THERE may be found, in the traditions of nearly all peoples, reference to a time when man was in a state of consciousness very much superior to that which he now manifests. In the Hebrew scriptures that superior plane is symbolically described as the Edenic state, and the departure from that place in the divine economy is called the "fall of man." Of late years we have been taught in the new metaphysics that there never was a "fall of man"; that man never fell; that his creation was spiritual, and that he is just as spiritual today as he ever was or ever will be. Of man as an idea in Divine Mind, this is true; but that there is not a harmonious manifestation of that idea clearly indicates that there has somewhere been a lapse in man's evolution.
When by study of himself as "mind" and by studying his place in Being, man gets away from the sense consciousness, he rises into a mental atmosphere where he sees the relation of ideas in divine order. This perception can be attained by anyone who will detach his thinking ego from the world of phenomena and let this ego float out into the universe of causes. It has been attained by thousands in every age, and their testimony is worthy of careful consideration.
When man touches in mind this plane of causes, he sees that the discords of humanity, in body and affairs, are the direct result of disorder in his relation to creation. He sees that there has been, through man's power of free thought, a most vital and far-reaching departure from the divine idea of his being.
Man cannot thwart the divine plan, but by virtue of his own creative or formative power in that plan he can turn his part of the work out of its true course and impede the consummation of it. This has been done, and we exist today in a state of lapse, so far as our relation to God and the orderly movement of His idea in creation are concerned. So we have to admit that the "fall of man" is in a measure true. When we understand this "fall" we shall perceive more fully why certain conditions that prevail are so incongruous in a world where a good and perfect God is supposed to rule.
Material science says that evolution is the order of nature and that all the silent records of earth, as left by departed races, testify to a steady rise of man from lower to higher conditions.
A large number of metaphysical writers and teachers have fallen into this line of thought and have assumed that the records of man's evolution, as found in archaeological and geological research, bear testimony to his mind evolution, and that the experiences through which he has passed are in the divine order of creation. We either must accept this testimony as true or expunge it altogether.
We accept the testimony, but we say that it is but the evolution of man out of a lapse from divine order in creation, and that it is no part of the original divine plan, any more than a fall into a muddy swamp would be a necessary part of a journey to a beautiful city. Man is the son of a God whose methods are harmonious in bringing forth His ideas. Man is His idea—a self-conscious entity, having in embryo all the faculties and powers of that from which it came forth. In following the orderly path of its unfoldment this man idea is in conscious mental communication with its source, and knows what to do and what not to do in bringing forth creation. "And Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
We see that the "fall of man" antedated the formation of this planet as we behold it geologically. Jesus recognized this when He said: "And now, Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was."
We are by birth a spiritual race, and we should never have known matter or material conditions if we had followed the leadings of our higher consciousness.
It is the recognition of this higher consciousness and the recognition of our place in Being that we are seeking. We are emerging from the darkness of Egyptian bondage—we see the Promised Land, and we want to know the shortest way to it. That way is the Christ way. The demonstration of Jesus relates Him to us in a metaphysical sense, because it is only by a study of states of consciousness formed by thought that it can be understood.
We have been taught by the church that Jesus died for us—as an atonement for our sins. By human sense this belief has been materialized into a flesh-and-blood process, in which the death of the body on the cross played the important part. Herein has the sense consciousness led the church astray. That spiritual things must be spiritually discerned seems to have escaped the notice of the church in forming its scheme of atonement. At the root of the church's teaching is Truth; Jesus of Nazareth played an important part in opening the way for every one of us into the Father's kingdom. However, that way was not through His death on the cross, but through His overcoming death. "I am the resurrection and the life."
To comprehend the atonement requires a deeper insight into creative processes than the average man and the average woman have attained; not because they lack the ability to understand, but because they have submerged their thinking power in a grosser thought stratum. So only those who study Being from the standpoint of pure mind can ever understand the atonement and the part that Jesus played in opening the way for humanity into the glory which was theirs before the world was formed.
We who have studied these creative processes through thought action know how states of consciousness are formed and how persistent a certain mental state is after it has once crystallized. The man ego seems to lose its identity in its own formations, and forgets for the time all its past experiences and powers. We see this in certain social states among the people. No matter how miserable and degraded the state, people get so accustomed to it that they do not aspire to anything higher. Reformers of the criminal classes in our large cities tell us that their most difficult problem is to awaken in these people a desire for better things. They are attached to their habits of thought and living, and they do not want to be reformed. The same is true in the history of civilizing the savage races. Just when they are about to reach the place where they will see the desirability of a better way of living, they suddenly fall back into the old life, and are satisfied. The tendency of thought emanation is to crystallize about the form that it has made and, in spite of the struggles of the man ego, to hold to it.
We can readily see how a whole race might be caught in the meshes of its own thought emanations and, through this drowsy ignorance of the man ego, remain there throughout eternity, unless a break were made in the structure and the light of a higher way let in. This is exactly what has happened to our race. In our journey back to the Father's house we became lost in our own thought emanations, and Jesus Christ broke through the crystallized thought strata and opened the way for all those who will follow Him.
By so doing He made a connection between our state of consciousness and the more interior one of the Father. He united them—made them a unit—a one, hence the at-one-ment or atonement through Him. He stands ready to pass over all who will accept His way. That which died upon the cross was the consciousness of all mortal beliefs that hold us in bondage—such as sin, evil, sickness, fleshly lusts, and death—which He overcame. "I have overcome the world." The "overcoming" by Jesus made a great rent in the sense consciousness, and opened a way by which all who desire may demonstrate easily and quickly.
But in order to receive the benefit of Jesus' work it is necessary for everyone to go to the place where He made the rent in the race beliefs. If you were held in the meshes of a great spider web, and someone made a hole through which you could pass, you would go where the hole was and would pass out that way. The same rule holds good with respect to this aperture that Jesus made in the limitations of sense that hold the race in bondage—we have to go where He is, mentally and spiritually. "I go to prepare a place for you." So we see that the church is not so far wrong in its call to "follow Jesus." The error lies in the belief that He was the only begotten Son of God, and that He overcame for us, and that by simply believing on Him we are saved.
In believing Him to be the only begotten Son of God, we have confounded His higher consciousness or Christ consciousness, which is the only begotten Son of God, with His lower or Jesus consciousness. He recognized His identity in God as the Christ, the Son of God; He also recognized His consciousness of self, the son of man. So each of us is a son of God. We shall come into conscious recognition of the Christ Mind, making the conjunction between our mind and God's mind, just as soon as we let go of the limitations of mortal sense. God has but one Son, the Christ, the one ideal man. This divine conjunction was accomplished by Jesus, and the Christ shone out through His mortal self and illumined it, until it lost its personality and disappeared into divine individuality.
By believing that Jesus was more divine than other men, the church has assumed that He had certain privileges that the Father does not extend to all; that in a superhuman way He made good all our shortcomings; that we are saved from suffering for our acts by simply believing on Him and accepting Him, in a perfunctory way, as our Savior. Paul is responsible for a good share of this throwing of the whole burden upon the blood of Jesus—doubtless the result of an old mental tendency carried over from his Hebrew idea of the blood sacrifices of the priesthood. In order to show the parallel in the life of Christ, Paul preached to the Jews that He was the great once-for-all bloody sacrifice and that no other would ever be necessary.
But Jesus went further than this. He said: "Come, follow me." "Keep my saying." He meant: Do as I do. I have overcome; now by following in my footsteps you shall overcome. We all recognize the advantage of thought cooperation. It is much easier to hold ourselves in the true consciousness when we are associated with those who think as we do. It was the work of Jesus to establish in our race consciousness a spiritual center with which everyone might become associated mentally, regardless of geographical location. He said to His disciples, "I go to prepare a place for you . . . that where I am, there ye may be also." That place is a state of consciousness right here in our midst, and we can at any time connect ourselves with it by centering our minds upon Jesus and silently asking His help in our demonstrations. It is not the prayer of a "worm of the dust" to a god, but of one who is on the way, asking the guidance of one who has passed over the same road and who knows all the hard places and how to get through them.
This is in one sense the relation of Jesus Christ to each of us, and so far as our present demonstration is concerned, it is the most important relation. The road that we are traveling from the mortal plane of consciousness to the spiritual plane is beset with many obstructions, and we need the assistance of One stronger than any of those who yet dwell in flesh bodies. He who is still in the perception of the earthly is not always a safe guide, because he sees in a limited way. We want one who sees wholly in Spirit, and such a one we find in Jesus Christ.
He has not left us or gone to some faraway heaven, but He may be reached by the humblest of us in a moment's time, if we really aspire in soul for His companionship and help. This is a simple statement of the relation that Jesus of Nazareth bears to us. Yet He was more than Jesus of Nazareth, more than any other man who ever lived on the earth. He was more than man, as we understand the appellation in its everyday use, because there came into His manhood a factor to which most men are strangers. This factor was the Christ consciousness. The unfoldment of this consciousness by Jesus made Him God incarnate, because Christ is the mind of God individualized, and whoever so loses his personality as to be swallowed up in God becomes Christ Jesus or God man.
We cannot separate Jesus Christ from God, or tell where man leaves off and God begins in Him. To say that Jesus Christ was a man as we are men is not true, because He had dropped that personal consciousness by which we separate ourselves into men and women. He was consciously one with the absolute principle of Being. He had no consciousness separate from that Being, hence He was that Being to all intents and purposes.
Yet He attained no more than is expected of each of us. "That they may be one, even as we are" was His prayer.
It is all accomplished through the ex-ternalization of the Christ consciousness, which is omnipresent and ever ready to manifest itself through us as it did through Jesus.
This principle has been perceived by the spiritually wise in every age, but they have not known how to externalize it and to make it an abiding state of consciousness. Jesus accomplished this and His method is worthy of our adoption because, as far as we know, it is the only method that has been successful. It is set forth in the New Testament, and whoever adopts the life of purity and love and power there exemplified in the experiences of Jesus of Nazareth will in due course attain the place that He attained.
The way to do this is the way Jesus did it. He acknowledged Himself to be the Son of God. The attainment of the Christ consciousness calls for nothing less on our part than a definite recognition of ourselves as sons of God right here and now, regardless of appearances to the contrary. We know that we are sons of God—then why not acknowledge it and proceed to take possession of our God right? That is what Jesus did in the face of most adverse conditions. Conditions today are not so stolidly material as they were in Jesus' time. People now know more about themselves and their relation to God. They are familiar with thought processes and how an idea held in mind will make itself manifest in the body and in affairs; hence they take up this problem of spiritual realization under most favorable conditions. It must work out just as surely as a mathematical problem, because it is under immutable law. The factors are all in our possession and the rule that was demonstrated in one striking instance is before us. By following that rule and doing, day by day, the work that comes to us, we shall surely put on Christ as fully and completely as did Jesus of Nazareth.
The process of Jesus' evolving from sense to soul was first a recognition of the spiritual selfhood and a constant affirmation of its supremacy and power. Jesus loved to make the highest statements: "I and the Father are one." "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth." He made these statements before the Resurrection, so we know that He was not fully conscious of their reality. But by the power of His word He brought about the realization.
Next in the process was that constant cleansing of the consciousness through denial, or fasting. He prayed much alone, and fasted. He was being tempted on every side, within and without, and was always overcoming. He daily put out of His mind all the ideas that bind men to the world. He recognized that the kingdom of the spiritual man is not of this world—that it is a world that transcends this and controls it; therefore He was not attached in any way to the things of sense. Personal self, the devil, told Him to turn stones into bread, but He did not yield to this temptation to use His God-given power for material gain. Personal sense took Him upon ambition's high place and showed Him what He might have in the fame of the world if He would worship personal sense, but He refused to lower His standard. He was using spiritual power and He was true to its character; He did not mix it with matter or with material ways.
When Jesus said, "The words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life," He touched the inner Christ word which created all things, and we know that His words were vivified from that center with a life essence and moving power that will demonstrate the truth of His statement.
These words have rung through the souls of men and set them afire with God's Spirit throughout the ages. This is because they are spiritual words. Within them are the seeds of a divine life and they grow in the mind of all who give them place, just as a beautiful flower or a great tree grows from the seed germ planted in the ground.
Jesus recognized that the consciousness of man was submerged in the things of sense; that it could not perceive truth in the abstract, and that it must, under these conditions, be stirred into activity by some stimulating force dropped into it from without. Hence He sent forth His powerful words of Truth to the thirsty souls, and said to them, "Keep my saying."
To keep a saying is to revolve it in mind—to go over all its aspects; to believe it as a truth, to treasure it as a saving balm in time of need; and above all, to obey the law that it sets forth.
People in all ages have known about the saving power of words and have used them to the best of their understanding. Hebrews bound upon their foreheads and wrists parchments with words of Scripture written upon them. The Hindus, Japanese, Chinese, and the people of nearly all other known nations have their various ways of applying the sacred words to the modification of their ills, and the invocation of the invisible powers to aid them in both their material and spiritual needs.
Although these methods are faulty in that they use the letter of the word, instead of its spirit, they are useful to us as indicators of the universal belief in the power of the sacred word.
We know that words express ideas, and to get at their substantial part we must move into the realm of ideas. Ideas are in the mind and we must go there if we want to get the force of our words. The Hebrews' phylacteries and the lamas' prayer wheels are suggestive of the wordy prayers of the Christian; but their use is not keeping the sayings of Jesus Christ, nor reaping the inner substance of the mystical word. This can be done only by those who believe in the omnipresent Spirit of God and in faith keep in mind the words that express His goodness, wisdom, and power.
Jesus Christ more fully voiced this nearness of God to man than any of the prophets, and His words are correspondingly vivified with inner fire and life. He said that those who kept His sayings should even escape death, so potent was the life energy attached to them.
This is a startling promise, but when we understand that it was not the personal man, Jesus, making it, but the Father speaking through Him, we know that it was not an idle one; for He said, "The word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's who sent me."
This is the reason why these words of Jesus endure, and why more and more they are attracting the attention of men.
Whoever takes these words into his mind should consecrate himself to the truth that they represent. That truth is not the doctrine of any church, nor the creed of any sect—not even Christianity. That truth is written in the inner sanctuary of every soul, and all know it without external formulas. It is the intuitive perception of what is right in the sight of God. It is the truth and justice which every man recognizes as the foundation of true living.
Whoever consecrates himself to follow this inner monitor and lives up to its promptings, regardless of social or commercial customs, consecrates himself to do God's will. He is fitted to take the words of Jesus and make them his own.
It is no idle experiment, this keeping in the mind the words of Jesus. It is a very momentous undertaking, and may be the most important task in the life of an individual. There must be sincerity and earnestness and right motive, and withal a determination to understand the spiritual import.
This requires attention, time, and patience in the application of the mind to solving the deeper meanings of the sayings that we are urged to keep.
People deal with sacred words in a way that is too superficial to bring results. They juggle with words. They toss them into the air with a heavenly tone or an oratorical ring and count it a compliance with divine requirements. This is but another form of the prayer wheel and the phylactery. It is the lip service that Jesus condemned because its object is to be "seen of men."
To keep the sayings of Jesus means much more than this. It has a significance peculiar to the inner life. Only after the inner life is awakened is the true sense of the spiritual word understood. But the sincere keeper of Jesus' sayings will, by his devotions, awaken the inner spirit, and the Lord will come to him and minister to his call, as lovingly as a father to a beloved son.
Jesus tells us that His words are Spirit, and then tells us to keep them. How can one keep a thing of which he knows nothing? How can one keep the words and sayings of Jesus unless he gets them into his consciousness and grasps them with his mind, his spirit? Surely there is no other way to "keep" His sayings. Those who are doing so from any other standpoint are missing the mark. They may be honest, and they may be good, sincere people, living what the world calls pure Christian lives, but they will not get the fruits of Jesus' words unless they comply with His requirements.
Unless you perceive that there is something more in the doctrine of Jesus than keeping up a worldly moral standard as preparation for salvation after death, you will fall far short of being a real Christian.
Jesus did not depreciate moral living, but neither did He promise that it fulfilled the law of God. Very negative people are frequently trusty and moral. But that does not make them Christians after the Jesus Christ plan. His Christianity had a living God in it, a God that lived in Him and spoke through Him. It was a religion of fire and water—life as well as purity. Men are to be alive—not merely exist half dead for a few years and then go out with a splutter, like a tallow dip. Jesus Christ's men are to be electric lights that glow with a perpetual current from the one omnipresent Energy. The connection with that current is to be made through the mind by setting up sympathetic vibrations.
The mind moves upon ideas; ideas are made visible through words. Hence holding right words in the mind will set the mind going at a rate proportioned to the dynamic power of the idea back of those words. A word with a lazy idea back of it will not stimulate the mind. The word must represent swift, strong, spiritual ideas in order to infuse the white energy of God into the mind. This is the kind of word in which Jesus reveled. He delighted in making great and mighty claims for His God, Himself, His words, and for all men. "I and the Father are one." "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth." "The Father is greater than I." "Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?" "The works that I do shall ye do also; and greater." These were some of the claims with which He stimulated His mind. And He produced the results—His words were fulfilled.
Many who for years have been students of the science of Christ and have a clear, intelligent perception of its truths are yet outside the kingdom of Spirit. They anxiously ask: "Why do I not realize the presence of Spirit?"
Have you kept the sayings of Jesus? Have you said to yourself in silence and aloud until the very ethers vibrated with its truth, "I and the Father are one"? Have you opened the pores of your mind, by mentally repeating the one solvent of crystallized conditions "I in them, and thou in me"?
This means mental discipline day after day and night after night, until the inertia of the mind is overcome and the way is opened for the descent of Spirit. The personal consciousness is like a house with all the doors and windows barred. The doors and the windows of the mind are concrete ideas, and they swing open when the right word is spoken to them. Jesus Christ voiced a whole volume of right words. If you will take up His sayings and make them yours, they will open all the doors of your mind, the light will come in, and you will in due time be able to step forth.
Another cannot do this for you, although you sometimes think it would be nice if some master of spiritual ideas would suddenly help you to his understanding.
But this is a childish dream of the moment. You want to be yourself, and you can be yourself only by living your own life and finding its issues at the Foun-tainhead. If it were possible for one to reveal Truth to another, we should find heaven cornered by cunning manipulators of mind and its glories stored up in warehouses awaiting a higher market.
Let us be thankful that God is no respecter of persons, that Truth cannot be revealed by one mortal to another. God is a special, personal Father to every one of His children, and from no other source can they get Truth.
Jesus Christ, who has clearly revealed the Father in His consciousness, may tell all men how it came about. He may point the way. He may say, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life," but there is always a condition attached to its realization: One must believe, keep His sayings, and follow Him. Summed up, it means that by adopting His methods one will find the same place in the Father that He found.
"If a man love me, he will keep my word: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."