, said to be unspeakable, unimaginable, infinite, unthinkable, incomprehensible, perceptible only to the highest Reason (the Logos), void of all thoughts or forms. In the Deity there are no opposites, neither white nor black, neither good nor evil. The quality of God is His Being, but Deity is beyond and above and at the foundation of all being, and cannot be designated by any name. To call Deity “a being,” would be as incorrect as to call the sun by the term “white,” or “black,” nevertheless it is the source of all being, it is being and non-being; even to say “it is,” is incorrect, because it would add something foreign. Deity is without will, without love, without justice, without charity, without divinity, without anything that is attributed to God. Whatever quality we might ascribe to it would be the cause of a misconception. If I were to add anything to God, I should be putting an idol by the side of God. The First Cause is neither light, nor is it darkness. Its nature is to be without any nature. Peel off everything from your conception until there remains nothing but an only “is,” and you will come nearest to His name. No one can truly say or comprehend anything of the Deity, and we are rather ourselves that which we ascribe to the First Cause, than the First Cause itself. If I were to say “the Deity is good,” it would be false. I am good; the Deity not. I am better than Deity, for that which is good can become better and best; but Deity is not good and cannot become better or best, it is far beyond all that. God is neither wise, nor a being, He is beyond all understanding. If I had a God whom I could comprehend I would not take Him to be God. God is nothing to Himself, but there is also nothing negative in God (in His aspect as Deity); He is the Unity, and unity is the negation of all negation; God is One. The unity has no foundation, it is its own foundation, the origin of the bottomless abyss, the roof of unlimited height, the circle without any circumference.
Deity is immovable rest. God acts; Deity does not act. God becomes; Deity has left all things to God; it is freedom, having nothing and requiring nothing, never manifesting itself and giving birth to nothing, being related to nothing but itself, impenetrable to perception or knowledge. Where everything ceases to exist, there is that pure being and non-being which no one knows but he who has entered into it within himself.8
Form is the manifestation of being. Nature is the outstreaming (outbreathing) of Deity. If we ascribe “substance,” form, and activity to God, it is because our conception is bound by our senses, which are incapable of a purely spiritual perception; there is no such thing as “matter” and “form” in the Absolute; matter, motion, space, are only terms to describe the way in which we look at that which is beyond name and beyond conception. The highest realization of the presence of God requires no terms and no mental conceptions, but if we wish to describe God and His nature, we must descend from the Unity into multiplicity and use terms for the purpose of distinguishing between the different aspects we take of the One Unity, in which there exists no differentiation of any kind, and in which rests the unlimited potentiality of every state of being.
The potentiality embraces everything, and everything is contained therein; not as a thing, but as the one potentiality or essence, in which there can be no knowing, there being neither subject nor object of knowledge. The cause of being is that God (Parabrahman) becomes manifested periodically. He reveals Himself to Himself outwardly and returns again into Himself. This is His history. The eternal becoming is a process in eternal nature, and as such it has no beginning and no end. The Absolute, in so far as its conception embraces the potentiality of all differentiated things, is called the light of divine Unity. It is only one, and still it is being and nature. In its aspect as being it rests in its own essence in eternal tranquility; there its light embraces everything in its unity; not in that sense, as if it were there present as the form of some certain creature; but it is in its own eternal stillness only itself. In its aspect as divine nature, it is the unity of the triple personality (the knower, the known, and knowledge in one), or the one potentiality of manifesting itself as the three; in its manifestation as three begins the activity of the one, and the production of forms, for “be-ness” itself does neither act nor produce, it merely is. Being is the synthesis of the unity of the divine persons and all things, but divine nature is only the nature of the divine persons, not the nature of things, for the things partake of the essence or being, but not of the divine nature. Absolute being is at once tranquil “be-ness” and also the radiant trinity of eternal Nature.9
The existence of God’s divine nature is the cause of His appearing under different aspects, the basis of His manifestation; this divine nature is the essential being of the three divine personalities, or in other words, the three aspects in which the eternal unity becomes manifested to us. The absolute “be-ness” is unity. This unity cannot manifest itself to itself except as a trinity, and the three persons in Divinity are the form of its being. It is the same as with humanity and man. That nature which all men have in common, is called “humanity,” but humanity in itself (apart from human beings) can neither act nor produce anything; for this purpose the existence of human beings (personalities) is required. In the same sense Divinity embraces all things, but it neither acts nor generates anything, except by means of its triple personality.
God as the Absolute is absolute knowledge, but no knowledge exists where there is no knower and nothing to be known. Divine nature, by the act of reflecting, becomes the Father, it is divine reason beholding itself. The object of this knowledge is the Son, and divine Love, the relation existing between Father and Son (self-knowledge) is the Holy Ghost, the third “person” or aspect of the holy tri-unity. In other words, the Father is being (Sat), the Son is self-knowledge (Chit), and the Father seeing Himself as His Son, gives rise eternally to the manifestation of joy, or the Holy Spirit (Ananda). Therefore, the Son is as eternal as the Father, and the Holy Ghost as eternal as they. Thus the three persons have only one essence, and differ alone in their aspects. Their personalities (individual aspects) differ entirely one from another, but in their essence they are only one.
“Personality” (from persona, mask) means an aspect, a form, in which a power becomes manifest. Thus the sunlight becomes manifested in the colours of a flower as an individual aspect, humanity in the aspect of a man; but for all that a flower is not the sun, nor a man humanity. In the same sense Eckhart says: the three divine personalities remain for ever in the unknown infinitude, but they differ from each other in their aspects. Not that each of these three personalities is a separate being, reasoning and willing differently from the other two; but as space is nothing if not manifest as a form, and when becoming manifest having three aspects, namely length, breadth and thickness, so the Deity is incomprehensible in itself, but becomes comprehensible to itself by manifesting itself in its trinity. The Son or the Word is the perfect image of the knower reflected in the object of His knowledge, and therefore this giving birth is called also an outspeaking. The Father, in speaking out His Word, gives birth to the Son, and by the birth of the Son the Father comes into being. Human knowledge is imperfect and changeable, and therefore the object of such knowledge is not identical with the knower. The outspoken word is only a symbol of the Word which is within the knower. The object of divine self-knowledge is the eternal Word. God cannot know Himself as the Father, except through the Son, for the same reason as a man cannot see his own face without the aid of a mirror, and he then sees not the face itself, but merely its image. All objective knowledge requires the existence of an object; the Father becomes His own object by speaking Himself out as the Son, and understands Himself, for “understanding” and “Word” are identical.
Thus the Father may be said to create Himself in giving birth to the Son. Within the unborn essence is the Father, but not as a Father, but impersonal, containing in Himself the root or potency of His own personality, and from this root springs the one tri-personal God, eternally creating Himself within His own unmanifested nature (Mulaprakriti). God in His aspect as Deity is unknowable spiritual substance, unity; God in His tri-unity is living light. The omnipotence of the three persons consists in their being One Unity including the All, which Unity is not moved, but contains the cause of all motion and personal activity. God in the forms is the God of these forms, but within formless nature He is the Deity. The trinity is, so to say, the heart of divine nature, and as all the members of the body receive life from the heart, so the Deity acts only through the three persons.10
In the act of recognizing Himself, the Father becomes the object of His own knowledge, or the Son, as a being, distinguishable from Himself, but nevertheless identical with Himself and His own living image, and thus also the Father becomes knowable to the Son, and is called the Son, because His existence is due to Him who caused His existence and originated Him out of His own essence. He is also called the Word, because He comes from God, and nevertheless remains eternally in God, in the same sense as a thought remains in me, even if I express it. The giving birth to the Son is an eternal process. At the same moment, when the Father gives birth to the Son, the Son returns to the Father, because both are identical in their essence, and in this returning of the Son into the heart of the Father, the Holy Spirit takes its origin as divine Love, or Joy, or Recognition. The activity of the Father consists in nothing else but in giving birth to His Son. In this activity He consumes all of His power. If He were to abstain from doing so for only one moment, the whole of creation would cease to exist. This giving birth to the Son is therefore not a thing of the past, but belongs to the eternal present. The Son has not only been born, but is continually being born at present, and this present is an eternal becoming. The Father, in His eternal becoming, remains always the same. His doing does not change His essence. What He “does” He is “doing” eternally; in Him there is neither past nor present, and as in this eternal activity, nothing essentially comes into being, but what has ever been and will be and eternally is, but the multiplicity of appearances continually returns to the unity from which they originate, therefore this process is also called “a play.”
God as Deity is unlimited; but in His aspects as three personalities He is limited, each aspect having its limitation in the same sense as beauty and power are each limited conceptions, neither of the two being identical with the other; while each if regarded for itself has no limitation. The three personalities entering into existence from the Absolute do not leave the Absolute; the Absolute still remains in them, in the same sense as the one continues to exist in every number evolved from one. The Father originates from Himself, the Son from the Father, and the Spirit issues from both in the shape of divine (universal) love; the Son has everything that the Father possesses, only He does not, like the Father, give birth to a Son. Either is the person (mask or aspect) of one, and that one unity in its unmanifested aspect is nothing to us. The immutable rest of the Absolute (“be-ness”) does not interfere with the ever-moving process of evolution (nor does tranquility of conscience hinder a man from thinking). The differentiation of the personalities ceases in their fundamental unity, and thus the river eternally returns to its own source.11
The term “God” or “Godhead” refers not to one of the three individual aspects of the holy trinity, but to the trinity as one (Brahmā). In this aspect God is absolute being, to be distinguished from essentiality or “be-ness” which constitutes the basis of being. God in His aspect as the being comes into existence and goes out of existence, and has an eternal history of His own; He is a substance (Mulaprakriti), which is the vehicle of the continuous processes of evolution and involution taking place in the universe. His quality is to be, He knows and loves and thinks nothing but being. His highest aspect is that of universal reason, knowing itself; a living, substantial, essential reason, self-sufficient, dwelling within itself and being identical with itself. In considering God as being, we refer to His pronaos; His temple is divine reason, self-knowledge, self-existent, unaffected by anything external or foreign to it. There He is in eternal tranquility, knowing Himself; and this aspect of God, not as the Creator, but as pure essential reason, is the highest conception of divine being to which human reason can ascend. Reason alone is sufficient as the basis of the actions produced by Him. Whatever is contained in that reason becomes manifested externally; nothing in God is the product of arbitrariness, everything is the consequence of His being—not a reasoning being; but being and reason in one. My hope is not based upon God being good, and I am not asking to be saved because He is good, for in that case He might perhaps not be willing to exercise His goodness towards me; my salvation is in the circumstance that God is divine reason (wisdom), and that I recognize Him as such. God is the truth, and this is the only predicate which we can truly apply to Him; His reason is the self-reflection of truth within Himself, and this constitutes His eternal bliss, of which we may partake if we realize the manifestation of divine truth in ourselves.
In God there is no limitation. His working is direct and simple, and His omnipotence exists on account of His not requiring any means for working. He is not like a carpenter who may work one day and be idle the next, if it so pleases him. Such an arbitrariness would be imperfection. God works because He must; and He must work because He would otherwise cease to be. God is not the product of nature; nature is His product; He Himself has no cause; being reason itself, He is also goodness, His nature and essence is His love; but He loves nothing but Himself in Himself and in His own image in others. He loves His own goodness in man, and owing to His goodness He goes out of Himself, communicating His goodness to man. God in His aspect as perfect will is holiness, justice, providence (Karma), His wisdom and justice are identical. He is all that whose being is better than non-being, higher than all thought, inconceivable to the highest science of man. He is everything. A thousand worlds added to Him would not be more than what He is alone; He requires nothing besides Himself. He is the first cause of all things, and therefore He communicates Himself to all; His essence is simple, and therefore universal and common to all; He is His own fountain, and therefore all things are originating from Him; He is unchangeable, and therefore the highest good; He is perfection, and therefore incomprehensible to that which is imperfect, and cannot be described. We can at best describe the aspects in which He appears to us, but not say what He is.
The unity manifesting itself as a trinity is a process taking place eternally in God, and is the cause of creation. God manifests Himself to Himself through His own wisdom. He enters into Himself and issues out of Himself into all things through His wisdom. If there were no divine reason in God , there could be no trinity in Him, and no creature could ever have issued from it. Deity can become manifest only through that which is lower in the scale of gradation. There is a two-fold Word in God, namely, one that issues, and which is the principle of formation; the other one issues not, but remains for ever in the speaker. God was Himself the Word in the bottomless depth of divine nature, and the Son issued in the fulness of created forms, united with the word which for all time remained within the principle of fatherhood. The giving birth to the Son is the work of the Father, and the creation of the world is the work of the trinity. God speaks only one Word, namely, His Son; but through that Word He speaks forth all creatures, without beginning and without end. If He were to cease to speak His Word only for one moment heaven and earth would perish. Within the clear mirror of eternity, the eternal self-knowledge of the Father, He creates an image of His own self, His Son, and in this mirror the images of all things are formed, and may be known therein, not as creatures, but as God in God. Thus the three activities of the tri-unity are to be distinguished from each other. The Father created all things out of no-thing; the Son is the antitype of all becoming; the Spirit is the architect and ruler of all becoming in eternity and in time. In the Son is contained the sum and substance of all ideas: the Spirit comprehends the law of eternal order.
God does not exhaust His riches in creating a world; His glory is that He might have created a thousand times more if He had willed to do so, and nevertheless He would have remained above them all in His own pure essentiality undiminished. God in beholding Himself conceives of Himself as the fulness of world-creating ideas, the prototypes of all things. This eternal self-seeing or self-meditation in eternal tranquility is the creative activity of God and the giving birth to the Son, in whom all things are created; for creating means giving birth. Nevertheless, a distinction must be made between the direct birth of the Son and the indirect creation of the creatures; for the Son remains essentially within and coexistent with the Father, but the creature retains its divine essentiality only in regard to the eternal idea, which is the foundation of its being. (Only the eternal ideal is permanent and immortal; forms are nothing, if true ideals which they represent are not realized in them.) There are consequently three kinds of creation: the birth of the Son, the creation (evolution) of all things, and the involution of things or their return to God by means of divine grace (the power that radiates into them from their own divine source).
The creatures remain in eternity such as they are in the God generating Deity; the Son has within Himself the images of all things, and He knows all things according to their eternal essentiality. He is the oneness of all creatures, while He Himself remains identical with the creator, and is therefore also His own creature. This eternal issuing of the creature from the creator, while it remains nevertheless immanently in God, is described as a play of the Son produced in the sight of the Father; for while an infinitude of manifold and ever-changing images passes before the eye of God, nevertheless no actual change takes place within the eternal unity of the All; there is nothing that differs essentially from the one eternal God, whose self-consciousness is His wisdom and His body the All.
God creates the world out of nothing, for there is nothing from which He could have taken the material for forming a world; He is His own matter and form. (Nothing is but God; the world only appears to be, and being a mere appearance it has no substantiality. God is the All; there is no other beside Him, the things we see are the manifestations of His power, and merely appearances, and as such they are not God and not divine, they are nothing in themselves.)
God is eternal and all things have been eternally in Him, but these things were and are nothing in themselves. Before creation God was nothing for His creatures, they knew nothing of Him; but relatively to Himself He was always the same in regard to them what He now is and will remain eternally. (He is the spectator beholding what takes place eternally in His imagination, but He Himself remains unaffected by the play and always the same, even if the performance comes to an end.) No creature could possibly manifest God, because creatures were not (before God became manifest). He gives to His works being, form, substance out of nothing (except His own potentiality). This nothing cannot come out of nothing, because in God there is not nothing; neither could He have taken this nothing from anything outside of Himself, for there is no “outside.” The nothing was nowhere, and God took it from nowhere. Between God and the Deity is the infinite potentiality of all being, the absolute “be-ness” which is non-being or nothing, and from this absolute foundation of all being, which is also the foundation of God, has He created all things. Creation is nothing differing essentially from God, it is a manifestation of God manifesting Himself to Himself, a process of self-knowing in which subject and object, the knower and the known are identical, and this process of creation is a necessity, because God cannot be without knowing Himself. (An unconscious God, a God not knowing His own existence, would not be a God.)
The universe (in its aspect as a trinity of space, matter, and motion) is therefore eternal (it cannot exist without God and God does not exist without His universe). Before the world was the Deity (Parabrahman), not God (Brahmā); He was what He was. When the creatures began to be, God was not God for Himself, but in His creatures (as their essential being). God in perceiving Himself perceives all creatures, not as creatures (in themselves), but as creatures in God. God is the absolute One; He knows nothing but Himself. He (being the all) could not know Himself without also knowing all of His creatures. We can, therefore, not speak of a “time” before the creation of the world (because where there is no consciousness there can be no conception of time). There was no time; but all things are eternally within the absolute foundation, in God, in whom all multiplicity disappears in one unity. God became God in creating the world, and in this sense the Word was latent in God and was God, and is to be distinguished from God (although being identical with Him).
The terms “created” and “uncreated” must not be regarded as referring to a “before” and “after,” but as cause and sequence in an eternal becoming. God continually becomes God in generating His Son, and the act of creation takes place continually (while nothing comes into existence which not eternally is). There is no past and no future in God; He is still creating that which He has created thousands of years ago, He stood eternally in eternal immovable solitariness and is still the same. In creating the heavens, the earth, and all creatures His own self-existence became as little affected thereby as if He had never created anything. (A man does not cease to be that which he is, even if he does not imagine anything.) In God no new act of volition ever took place. The common interpretation of the word “creating” is entirely false. God created neither the heavens nor the earth; He spoke them out in His eternal Word. All that He thus called into existence He created without under going Himself any change; but the creatures (the appearances), when they have once entered into existence, are subject to continual change. (The “be-ness” in them never changes; but their state of being changes continually.) There is nothing besides God, and therefore He is unchangeable (there is nothing that could produce any change in Him). If an architect were perfect, he would require no materials for building a house, the house would spring into existence with his idea of it. Thus are the manifestations of God. Whatever He thinks is done in the eternal present, while, in fact, nothing is done externally or internally: it is a becoming without becoming, a change without changing, and this becoming constitutes the being of God. Do not imagine that God, when He created the earth, made one thing today and another thing tomorrow, for, even if Moses said so, he knew better; he merely said so because he could not have brought these things to the comprehension of the people in any other way.12
THE WORLD OF IDEAS AND THE SENSUAL WORLD.
The world is eternal. A God without a world is not thinkable. Creation is a process taking place in God continually; but the eternal world is not that of the creatures. The world exists eternally in God as a type or ideal principle, and the world of ideas is at the basis of the existence of all the objectified images constituting creation. Everything becomes according to a divine antitype and not directly according to the image of God. God’s infinitude expands in the radiant fulness of special forms of light; but they remain in Him a united multitude within the Unity. Only by means of issuing from this Unity, assuming a separate existence in space (by becoming differentiated ), and ultimately becoming material and subject to sensual attractions, does the world of temporal creatures come into existence, and this world is not eternal.
The essential being of all creatures is in God as the origin of the types which they represent. Each has been produced by its preceding image. Each thing is produced by one of a similar kind; man produces man, a lion a lion, fire produces fire, and the image which an artist produces exists as such in his mind. God created the world; but there must have been in His reason a preceding image of a world, according to which He created just such a world, and not another one of which no image existed in Him.
But every world is built up according to a certain order, and this order was eternally in God, the First Cause, and known to Him and intended by Him; and as this order includes an appropriate order for all creatures, therefore God has in Him not only the type of the world as a whole, but also the type of every creature in it. There must be in God as many types as there are planes of existence in creation, and therefore there is one type for the roses, one for the violets, types for men, angels, and for everything.
This multiplicity of types does not come into conflict with the eternal Unity in God, because God is not Himself those types; but He sees the image as a mirror of His own being, according to which the sensual thing is ultimately formed, and within all the multiplicity of forms God sees only the reflection of His own being. God wholly knows His own being as far as it is knowable within Himself, and in so far as the creatures have their divine existence in Him. This similitude which unites the creature with the divine essence is called the preceding image, and therefore there must be as many images as there are objective representations of types having their similitude in God. The preceding images are not the essence of God, not as that essence is in itself; but they are in it as images in a mirror; there are many images but only one mirror, one being.
What ever God recognizes, He recognizes by means of these images. Evil is without reality; it is rather a deprivation of being, comparable to blindness, which as such is nothing, it being only absence of sight. Thus God does not know evil and sin as such; but in the image of their opposites, such as falsehood in the image of truth.
In this aspect God has all things hidden within Himself. The creatures in themselves (in their own simple nature), and also in that nothing out of which they were created, are incomprehensible, comparable to an impenetrable darkness without light and without differentiation. The world of the preceding images is that nature which is o f God, a unity, without form or shape. It is the first emanation. There God endows all things in an equal measure, and they are equals in coming from God. Angels, men, and all things are equal when they first issue from God. The lowest creature coming from God is more glorious than the highest creature in its own nature (considered separately from God). In this sense all things are equals in God and are God themselves; God in God. All things are in God, as far as they have been immanent in Him from eternity; not in a gross state o f materiality, such as we are in at present, but like the art within a master artist. God beheld Himself, and thus He beheld all things; but God was not differentiated as are the things with their different attributes. Even if the things exhibit many differences of character and form, they are nevertheless only one image in God.
From this archetypal world is to be distinguished the world of creation. The former is eternal in God, the other subject to changes and time. The former is real, equal in essence with God; the latter is unreal and unsubstantial. If there were neither differences of attributes, nor time or locality, the All would be only one being. Time separates things; eternity unites them. Everything is for ever young in eternity. Corporeity is a departure from true being, an accident and a degradation. All things have emanated in time in a finite form; but they have remained infinite in infinitude. In themselves, in their temporal state, they are nothing (mere appearances); in eternity they are real and their life is in God. Thus the creatures are an emanation of the First Cause, a manifestation of the infinite potentiality in God; becoming recognizable by its magnificent display of differences. When the world issued from God it assumed a differentiated aspect; nevertheless in its essence it is one and undifferentiated.
The created world is therefore a departure from being, unsubstantial and nothing in itself. If I know all creatures, I still know nothing; for they are all as nothing (per se). They only become something in being acted on by that light from which they receive their substance and being. They are all unsubstantial and unreal, for their substantiality and reality depend on the presence of God in them. If God were to depart from them for one moment, they would vanish into nothingness. He who recognizes God, sees that all creatures are nothing. One creature compared with another creature may appear beautiful and seem to be something; but if they are compared with God, they are all nonentities.
GOD AND CREATURE.
The totality of all creatures is not God, neither did the creatures come out of the essence of God in the same sense as the Word is eternally born out of God’s divine nature; nor are the creatures themselves immortal and divine, nor does the Holy Trinity constitute the nature of things, and nevertheless there is nothing but God, and besides God there is nothing.
This apparent discrepancy will be cleared up if we realize that there are two aspects of Being in God. One aspect represents undifferentiated divine existence containing the potentiality of all existence, and the other aspect represents to us a state of differentiation of appearances, which we mistake for realities existing separately from God.13
All things are therefore real according to their real essence, which is only one and undivided; for God is the centre of all things, the soul of all souls and the nature of all natures, having in Him self the nature of all things undivided. He is the light of all lights,14 the life of all living beings, the be-ness of those that are, the reason of reasonable creatures. If God had ever objectified anything beyond the limits of His own being, He would not have been God (infinite). He performs all His works in such a way that they remain for ever within Himself. He made all things out of no-thing; but He breathed divinity into them so as to fill them with it; otherwise they would become nothing. God has all things in Himself, but so that they constitute only one. All creatures are in God and constitute the fulness of His being; but they are not in Him as this and that thing; but as the Unity and fulness of All. Whatever I know as real in a creature is no thing but God, for God alone is. The way in which God is in all things becomes more comprehensible if, instead of the term God, we put “Be-ness.”
God is in all things as “Be-ness,” or essential Being, which is only one. God is only one and everywhere, and therefore all things and all places are His dwellings, and everything in every part of them is always full of God. God was and is eternally the Father; but having made creatures, He has become their Lord. He is in all things in His own essence, acting in His own omnipotence, and every creature is a book speaking of God. He communicates Himself equally to all beings, but every being partakes of Him only in proportion as it is capable of receiving Him; the stone receives only existence, the tree the power to grow, the birds the faculty of flying, animals receive perception, angels reason, man freedom of will. God loves all things in an equal measure and fills them with His own being; but not all things are capable of receiving from Him the same amount of love, and therefore each one becomes filled with only that amount of love which it is capable of receiving. Wherever there is an atom of God, there is God in His totality, and therefore God is as perfect in the lowest of His creatures as He is in the highest.
That which is real in any creature is God, but God is only one, and the multiplicity of appearances is therefore merely an illusion, a nothing without any reality. All things are real in so far as God the one Reality is manifested in them; but in their aspect as beings differing from God they are nothing. God is all things, for He has within Himself the power of all things in a higher state than that in which they are possessed by the creatures themselves. God is the all in all and the all in everything, and still He is nothing relatively to anything, nothing in the things and no-thing within Himself. Just because God is All, therefore is He nothing particular; He moves all things and remains Himself for ever unmoved, He is above all things, subsisting within Himself, and because He is self-subsistent all things exist through Him. Everything has an above and below; God has it not. Each creature seeks within another that which it does not possess itself; God seeks nothing outside of Himself, that which all creatures possess is possessed by God within Himself. He is the highest, and nothing below Him can act upon Him. He is in all things, but in such a manner that He is also beyond everything, and therefore the imperfection of anything, whatever it may be, cannot touch Him.15 He is in all things their essential existence; but in this there can be no imperfection, because imperfection is a departure from true existence. The more God is within things, the more is He beyond them. Whatever exists within the limitation of locality and time does not belong to God; He is above that and beyond all creatures, and no creature can comprehend the supreme being of God. All things are in God and of God, but they are nothing if compared with God. Whatever they really are, they are that only in God (in Reality), and therefore there is really nothing but God (the Reality). He is inseparable from all things; for if existence were taken away from a thing, it would cease to exist and be nothing.
A creature, considered in its own being (as something apart from God) is nothing, and can therefore not manifest God. All creatures taken together cannot express God, no more than a drop of water can express the greatness of the ocean; a comprehension of all creatures would not furnish a comprehension of God. An understanding of divine nature (Atma-Buddhi) cannot come to the comprehension of the creature (Kama-Manas). God being one and undifferentiated, there is no particle however small separated from God and enclosed in a creature, and therefore the creature cannot make God manifest in them, nor can the creatures express the true (absolute) being of God, because they cannot receive Him in His true (absolute) being. There is not a creature that has not something good in it; but whatever good it has is from God, and belongs to God, and consequently there remains nothing for the creature itself than the absence of good.16
If the soul had known God (its own true self) as well as He is known to the angels, it would never have embodied itself in a form. Its ignorance of its own divine (universal) nature caused it to fall into the delusion of division, separateness and multiplicity. God speaks only one word (Himself), but we hear two (God and “ourselves”). Whatever the soul grasps, it can grasp it only in a limited form. Each thing is understood only to the extent of the capacity of the understanding of him who understands it, but not in the way in which it may know its own self. (True self-knowledge is without limitation, because the true Self is unlimited.)
Creation did not come from God (the One) directly; the One became Three (Father, Son, and Spirit), and from the Son emanated the world of ideas (the archetypal world), whose principle is the Son, and which became manifest as creation by the power of the Spirit coming from Father and Son.17 “Matter” is substance, which on account of its grossness hinders the free manifestation of spirit.18
THE KINGDOM OF THE CREATURES.19
In God are united all the perfections that are to be found in His creatures. As these perfections in God are innumerable, there must have been an almost innumerable multitude of forms in which these perfections could find expression. If only one creature could have expressed all the perfections of the Creator, He would have created only one; but as a part of a whole cannot be the whole in all of its aspects, therefore were many creatures created, which, however, in their totality do not exhaustively represent the glory of God. In this fulness of the creature each one takes part in His divine essentiality according to the degree of its capacity, and this causes a gradation in the scale of beings, some of which are nearer than others to God.20
There are three emanations: the first is the Son emanating from the heart of the Father; the second is the angelic world emanating from the Son, and the third is the evolution of the kingdom of creatures, issuing from the angelic world (the soul-powers of the world). These emanations may be compared to the ever-widening circles originating when a stone is thrown into a lake. The first emanation is so strong that if a thousand worlds were to be created their receptivity would sooner come to an end than the power of the emanation to act upon them.
There are three main classes of creatures. One class is non-intelligent and merely exists; the other two (angels and men) are in possession of the light of intelligence. Each being belongs to a class, and in each class there are various sub-degrees. The angelic world (the flames) are higher than “heaven”; heaven is higher than the fire; then follows the water, and ultimately the earth. The soul has no place in this classification; it is in a certain sense uncreated, and only Deity itself is its kingdom.
The “angels” are the intelligences, forming the transition state between pure spirit and the world of ideas (types) and also those beings which occupy the place between this ideal and the material world. They have been created out of spirit (fire), and are devoid of the soul-element (water); because it is not their destiny to be embodied in matter. Their essential nature is the light of reason, and they enjoy this light without intermission. There are innumerable hosts of such angelic existences, and each angel has its own individual nature. The nearer he is to God, the more is he exalted, and each receives from God as much as he is able to receive. An angel is a pure mirror reflecting the divine light without any obscuration, an immaterial being, occupying a position between God and matter, an image of God, illumined by the divine image. The angelic powers are nobler than the soul, which has to pass through bodies; they are above change and time, and in their essence belong to eternity; but with reference to the works they perform, they come into contact with that which is temporal.
Nevertheless the angels are in some respects imperfect. They resemble to a certain extent, but not wholly, the spark, the highest soul-power; they resemble it in their power to know and to love. But they can reach only to a certain point and no further, while the soul of man can proceed beyond that. If the soul of man were to reach the perfection which it may possibly attain in this terrestrial life, man would be able to reach higher than the angels, and all other created beings endowed with reason. The angels progress in knowledge and love, but ultimately the lowest one will be only as wise as was the highest one in the beginning. Whatever they receive is given to them without any effort of their own; but what the soul of man obtains is the result of hard labour. Therefore the soul-knowledge of a human being is far more glorious than the knowledge of the angels.
The highest angel is the nearest one to the first emanation, and so god like and powerful as to have the rest of the angels and the whole world in his safe keeping and protection. He acts with God by means of his presence, and not by means of any externally performed work. He acts in and by the authority and power of God, and the work of God is performed through him. He is the motion that turns the world and gives the impulse to the activity in nature; everything that lives upon this earth lives by the power of a spark of that angel (who is comparable to a sphere of light).
The angels are with us and guard us; but this does not prevent their celestial happiness, for their action and that of God is one and the same, and their joy is to execute the will of God—His will being a living power in their own constitution. In this way the angels may serve as an example to be followed by man. The lower angels prepare the soul of man for entering into a higher state, by teaching him in symbols and allegories which they have received from God. They purify, illumine and perfect the soul. Equality with the angels is the first step towards becoming divine. The light of divine wisdom is so resplendent that the soul could not support its influence if it were not modified by the light of the angels and thus received by the soul. The highest angel receives his light from God, transmits it to the angels nearest to him, from whom it passes into the lower orders of angels and thus ultimately reaches man. But a perfect man outgrows the lower classes of angels (intelligences) and receives his light directly from the highest angel; while the highest possible actions of God in the soul of man are beyond the knowledge of even the highest angel nearest to the throne of Divinity.
An angel is a certain kind of individual being, but the foundation of the soul is the totality of the All. An angel in its aspect as a spiritual intelligence is higher than the imperfectly experienced human soul; but the soul in regard to its potency and destiny is above all the angels and can only be compared with God. God created the soul in His own divine image, so as to constitute a perfect instrument for the perfect manifestation of His own divine state. He created the soul according to supreme perfection, endowing it with His own clearness and purity. He created nothing that was equal to Him except the soul; having Himself no limitation or form, He made the soul formless and infinite, and endowed it with His own immortality. The soul is therefore nobler, greater and more powerful than all creatures. All creatures are the footprints of God; but the soul is made after the nature of God. God is in the soul according to His nature, His essence and His divinity; but He is not enclosed within it. Man, so far as regards the higher part of his soul, is nearer to God than to the creatures. His material nature belongs to the kingdom of created things; but the reason in him is nearer to God than any other creature (power). The soul has not been created like other things; but it was formed in God and with God, and the image of God has been impressed upon it. Thus is the soul the highest being that ever issued from divine thought. God went into His own divine essence, between deity and divine nature, and made the soul out of nothing; and if one asks how great is the soul, let the answer be, that the heavens and the earth cannot circumscribe its greatness, but only God whose greatness is beyond the heaven of heavens. Therefore let him who wishes to measure the soul, take God as his scale, for the foundation of God and the foundation of the soul are essentially one. The soul is as in expressible and incomprehensible as God, and no man has ever discovered what is the soul essentially and in its foundation. Nowhere is God so truly as in the soul. In all creatures there is something of God; but in the soul is God in a divine mode of being. The soul is His resting place, and the “earth” (the human body) His footstool. The original nobility of the soul’s nature remains even in hell. The soul has been created between time and eternity and partakes therefore of the nature of either; being in an intermediate state between divinity and creation. God is not bound to any locality; neither is the soul. God forms all things according to the purpose existing in Him, and so does the soul. All that may be said about God, can similarly be said about the soul. The image of the Trinity is inherent with in the three superior powers of the soul, namely, Reason, Will and Memory, representing the three personalities (aspects) of divinity. The memory resembles the Father, reason the Son, and memory the Holy Ghost; but the highest form of the soul, the spark, corresponds to the unmanifested Deity, which is the highest object of the soul’s aspiration.
This similarity with God belongs to the soul in so far as it is a being endowed with reason. God is in other creatures in His essence, not that they may know Him, but because they could not exist without Him. God speaks His word in all being, but only a being endowed with reason can understand it. Equality with God is a condition for the attainment of divine self-knowledge. God would not be accessible to the soul if He were something foreign to it. Whatever I know of external things, I know only by means of their images; but God is known directly without any image. He must be the “Thou” to my “I,” and to the “I” of God I must be the “Thou.”
The soul has the light of reason in common with the angels; only man and the angels were made in the image of God, and can know God by the power of reason (not reasoning—but the light of reason itself). The soul has reason, and wherever God is, is the soul, and where the soul is, is God; in other words, as soon as God is, He sees within Himself the eternal image of the soul. God is absolute self-consciousness, and so is the original type of the soul. God is the form of the soul and the soul of souls. Whatever is the object of divine knowledge, that object is the soul. The idea of humanity stood from eternity beside the throne of God, and this idea is the Son of God. The soul contains potentially all creatures; it is the necessary amplification of God, for God could not understand creation with out the soul. In its pure eternal state, free from time and nature, the soul is as unchangeable as God, and differs in no way from God except in having been created and in having an origin other than itself. Without that it would be identical with the Son of God (the Logos); but all that the soul has is only borrowed, it has no possession of its own, for everything has been given it. Whatever God is, that He is by His own power, but the soul is all that through the power of God. The soul has not remained in the essential being of God, but has issued from Him and received an essence that was foreign to itself, having its origin in divine being. Therefore can the soul not work like God, who moves everything in heaven and upon the earth, giving life to all things, but it endows the body (and mind) with motion and life. All that the soul has is there fore received through grace: man is a human being by the grace of God, and God is God by His own nature. But this does not suffice the soul. The deepest wrath of the soul lies in its not being exactly as God is by His own nature.21
The soul has an eternal preexistence in God. Within the fathomless substance of divinity was Humanity unchanging and unveiled in an effulgent light for the purpose of radiating joy on all creatures. I 22 am standing within the foundation of eternal divinity; there God performs all his works through Me, even before He has become a personality, and I am all that is known. God made all things through Me, when I was within the bottomless foundation of God. I was there without any differentiation, and I am uncreated. All that is in God is God. My image has been, still is, and ever will be in God, and therefore my soul was eternally with God and is God. So that as I find myself standing in God in the highest, I know I have been in God eternally. Thus the soul becomes identified with the “Word” that was eternally in God, and all creatures have been created in man. There is no difference between the Son of God and the soul; the Son being the prototype of humanity. When the Father gave birth to all creatures, He gave birth to Me, and I issued with all creatures, nevertheless I remained immanent within the Father. Thus we are the only Son, whom the Father has born eternally. A single person is not the whole of humanity, yet if I divest myself of all that separates me from other men, doing away with all individual differences, and returning to my pure state, there will remain nothing of me but that pure being which has stood in God eternally as the counterpart of His being, His Son. In this way has God His Divinity in Me. If my true divine self once recognizes its unity with the divine image, I shall then understand that I am that out of which God takes His own being, His own divinity. If difference can no longer be recognized between the soul as the universal whole and the soul as the individual, then is the soul God Himself, and I (God in Me) am the creator of all.
To go still further; the soul is even higher than God and belongs to the Absolute, and it has therefore to rid itself even of God if it is to return to its true state (Nirvana). In the Deity, free of all attributes, there was I, and willed Myself, and knew Myself, and thus I became my own creator. Being with my own essence, which is eternal, I am in it (in God) the cause of my temporal existence. By my own entering into existence, all things came into existence with Me. I was my own cause and the cause of all things, and if I were to cease to will, I would not he, nor would anything exist; if I were not, there would be no God.23
Everything has issued from God, and everything returns again to its fountain. God created the world out of Love, and love is the power by which all beings are drawn back to God. Thus all nature strives for the highest state of perfection, and all creatures receive the call to return to God. All their life and activity is nothing but a struggle to return again to their origin. All creatures strive to manifest God, and action speaks louder than words; but even the work of the highest angels cannot reach the working of God. All creatures bear the stamp of the divine nature from which they originate, so that they may perform works according to that divine nature; all creatures are with God as God is with them, and the reality in them consists in the presence of God. The three divine persons have impressed their own image on all intelligent beings, and therefore the Trinity is the fundamental origin of all things, to which all things strive to return. They have been in God from eternity and are to return to God.
For this reason everything is in continual motion whose meaning is progress. Nature does not progress by jumps, it begins to act in the lowest and strives upward towards the highest. As the colours of the rainbow imperceptibly mingle with each other, so is there in nature an uninterrupted chain of causes and effects (Karma). Nature never destroys anything except for the purpose of putting something better in its place. It is not satisfied with good, it strives for the better. Matter rests not until it has been filled with all forms which it is capable of receiving, and reason rests not until it has been filled with the highest which it can hold. All creatures travel on the road to higher and highest perfection. Among all classes of creatures there is a continual striving forward; but they strive in various manners, each according to its capacity. They strive up towards God in different ways; the fire draws upwards, the earth downwards, and each creature seeks the place for which it has been destined by God. All creatures, even the lowest, are striving to reach out of multiplicity and attain to unity, all desire to become equal to God. Therefore turns the world and therefore runs man and the brute. There is not a creature so depraved that it will love something which it knows to be evil; for whatever one is attracted to must either be good or at least appear to be so. God is Love and all that is capable of loving loves Love, loves God, whether they wish so or not. If God (Love) were not in a thing, nature would not desire it; consciously or unconsciously, knowingly or unknowingly, thy nature in its own innermost essence is seeking for God. Nature would desire neither food nor drink, nor anything whatever if there were nothing of God in these things;24 it unconsciously desires and strives continually to find therein something divine. Therein consists the essence and life of all creatures, that they are constantly seeking and striving for God. Everything goes toward s this one object; nature strives to enter the fatherhood, so as to become therein a unity, one Son, and so free itself from the illusion of separateness. That nature which is of God seeks for nothing outside of its own self.
All motion results from a desire for rest; God seeks in all things rest, for His divine nature is rest. Rest was the ultimate aim of the Creator when He created the world; rest is the longing of all creatures in their natural desire, the soul seeks for rest in all its motion. Man seeks rest by either seeking to throw away what keeps him in unrest or by obtaining that which he believes will give him peace. I love that in which I can recognize most of God’s nature, but there is nothing so much like God in any creature as peace. A stone has no rest until it is settled upon the earth; thus it is with fire, thus it is with all creatures, each seeks its natural resting place, its own true home. God has given a home to all creatures, to fish the water, to the animals the earth, to the soul divinity. The reason why things move is because God is immovable, and the nobler a thing is the more it moves in joy . If God were not tranquility, divine nature would fade away and the kingdom of heaven would come to an end. All creatures act because they wish to produce and to resemble the Father. Everything that works, works for a final purpose and for finding rest at the end.
Thus there is a continual change in nature; wood burns and becomes fire, plants decay and grow into others, each thing dissolves for the purpose of entering into new forms. The true destiny of man in the order of the universe is that he should become the means for the attainment of the highest objects of God. God cannot work without the soul and the soul cannot work without God. The Love of God for the soul is the power that forced Him to create all beings, so that His glory became manifested in it. If God could know the soul without the universe, the universe would not have come into existence. Therefore the world has been created for its own sake, so that its eye may be strengthened by practice to support the effulgence of divine Light.
All things strive to enter human nature, and spiritual man is to take them up in his nature to God. In one aspect man is the totality of all creatures. If we speak of “Man,” we speak of all creatures, for in him are all creatures collected. All created life constitutes one man, whom God must love by nature, and this man is God. Within the kingdom of human nature all creatures change their names and become ennobled; but within human nature itself they also lose their own nature and return to their origin. Within human nature every creature attains immortality.
But the highest activity of man is his spiritual activity; his reason is the true instrument of God, by means of which all things find their way back to God. Man’s reason takes up within itself the images of things, and they exist therein in a higher form than that in which the things themselves exist. Man has within himself the essence (potentiality) of all beings, and by means of this power he can take up within his reason the images of all creatures—stones, trees, and everything; and thus man embraces within his circle the essences, images, intelligence and non-intelligence of all beings.25
Reason (Manas) in man is of such noble origin that nothing corporeal can touch it, and if it issues out of its lower essence (Kama-Manas) and turns towards God (Buddhi-Manas), from whom (Atma-Buddhi) it has originated, it draws God into itself (becomes nourished by the higher principles), and that which it absorbs it becomes itself. When reason becomes united with God all things return to their origin, and therefore the soul finds no rest until it reaches God—its first state of existence. Neither do the creatures rest until they have entered the human constitution, for this is their first step towards God.26
It is man’s vocation to maintain all things in that glory in which they stood eternally in the light of divine wisdom. We ought to spiritualize all things, we should be spirit to all things, and all things should be to us spirit in spirit. We should know the spirit in all things and idealize them with our own selves. All creatures resign their lives for the purpose of attaining reality in us; all creatures enter into our reason for the purpose of becoming reasonable in us. We bring them back to God. I am bringing all creatures out of their consciousness into my own, so that they will be one with me.
But as man, in consequence of his state of degradation (owing to the attraction of material desires) has lost the power to perform the work to which he has been appointed; therefore, all the creatures that have issued from God must cooperate with all their powers for the purpose of generating a human being who may attain to union with God, and come into possession of his original power, so as to be able to lift up all creatures in that strength which they possessed in human nature (in Adam) originally. The redemption of Humanity through Divinity (Christos) is therefore the ultimate end of all divine activity. God has in all His work one great object before Him, namely, Himself, and to bring the soul with all its powers into Himself. The issuing from God and the returning to Him by Himself are one and the same process. God speaks into me in proportion as I approach Him, and in doing so He returns to Himself. By means of the human soul having become a divine soul, by means of its union with the Christ (Ishvara), God returns with all creatures into Himself, and the same hidden darkness which was the state of the Absolute before, is again the ultimate goal into which the soul enters with all its creatures.
Then will the created world disappear and the manifested triune God Himself return to the unmanifested non-being in the abyss of the Absolute. There the Father enters within Him self and speaks with Himself and flows together with all creatures back into Himself. All things having a beginning have also an end; but the eternal process (of evolution and involution) is an activity of eternal nature, and has therefore neither beginning nor end. Thus the wheel has turned, the river returned to its own source, and everything rests in the dark bosom of unmanifested Deity (until the next day of creation).
The Union of the Soul with God.
To this end every man is born and comes into this world, that the Truth may become manifested in him, and he be a witness to it.
The object of existence is the attainment of wisdom, and this can be accomplished only by becoming free front error. God is the one Reality, the Truth, and the soul becomes united to God when it returns to its true state of being, to its own real existence, by becoming free of all that prevents it realizing its own divine nature. There is no innate depravity in the innermost part of the soul; the surest sign that God is in our soul, is that our soul has a longing for the divine state of being. The soul finds nowhere true peace and happiness except in its first origin, in God, where it finds All in All and all perfection without any division. God is everywhere and always near; He does not desert us in any other way than by our deserting Him, which means by our rendering ourselves unconscious of His presence. To worry about one’s sins and to continue to do so is a waste of time; for in doing so we dwell in our thoughts upon our sins, instead of elevating our heart and thought to the plane of freedom where no sin exists. We ought not to fear God, but love Him; we ought not to fear His justice, for the desire to evade the consequences of our sins is adding a new sin of selfishness to our burden. This alone is the true fear of God, if we fear to lose the consciousness of His presence. We should at no time imagine ourselves to be far away from God; neither on account of our sins, nor on account of our weakness, nor for any other reason whatever. If our sins hinder us from believing that we are near to God, we must nevertheless have faith that God is near to us; for he who thinks that God is far away removes himself from Him, but whether a man moves away or comes nearer to God, still God moves not away, but remains always near.27 That which separates man from God is merely superficial, external, and unreal, for in reality man is already one with God. He therefore does not need to become united with Him in reality, he is already united with Him in reality, and only needs to realize it. His spiritual progress does not consist in making any new acquisition to his real being; it is rather a process of unraveling than of development, it is a matter of tearing in two the link that fastens us to the unreal, so that we may recognize the reality in us, and know what we truly are, what we have in reality always been and which we ought to remain.
For the purpose of freeing ourselves from the obstacles which are in our way, and which are the more difficult to overcome the more we identify ourselves with that part of our nature to which they belong, we are in possession of two powers, namely, judgment and freedom of will. Both are the seal of our original similarity to God, and the remnants of our divine nature. The mystic, knowing the true origin of his own higher nature, recognizes the unreality of what appears a division. God is always present within his innermost soul: the divine spark in his heart is God’s permanent dwelling, the desire of his heart constantly gravitates towards God, and even if sensual attractions temporarily overcome his lower nature, his inner nature remains to a certain extent conscious of resting in God. Therefore the will has the power to turn away from all that is unreal and strive towards the Real alone. In a similar manner the mind is never permanently contented with the consideration of impermanent things; it always strives to reach beyond the limits of time and to fathom eternity. Reason finds rest only when it rises above all that is sensual and temporal and limited to forms, when it reaches the formless and infinite. But he who recognizes the Absolute lives already in the Absolute, which is his true home, and in which he may permanently remain by contemplating it permanently. If we cease to will this or that limited thing, if our thought rises beyond all limitation and form, there is then nothing more to be willed and thought but pure being, God; and Him the soul receives as a life-giving power. When we have done away with all that is not God, there remains nothing but God, and God is that nothing which remains when all things disappear. Thus the chrysalis has burst open; the will becomes free. In that state it is no more we who will and think, but God is willing and thinking in us; His reason is in the place of our reason, His will in the place of our will, and His fulness fills our whole being as soon as our nature has become emptied of that which is unreal and not God.
To call this “Pantheism” would be to confound the universality of Matter (Mulaprakriti) with the omnipresence of God (Parabrahman). In such a Pantheism there could be no divine self-consciousness and no freedom of will; in such a system of Pantheism God would be the slave of nature and nature His origin, instead of nature being a result of the manifestation of His divine will. The Absolute is not a personality, but it is absolute Reason. That which keeps the world together is not fundamentally a blind mechanical law of necessity, but has at its foundation a purpose which determines the order of things. The world is a great organism, and the pivot of this organism is Man. The more man attains wisdom and freedom of will the more will the world as a whole become a reasonable being, capable of guiding its own destiny.
Man’s will becomes free in proportion as he approaches God, because God is absolute Freedom. Man, as an un-self-conscious relative being, has sprung from the Absolute; he has the power to return to it as a self-conscious being. He can foster or delay the purposes of God; but even the delays which he causes only become new means for their realization. God foresees everything, and the plan for everything is laid out in eternity; but for all that man has a certain amount of free will which is his divine inheritance, and according to that he may decide whether he will choose the eternal or the temporal, immortality or unconsciousness.
This divine freedom rests in the human soul, and therefore the soul is higher than any other thing, knowing that nothing has any power over it. The will continually strives to rise towards the highest ideal, and the power by which it strives is so free as to suffer no coercion. The will itself is free and independent of all material things. God has predestined all of us for eternal happiness, and He has signified it by giving us freedom of will, so that we may do good and avoid doing evil; and, for this reason, no good can be accomplished through us by divine grace without the consent of our will. Reason is naturally directed towards God, and, where it has been perverted by evil habits and erroneous teachings, there education must step in and direct it again towards its true object. To sin is not human or natural: sin belongs to the perverted part of man’s nature, to that part of it which has become “unnatural,” or, in other words, out of harmony with his true human nature.
Man has the right of choice between good and evil. God puts before him life and death, but he forces him not into a choice, for man is to be free and without any coercion whatever. God destroys nothing which has part in essential being, but He perfects all His things. If God were to destroy man’s evil nature, this would be doing an injustice to it. Whatever lives has a right to life. God does not desire to perform any work in the soul without that soul’s free consent; only when nature has done its best and can go no further will divine grace step in and accomplish the rest. Nature does not proceed irregularly; but one link joins the other like the links of a chain. It begins at the lowest step and progresses until the soul is ready for God to enter and to illuminate it by grace and lift it up by the power of the Holy Ghost. The differences in the amount of grace which men receive is not any result of a partiality on the part of God; but it depends on the difference of men’s willingness to receive it. God cannot act in the hearts of men according to His own pleasure, for, even if He is omnipotent, He cannot accomplish anything without the conditions required for its accomplishment. He cannot act against the law; He being Himself the law would have to act against Himself. He cannot act in a stone as He would in a man, but if the conditions exist He can act accordingly, and He may even create these conditions by a direct ray of His grace, as has been done in the case of St. Paul. God cannot act in all hearts alike, but only according to their receptivity, yet there is nothing to hinder them receiving His light, except their own unwillingness to receive it.
The soul has no work to perform, the work belongs to God.28 The soul has the power to aspire and the potentiality of having God born within it and being born in God. No one hinders thee, but thou thyself. Thus divine grace is near to all and is already in everyone. There is no one so low and unillumined that he may not at this day and in this hour find divine grace in its fulness. The Father draws us up from the evil condition of sin to the state of salvation in His grace, in the strength of His unlimited power, if we do not resist the attraction. Man has a free will, and therefore God cannot convert the sinner, if the sinner does not will to be converted. When God created the soul and endowed it with a free will, there was nothing to hinder His performing henceforth no more work in that soul without its consent, and there is also nothing to hinder His redeeming the soul if the soul turns to Him without any coercion. Therefore is the work of divine grace the most magnificent of all the works of God; for in this power the soul disrobes itself of all that could possibly hinder the manifestation of the divine will therein, and the soul with a free will turns to God as if it had never had a will of its own. Thus God can perform with His free will all the wonders in that soul which He performed in calling the universe into existence. God does not require the cooperation of man in any other way than that he does not resist, and ceases to exercise any will differing from the will of God. Only in this sense can we speak of a cooperation of the will of man in his conversion. To remain entirely quiet and empty of all illusions is the best. Everyone imagines that he must prepare himself by an exercise of his own power: but as soon as he honestly consents to be prepared, he is already prepared by God.29
The freedom of will is conditioned by its oneness with the law. Man may direct his will for selfish ends; God must will nothing else but Himself. For this reason all of God’s will is directed to the purpose of bringing everything to Himself; to produce Himself in the human soul, and by means of that process to bring all things to a consciousness of their oneness with Himself. Grace is in regard to God what the sunlight is in regard to the sun. A sun without light would lack the essential property to constitute it a sun; a God without grace would not be God. Grace and God are one; divine grace is an inexhaustible river originating in the heart of God. God is not like an architect who may erect a building or let it alone. God must pour His grace into you whenever He finds you ready to receive it, just as the light of the sun must reach the earth whenever the air is clear of fogs and smoke or clouds. For the work of grace is the manifestation of God, by means of which He manifests Himself to Himself in the soul. Then he in whom the manifestation takes place partakes of that which takes place in him, and thus partakes of the nature of God. Grace is therefore a law of necessity, and God Himself is bound by this law. God needs you for the purpose of manifesting His grace in you; He needs you even more than you Him, for while you receive your humanity from God, He receives His divinity from you. God’s divinity (the manifestation of His self-consciousness to Himself) depends on the circumstance that He must perform His work in you.
Man should love God (perfection), for God loves man in his highest perfection. Man should not be afraid of God. The earth cannot run away from the sky; wherever she turns, heaven retains its power over the earth and fructifies her whether she desires it or not. Thus it is with man. He who attempts to run away from God falls into His power. All the gifts we have received from God have been given us only for the sake of one gift; all these gifts are only a preparation for the reception of one supreme gift, namely, Himself. All the works which God performed in the heavens and upon the earth were done only for the purpose of accomplishing one single work, namely, to render us happy eternally. If we are not prepared for it, we spoil His gift and are ruining God with it.30
The reason why we do not always receive from God the things for which we pray is that we are not ready to receive them. He is always more ready to give than we are to take. God does no injustice to us, but we do injustice to Him by hindering the performance of His work on account of our imperfect readiness. God is always intent upon giving Himself to us as our own property in His own divine nature and essence, so that the whole depth of His divinity and the fulness of His power may become manifested in us. God ornaments Himself with all His beauty and offers Himself to the soul; He stakes all of His divinity for the purpose of pleasing the soul for He desires to possess the soul alone and suffers no rival. God always gives to us all and everything, and He has a much greater need to give than we to receive, and the greater the gift the more does God love to bestow it. God loved us while we were not and also while we were His enemies; He requires our friendship so much that He comes to ask us to be His friends. God comes and begs us; He will not wait until the soul adorns itself and severs itself from the body. It is a fundamental truth that God’s divinity depends on His finding us, and therefore He cannot be without us any more than we without Him; and even if we could depart from God, He could never turn away from us. I will not ask God to give me this or that, nor will I ask Him to love me; I will only ask Him to make me worthy to receive, and I will praise Him because it is His nature to give, nor can He do otherwise. If He were to deprive Himself of that power by not exercising it, He would deprive Himself of His own essence and life.31
God loves the soul so much that if anyone were to rob Him of that love, he would rob Him of His life, for love is the life of God. In the same power of love in which God loves the soul, issues the Holy Ghost; and this love is the Holy Ghost itself. Therefore if God loves the soul so much, it is to be inferred that our soul is really something grand. An earnest desire and self-sacrificing humility can perform wonders. God is omnipotent; but He cannot do so much as to refuse anything to a man who is unselfish and full of earnest desire.32 If I cannot coerce God to do what I will, there must be in me either a want of modesty or a want of desire. God cannot keep Himself from coming down from His divine height and streaming into a soul in humility. God needs our love so much that He seeks to attract us to Him by all the powers of His own being which He can put into us, be it in joy or in sorrow.
We may dare God to send something upon us which is not calculated to attract us to Him. I feel myself under no obligations to God for loving me, because He cannot do otherwise; His nature forces Him to love me, whether He wants it or not. But for this will I thank Him that His goodness is so great that He cannot resist this eternal necessity of loving His creatures.
Thus divine grace is a necessity, resulting from the nature of God being omnipresent as God, in fact, God’s very essence, accessible to all, and attainable by all, according to the power of their receptivity. This receptivity depends on the amount of unselfishness manifested by the receiver. The reason why one man does not receive as much of this light as another, is that he does not prepare himself as well as the other for its reception, although it is in his power to do so. He who is this morning a great sinner may become a good person before night; he may enter divine life while he is eating his dinner. No man is so unillumined, so ignorant and clumsy, that he cannot perfectly unite his will with the will of God by the power of submitting to divine grace; he only needs to desire earnestly that the will of God should be done in him.33 Thus the most insignificant person among you may receive God at this moment and be rendered godlike thereby. As the sun shines into all places where there is nothing to prevent it, so the light of the Holy Ghost shines into the heart of all human beings, unless it is prevented by their clinging to sin.. The divine spark in the heart never becomes so entirely extinct, and the self-knowledge of God therein never disappears so entirety, but that a man may lift himself up by its power and turn to God. At any time and any moment may it become light in one who has been the slave of sin, if he can only become the master of his free will.34
Everything taking place in the world is only a means for fulfilling God’s purposes. The eternal bliss of man is the ultimate object of all His works. Therefore, whatever occurs to us in our life is a manifestation of law originating in divine wisdom (Karma). One man requires happiness, another misery for the purpose of making him come to God. God kindles love in us by causing us to love creatures, although such a love (affection) can never bring full satisfaction to the soul.35 God often sends us trouble for the purpose of teaching a lesson. If we were to accept the lesson, we could come to grace. God always gives to everyone that which is best for him (it is man himself who appropriates that which is evil); for the purpose of teaching us, He often takes away our material and even our spiritual treasures. He knows best what is best for everyone. Divine grace acts upon us continually by external and internal means, but its greatest manifestation takes place when the Holy Spirit without any external intermediation speaks into the receptive heart, and the heart understands the Word and receives it willingly.36
The freedom of will is conditioned by the action of grace, but grace itself is exclusively the work of God. It cannot be made to act or become a power in us by the exercise of our own will; neither can our will do anything positive for its attainment (no more than we can cause the sun to shine), it can only remove the obstacles in its way. Neither can anybody attain it by any personal merit, for all the gifts of God are given by the grace of God, and without any merit on the part of the person receiving them.37 In the will as well as in self-consciousness is contained eternity. He who wills sin, wills it for eternity, and can never turn back by his own power. A man can no more convert himself from sin by his own power, than he can kill himself and bring himself to life again. He who wants to be converted from sin, and progress on the true path, must be lifted up by the heavenly Father in the power of His divine omnipotence.38 No amount of grace can furnish to the soul that which the nature of the soul is not able to receive, but the essence of grace is not in any creature by the power of that creature’s nature, it acts in nature but is itself a supernatural power (not a product of nature), entering nature as something new from above.
The light of natural reason (the speculative intellect) is as nothing in comparison with the light of divine wisdom (grace). If I am to come nearer to God, who is the Centre of all and equally far and near to all creatures, my natural reason (Kama-Manas) will have to be lifted up above itself by a light (Atma-Buddhi) which is higher than my own. My reason is a light, and if I withdraw this light from all things and tum it towards God—the divine sun from which streams light unceasingly—His light will then illumine my reason, and be united with Him in love, and in this light my reason will learn to know and love God in His own essence. We can do nothing without the Holy Ghost. Without the life of God our soul and body would be dead. The soul itself is like a dead tree that can bring forth no fruit unless the grace of God is continually a power in it. Therefore the soul can do nothing by its own power, and the self-will of man must cease to act; the soul must remain entirely passive; no one can make himself a saint. But freedom of will and divine grace are not opposites, and the surest sign of the attainment of grace is if a man by his own free will turns away from that which is evanescent and turns to God, the supreme Good.
The misunderstanding of the meaning of the word “grace” appears to have been the cause of the perplexing doctrine of “predestination.” Although divine grace is attainable to all who desire it, nevertheless experience shows that comparatively only few persons have sufficient wisdom to desire it. In regard to this Eckhart says:
“God gives His spirit to those whom He has elected eternally; but no one shall trouble himself as to whether God has elected him or not, but consider the object of his existence to be the glorification of God, and not the glorification of self. He should leave this election to divine omnipotence, and be contented with whatever takes place in God; he should be desirous that the will of God be done and not his own.”
Jacob Boehme says in regard to this subject:
“It should not be supposed that God has predestined a part of mankind for damnation and another part for life. This false doctrine has given rise to a great deal of confusion. There is no such determination from eternity, but only a universal distribution of grace; the determination begins only with the unfoldment of the tree. The sowing is in the seed before it becomes a creature. God knows what it will become, but the judgment belongs to the time of the harvest. God is Himself the one Reality, the foundation of all things, the eye of all beings, the cause of all existence. From Him originate nature and creature; He is Himself the Willer, the Knower and the Performer. The soul itself is its own cause for good and evil, for it is the centre of God where love and wealth are undivided in one.” (Grace, xiii. 99.)39
And furthermore he says:
“The first origin of all things is one single Will, the Α and the Ω, an eternal beginning and infinite end; breathing itself into forms, symbols and figures through angels and men for its own contemplation. The election in grace means the desire for grace. It is man’s will itself which selects; for in the will is the greatest power and the choice for good and evil.” (Grace, p. 1.)
(To be continued.)
Note: we have not been able to locate the remaining sections of this treatise, nor been able to determine if it was completed by the author. [ED.]
1. “This body, O son of Kunti! is called kshetra (matter). That which knows it is called by the wise kshetrajna (soul).”—Bhagavad Gita, xiii, i.
2. “I am the luminosity among luminous things. I am the intelligence in intelligent beings.” (Bhagavad Gita, x.)
3. I never was non-existent, nor thou, nor these rulers of men, nor shall any of us ever cease to be.”
“It never is born and it never dies, it has never been brought into being, nor shall it be brought hereafter. Unborn, undying, eternal, primeval, it is not slain when the body is slain.” (Bhagavad Gita, ii. 12, 20.)
4. “I am the Truth and the Life.”—St. John.
5. “I am the soul seated in the heart of every creature. I am the beginning and the middle and the end of all things.” (Bhagavad Gita, x. 20.)
6. If it is said that a man shall have only one wife, it means esoterically that he must have only one will; that is to say, that his will must be one and undivided, so that it may become wholly one with his reason. The penetration of man’s lower nature by the light of intelligence coming from his divine nature constitutes the true marriage of the soul.
7. “Nothing whatever, O son of Pritha! must needs be done by me in the three worlds, nor is anything to be attained that is unattained; yet I am occupied in work.” (Bhagavad Gita, iii. 22.)
8. Here the commentator exclaims: “And this pure nothing is supposed to be to us the Highest and Best, the goal of our desire, the object of our meditation!” In thus exclaiming the commentator shows that he did not grasp the meaning of what Eckhart attempted to express, for his ejaculation presupposes a number of assertions directly opposed to what Eckhart maintains above. The Deity is neither this nor that, it is therefore not the “highest” and “best,” it is the goal of nobody’s desire, because it is unapproachable for anything; it is not the object of any one’s meditation, because it is beyond all thought, and is not objective in any sense. He who desires God draws a line of distinction within the undifferentiated One in All, no man can know God and remain a human being differing from God. To know God one must be God oneself, and therefore another Christian teacher (Angelus Silesius) says:
“God lives within a light beyond all human ken.
Be thou thyself the light, and thou wilt know Him then.”
But this does not mean to say that one should imagine oneself to be God, but that he should let God in him be everything to himself.
9. It calls forth a feeling of sympathy, to see a philosopher struggling to find words for expressing that which is inexpressible, and the student breaking his head over trying to comprehend the incomprehensible, but which, nevertheless, is so clear to the opened eye. Perhaps a simile will aid us in understanding Eckhart’s meaning. The invisible body of the sun fills the whole of his solar system, and therefore the sun is everywhere; but it is not everywhere manifested as a shining sun, and if the sun did not shine, he would be non-existent for us. The essence of the sun also is the cause of the life in everything, and is within everything as its essence; nevertheless, the sun himself as an object, does not enter into anything, but remains in his own essence unaffected by anything that may happen to the forms, not even being aware of their presence. A similar parallel may be drawn with what is called “Life.” Life is universal, but it is nothing so long as it is not manifest. Life in the abstract is beyond conception, and independent of any living being. It is not, and nevertheless it is, because otherwise it could not become manifest.
10. We may, perhaps, say that all existence is a manifestation of consciousness. Consciousness in the Absolute does not exist and is not manifest. For the purpose of becoming manifest, the existence of object and subject, and the relation between the two is required. Thus the One enters into existence by becoming manifest as a three.
11. In this chapter the commentator is continually blaming Eckhart for want of clearness of expression, and does not seem to realize that the cause of the obscurity exists in his own inability to perceive truths which cannot be adequately expressed in words. Divine Wisdom to be perceived requires not merely the light of logic, but the light of Divine Wisdom itself.
12. This will undoubtedly clash with the opinions of many who have read the Secret Doctrine and Esoteric Buddhism, and who take the statements in those books in an external temporal sense; but that which refers to eternity is to be conceived from the point of view of eternity, its understanding belongs to the knowledge of the soul (Buddhi-Manas) and not to that of the lower activity of the mind. H. P. Blavatsky says that the Seventh Round is always present, and that we need not wait for its coming for thousands of years. John Scheffer expresses the same truth in saying: “Heaven (divine self-consciousness) is always near; all we have to do is to take one hearty step to enter into it.” God’s divine nature becomes manifested in us as soon as we cease to hinder its manifestation in ourselves. “Time” exists only for the appearances; eternity belongs to the eternal reality in ourselves. For this reason Jane Leade, one of the greatest Occultists, but whose writings are, unfortunately, little known and still less understood (because they must be understood spiritually) says: “The time is at hand, wherefore let none look afar off or run out of themselves and neglect their vintage at home, but regard how near the grape is to ripeness which contains the wine.” The kingdom of Christ is always near; we cannot create it, we can only receive it when it becomes manifested in us. All our own efforts to make ourselves holy or divine in any other way than by obeying divine law are foolish. Therefore the same author says: “Meddle thou not with that; only receive it passively and cooperate with it when it ariseth, and then walk with and draw in the feeding fire and air, and when it resteth in its own place rest thou with it, and be assured that it will not leave thee till it have concentred thee in the Deity.” (Jane Leade, Revelation of Revelations.)
13. This point seems to be the one that worries the commentators the most and causes them to suspect Eckhart of being a pantheist. The reason for this misunderstanding is evidently that the commentator does not realize that he himself is also one of the unrealities of which Eckhart speaks, and that there is nothing real and eternal in him but the unknown God, his own real existence.
14. “I am the light of all luminous things,” etc. (Bhagavad Gita, x.)
15. “The divine being cannot be touched by any imperfections of the bodies in which it dwells” (Bhagavad Gita, xiii. 31). A learned commentator says that this is “one of the many errors of the Eastern philosophy,” but here a Christian authority asserts the same thing, the truth of which is, moreover, self-evident.
16. Here the commentators begin to speculate about the “connecting link” between God and the creature. But it seems clear that if God (existence) is All, whilst all the rest, which merely appears to be and not really is, is simply an illusion and nothing really existing—there can be no connecting link between the one and the nothing. “Where does that which is not divine come from?” they ask; but the answer is that it comes from nothing and is nothing; it is not, it merely appears to be. There is only one existence (God) from which comes the multitude of appearances, which are nothing apart from existence . The essence of that which has no essence comes from nowhere and does not exist. God alone is essential being, all that appears to be besides God, is merely an appearance or image without any essentiality of its own.
17. Compare H. P. Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, Stanza 7.
18. The critic complains about Eckhart’s inability to explain the origin of evil; but it seems plain that if God is existence, and existence is good, there can be no evil; for non-existence does not exist. What we imagine to be evil is merely an aspect originating in the delusion of separate existence and “self,” there is no relation within the One; only that is evil which we imagine to be so, and it is therefore not God, but our own ignorance causing the dream of the existence of absolute evil.
19. The term “creation,” from kri (Sanskrit) “to make,” does not imply an external act taking place outside of the body of the maker; the misleading character of the word “creation” has been added to it by modern critics who misunderstood and misinterpreted it.
20. Again the critic complains of a sore want in Eckhart’s character of a comprehension of the beauties of things in nature; but it seems clear that a true mystic, who is not deluded by the form, sees not the beauty of the form but the beauty of which the form is an expression. According to Eckhart, beauty belongs to God, and he who sees beauty in a form sees God in that form, and admires the beauty and not the form apart from the beauty which it represents. This is the same idea which prompted another Christian mystic (John Scheffler) to say: “That which I love in a human being is not the man, but the humanity in his being.”
21. The “foreign being” which the soul has adopted in its individualization. The soul could never have had an individual existence if something had not come into existence recognizing a difference between individuality and universality, for without individualization and individual experience there could have been no enjoyment of self-knowledge.
22. Here the learned critic makes the curious mistake of imagining that Eckhart was speaking of his personal earth-born self, and he lectures him accordingly.
23. “A cranky philosopher! one who, fortunately for him, does not believe what he says! A chain of false consequences, drawn from premises containing half truths, leading to a chaotic nonsensical fanaticism; from the results of which, he has only been saved, in spite of himself, by his moral health and deep religious feeling,” etc. Thus exclaims the learned critic: proving thereby that one must be an Adept, before one can criticize correctly the teachings of an Adept. On the other hand, as the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita says: He who enters into Me, attains my own self-knowledge, my being, my truth, my greatness, and if he fully knows Me, he is wholly in Me.
24. Compare Bhagavad Gita.
25. This goes to show that there is no real knowledge except the knowledge of self. If there were not the element (character) of minerals in my nature, I would never know what a mineral is. If the element (character) of divine being awakens in my constitution, I will by its power also be able to recognize divine beings in the universe. Only like can perceive like, and we perceive outside things owing to the presence of corresponding elements in our own organization.
26. It is quite surprising that in spite of all that has been said above, the learned commentator can say that: “Such a thing as recognizing the multiplicity of forms as belonging to one organic whole never entered Eckhart’s mind. His expressions regarding the nature of things originated from the superstitious beliefs of his age, and are valueless!”
27. Truth is everywhere, but we can only dream of it and do not possess it, unless we realize its manifestation in our own being. Life is everywhere; but we do not live by means of any other than that which is active in us. Air is everywhere, and a light could not burn if there were no air around it; but the air becomes visible only when it enters the flame and produces luminosity. The Ideal is all around us but we realize its presence only when it becomes a Reality in our consciousness.
28. Compare Bhagavad Gita.
29. In other words, man does not realize the ideal by his own exertions; the ideal becomes realized in him by its own power if be ceases to cling to that which is unreal. If, as some suppose, man need not do anything, he would only have to go to sleep to be meanwhile saved by God; but he will have to conquer that which is below him by ceasing to identify himself with the low, and be must be in full possession of his reason, so that the light of wisdom can shine into him and render his wisdom divine. Molinos says: “Thou art to know that thy soul is the centre, habitation and kingdom of God. That, therefore, to the end the Sovereign King may rest on that throne of thy soul, thou oughtest to take pains to keep it clean, quiet, void and peaceable; clean from guilt and defects; quiet from fears; void of affections, desires and thoughts; and peaceable in temptations and tribulations.” (Compare Bhagavad Gita, cap. xviii.)
30. Compare Bhagavad Gita, ii.
31. All this sounds like pious cant if misunderstood and supposed to refer to an external, personal God; but if properly understood it contains pure Theosophy.
32. It should not be forgotten that a person who prays for some selfish purpose or some personal benefit, which he expects to come to him from an external God, is neither humble nor unselfish, however earnest may be his desire. Eckhart says that “he who prays to God for some selfish end, worships not God but himself.”
33. The will of God should be done “on earth,” that is to say, in the physical body, as it is “in heaven” (in the imagination). Then will the true transformation take place.
34. Jane Leade says in regard to the action of divine grace: “This cometh first to be known in a fiery ray of love-light, that discovers where the root of sin doth lie, and so, when the spirit of the soul comes by the Word of Life to understand its own original (the pure eternal living soul, breathed by God into an angelical image, and formed into an organized body from the one pure element), and by what means it hath been corrupted and captivated, it is made full willing and eager to strike in with that Christ, which riseth from the center light in its own soul, to redeem and reconcile all to himself that was alienated from him in the birth of strife.” (Revelation of Revelations. 1683, pare 4.)
35. Those who boast of loving nobody, are usually head over heels in love with themselves. One has to pass through the kingdom of human love before one can rise above it. He who hates the world is either a saint or a misanthrope. Contempt of the world must begin with the contempt of that illusive world which exists within one’s own self. Universal love does not originate from hate of the world; but a limited love can expand beyond its original limits, and out of the love to the creature grows the love of the Creator by means of the acquisition of knowledge through divine grace.
36. “Thus Christ in us is our peace indeed, who hath made of both and all one New creature.” (Jane Leade, Revelation of Revelations.)
37. The personality per se, being an illusion, all of its merits and demerits are equally illusive. There is no personality so great as to deserve by its own merits the least particle of divine grace, no more than a plant could by its own merit deserve the sunshine. God knows nothing but Himself, and is in accessible to personal considerations.
38. Through sin the divine image in the soul is broken, and no man can create a new one by his own power, otherwise man would be the creator, and God a creature. The divine image in the soul is reestablished by the power of divine grace, if the conditions are favorable for its restoration. Thus sins are “forgiven,” not by any arbitrary will or whim, but by the unceasing action of the all-embracing power of divine love.
39. The mistaken views in regard to “predestination” originated evidently in the idea that the individuality of man, as something separate from the one Reality, could become immortal, and also in the selfish wish of enjoying personal salvation. But if God is the true state of being, everything that does not exist in that true state does not exist in reality, but is only an illusion, and can neither be saved nor be fore-ordained for it. It is in fact not man who is to be saved in the end, but God who saves Himself by separating Himself from that which is not in harmony with His divine nature. God is harmony, and no discord can enter His nature. The discords must disappear and the forms in which they are represented must perish. Man determines his own destiny and that of God, by means of his free will and higher reason which are the attributes of the God in him; and man himself is a God to the extent in which he exercises his power of determining his own future destiny and renders himself immortal by means of his obedience to divine law. There is nothing immortal in man but the Christ, and the Christ is only one. It is therefore of little consequence whether God attains consciousness of His immortality and becomes the Christ in this or in that person, as the personalities or forms as such are nothing and can become nothing; neither can they become immortal, because they have not begun to live as long as the Christ does not live in them, and when the Christ once lives in them, it is He and not the form that has the true life. This Christ in Man is the man’s own real self—the Master; and therefore Theophrastus Paracelsus says: “He who is his own master is not the property of another.” Man’s destiny is determined by the exercise of his free will.