W. John Murray
The Astor Lectures
Divine Science Publishing Assoc.
New York, 1917, 8th ed.

“But know, that in the soul
Are many lesser faculties, that serve,
Reason as chief; among these, fancy, next
Her office holds; of all external things,
Which the five watchful senses represent.
She forms imaginations, airy shapes,
Which reason, joining or disjoining frames
All what we affirm or what deny, and call
Our knowledge or opinion; then retires
Into her private cell when nature rests.
Oft in her absence mimic fancy wakes
To imitate her; but, misjoining shapes,
Wild work produces oft, and most in dreams,
Ill matching words and deeds long past or late.
Some such resemblances methinks I find
Of our last evening’s talk, in this thy dream,
But with addition strange; yet be not sad:
Evil into the mind of. . .man
May come and go, so unapproved, and leave
No spot or blame behind.”
— Milton.

[321] God is the invisible Unit which contains the all of Truth, without beginning and without ending. God is Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent. Attributes are the essential qualities [322] inherent in a thing and co-existent. Life, Truth, and Love are attributes of Deity. To alter a quality is to change the substance from which the quality emanates. Therefore, Life, Truth, and Love are unchangeable, immeasurable, and eternal. The attributes of God are manifested through the justice, mercy, and wisdom of mankind. The senses are the faculties by which we perceive the intrinsic qualities of the corporeal things which constitute the phenomena of existence.

The soul is the highest numeral in the scale of unfoldment. It is the seventh sense and is open on its positive side to the impartations of Spirit; it is likewise on its negative side within reach of the suggestions that proceed from the lower senses. By reason of the duality of its office, the soul is influenced for good or for evil according to the degree to which it is receptive to spiritual impartations or carnal suggestions. When the Spirit had imparted to Mary that she was to become the mother of the Son of man, she said: “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” When the poet King was overburdened by the weight of his crown, he asked: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me?”

The soul is besieged on its earthly side by the hell of carnal desires and supported on its exalted side by celestial impartations. In the ascent heavenward the soul takes its first step by reason; in the descent it takes its initial step [323] through appetite. If appetite subjugates it the descent is complete; if reason gains a hold, intellect bears it to Truth. The descent of the soul is called “sinning” and it is written that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die,” that is, it shall not be alive to Truth. The parable of the prodigal son illustrates the misery of the soul’s downward course and the glory of its upward flight. This son of God was conquered by carnal desire, enemies which the prodigal tried to appease by gratifying; which was like trying to put out a fire by adding fuel to it. When the youth had reached the limit of his decline he found himself herding the very swine of depraved appetites. The prodigal was engulfed in sin with the pleasures of sense exhausted, desires constantly increasing, and his power to throw off the shackles momentarily decreasing. “Of worse deeds worse suffering must ensue,” and the prodigal had reached the end of his trail. There was no help from without and apparently no cessation from within. The youth could descend no lower.

“He had been slain, but that his pain and woe
Bereft his senses, and preserved him so.”

The very husks of sin were exhausted. Carnality and bestiality seemed to have obscured the Divine, when lo! remorse came to his assistance, and the tears of repentance extinguished the fire of desire. Reason took possession of the prodigal, and Intellect whispered: “Arise.” And the [324] prodigal arose from the dead, his ignorance of Truth, and went to his father! It is thus that the soul, raised above the realm of appetite, becomes a living entity and reposes with intellect in Truth. Reason is always ready to assist the soul, but,—

“Reason in man obscured, or not obeyed,
Immediately inordinate desires
And upstart passions catch the government
From reason, and to servitude reduce
Man, till then free.”

The soul, rescued from appetite, approaches Truth through the intellect, that attribute of mind by which the ideas are perceived in their true relation to external things. Truth is that which is without possibility of alteration.

Mind is the place of ideas; the “I am who fills infinitude,” is God, and Mind is His dwelling place. Mind is all in all. It is the abode of Truth, the realm of the real; and Man is hid in Mind with God. Therefore Man is spiritual and eternal, substance and life, and He is in truth and love; for God, in His heaven of Mind, “is center, yet extends to all” and Man is God manifest, the “word made flesh” which dwells among us. And the world knoweth Him not, for the world is the realm of shadows where to us Man is “invisible, or dimly seen in these, God’s lowest works.” Substance is that which underlies all reality. Spirit is substance, and all that is, is [325] formed out of substance, even as all that seems to be is made of shadows.

Soul is not Spirit, but is on its way spiritward; even as a new-born babe is not a man, although he has the possibility of coming to man’s estate. There is really no synonym for God, who is the all in all. Life is an attribute of God, and life, therefore, is as unalterable as is God. “Eternity, whose end no eye can reach,” is within the confines of life.

Intelligence is the principal power of the Mind by which ideas are perceived and understood in their true spiritual relation. The intelligence projected from God into the individual mind of man, performs the same office for man that intelligence performs for Mind. By intelligence man perceives and understands the things of Spirit which are invisible to the senses. Wisdom and intelligence are the fruits of the Spirit, and it is the Spirit of man and not his seventh sense that connects him indissolubly with his Maker.

The will in the mental realm acts as does the heart in the physical kingdom, in that, by the will certain movements are impressed upon the organs through the medium of which they act and react on the world of external things. The will is capable of descent, if it is overruled by appetite. But,

“Will absolute consenteth not to evil;
But in so far consenteth as it fear,
If it refrain, to fall into more harm.”

[326] The will has the nature of fire in that it is born to ascend; hence it

“operates as nature doth in fire,
If violence a thousand times distort it.”

The will of man is the

“greatest gift that in his largess, God
Creating made, and unto his own goodness
Nearest conformed, and that which he doth prize
Most highly, is the freedom of the will,
Wherewith the creatures of intelligence
Both all and only were and are endowed.”

The freedom of the will constitutes man’s individuality whereby he images God’s unity or Oneness. It is this individuality of the human entity which separates the will of man even from the domination of Deity. This constitutes what has long been spoken of as the doctrine of free will and accounts for the possibility of the descent of man’s will; while the bond of the Spirit which eternally connects God with man will ultimately subdue the will of man to the larger will of God, thus accomplishing the union of the all of man with the all of God. “And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” Man’s existence as a mortal is a myth, [327] but his life is the life which is God and is indestructible and eternal.

Creeds do violence to Deity. They have usurped the place of Christ and profaned Christianity, and, were it possible, they would circumscribe the uncircumscribable. Jesus never subscribed to a creed, nor did he condemn those who knew not his doctrines.

“Who art thou, that on the bench wouldst sit
In judgment at a thousand miles away,
With the short vision of a single span?”

No one has ever ascended to the realm of understanding,

“who had not faith in Christ,
Before or since he to the tree was nailed
But look thou, many crying are, ‘Christ, Christ!’
Who at the judgment shall be far less near
To Him than some shall be who knew not Christ.”

Jesus neither ordained nor advised ceremonies, notwithstanding that he submitted to both. Of baptism he said:—“Suffer it to be so now—Then he suffered him (John) and was baptized.” Jesus taught that the true baptism is the repentance for wrongdoing by which men cease to err, “that so shall end the strife which thou call’st evil.” The justice of God forbids that,

“Born a man is on the shore
Of Indus, and is none who there can speak
Of Christ, nor who can read, nor who can write;
And all his inclinations and his actions
Are good, so far as human reason sees,
Without a sin in life or in discourse:
He dies unbaptized and without faith;
Where is this justice that condemneth him?
Where is his fault, if he did not believe?
O animals terrene, O stolid minds,
The primal will, that in itself is God,
Ne’er from itself, the Good Supreme, has moved.”

“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification,” and the will of God, like “the mind and spirit, remains invincible,” and man’s redemption is wrought by Intelligence which illumines the darkness in him, raises him from his lower senses, and supports him until Truth receives him unto Herself. Ceremonials are not essential to the salvation of mankind, but inasmuch as the mind apprehends through the senses, conveying that which is worthy to intellect, ceremony oft-times teaches through symbols.

“On this account the scripture condescends
Unto your faculties, and feet and hands
To God attributes, and means something else.”

Baptismal fonts have their place, but they were not made to drown in! Says Dante:

“And one,—not many years ago,
I broke for some one, who was drowning in it;
Be this a seal all men to undeceive.”

Sin is the most subtle illusion that arises from the organs of fancy, which inhabit the soul. It is a supposition that a phenomenon of sense is a verity of Being. Sin is fear, doubt, lust, and all the other myths and goblins that lurk in the shadows that add perspective to the panorama of existence. It is a vista of the senses, unreal and therefore non-existent. It is that which appears to be and is not. Evil lurks in that mind which the great Milton has stigmatized as “mortal mind”; the mind which is not.

“It is the shade in which men walk, where
Their makers image, then
Forsook them, when themselves they vilified
To serve ungoverned appetite,
Disfiguring not God’s likeness, but their own.”

Surely Milton, in these lines, says the last word on sin! Sin is impotent and powerless. It can never reach the realm of the real, and can never destroy anything but itself. It can never efface the divine image, and, if it seems to take its victim out of the dream of existence, fear not, for death will receive sin’s prey on the threshold and “to better life shall lead him.” Discord announces sin’s entrance into the family, and fortunate are those who can banish the [330] specter, without its passing through the nation in the disguise of war,

“which wearied hath performed what war can do,
And to disordered rage lets loose the reins.”

War is begotten of strife that has overflown from the citizen’s hearth, and flooded the nation. But war is only an illuminated spectacle in nature’s phenomena and is neither real nor eternal. The violent and unforeseen vicissitudes of nature are a part of the dream of life in matter, of reality in spectacle.

God is, and God only is real. Man is the manifestation of God, and neither war nor famine can touch his real Being. All that evil can never do is to turn out the lights on the spectacle of existence, but death will open the door, and celestial glory will take the place of artificial light.

“To attain
The height of Thy eternal way
All human thought comes short, Supreme of things.”

To discern the nothingness of the phantom of sense which has “left the cell of fancy” is not an impossible task with Intelligence to instruct mankind in the Truth of Being, which is, that nothing is true but God. With the “organs of [331] fancy” we shape “phantasms,” and “illusion as he lists” gives names to them, and they are bequeathed to existence through lineal descent as facts.

“Change your thoughts” said Dante, and by saying this he introduced into the world of existence the only weapon with which to exterminate the phantoms of sense. “Change your thoughts,” and abandon fear which is the mother of the only illegitimate thing in existence, and the only thing unknown in heaven,—sin! The body is the shape form assumes when it is viewed by the senses. It is the screen upon which the senses design their orgies, until man’s will is governed by Intelligence, and then it becomes an instrument of God’s service.

Man is spiritual. God is not man, even as the sun is not a ray, but man in his spiritual completion is the outward expression of which God is the indwelling substance. This does not mean many gods; it means one God in whom all things are included, and all men as representatives of that oneness, individual in operation but one in unity of Spirit. When the lesson of Love is learned, and man rises to the law of Love, existence is transmuted into life, and he becomes a luminary of the Spirit in whom is no darkness at all; neither is there shadow of turning toward the region of sense.

Milton represents Eve as saying to the serpent—in the allegory of the “Tree of knowledge of good and evil”—

“Can it be sin to know? Can it be death,
And do men only stand by ignorance?”

Had Eve understood that evil is merely an appearance, simply a something not real, then Paradise Lost would never have been written, and the world would have been deprived of an immortal work of art, but “happier had it sufficed her to have known, good itself,” and not to have thought to know the unknowable. That which is called matter is an optical illusion and is the result of imperfect vision; in proportion as our sense vision is corrected by understanding, matter disappears, and the things of Spirit come into visibility. The allegory of the forbidden fruit came forth from the fancy of man, rich in symbol, but by no means lending itself to a literal translation.

“For man to tell how human life began
Is hard; for who, himself beginning, knew?”

And for the reason that opposites cannot mingle, the “ruddy gold apples” could not convey a knowledge of that which is and that which is not. A great scientist has said that “the perceptive power within us precedes, and is independent of the specialized sense organs, which it has developed for earthly use.—It is mind that sees, and mind that hears, the other things are blind and deaf.” All that is, is Mind and its ideas of which man is the highest manifestation.

[333] As drifting clouds are absorbed by the warm currents of air that throng the summer sky, so the shadows of sense must disappear before the reality of truth, leaving no trace of their ephemeral existence. In the mystical voyage which was taken by Dante through Hell, the first people he encountered were the selfish; these

“who have not rebellious been
Nor faithful were to God, but were for self.
The heavens expelled them, not to be less fair;
Nor them the nethermore abyss receives,
For glory none the damned would have from them.”

The next personages that the poet met were the cowards “hateful to God and to His enemies.” These two giant illusions symbolize selfishness and cowardice paving the way for all the lesser phantoms to run to their haunts in “mortal mind.” But God has given man an understanding whereby he may overcome illusion by ceasing to believe in it. Hasten, then, to your mountain of Spirit; throw off the dead mass of false beliefs that hides the living tissue of Spirit, and let the Christ that is in you be manifested through you, that others, seeing your good works, may glorify your Father which is in Heaven.

The lowest sense function is animal instinct; the highest function of the soul is intuition. This is an intelligence invested with something akin to the omnipotence of God. Ideas are things in [334] themselves. Sense perceptions are not realities; they are in the state of things which are “becoming to be.” Intelligence is cognizant of ideas, and reason is cognizant of the perceptions of sense. Sin is a sense perception which instinct mistakes for truth, but intelligence corrects instinct’s error. Disease also is a sense perception; it is real to the irrational senses, as are other of its phantasms, but to the tribunal of intellect it is known to be an impostor, claiming to be something when it is nothing. Hence the wisdom of Jesus’ admonition that we “judge not appearances (sense), but judge righteous judgment.”

Spiritual knowledge is a sovereign panacea for mental, moral, and physical maladies. Sense, like a false witness, is always testifying to falsities, but intelligence is ever disproving the evidence of sense, and Truth has put the seal of her approval on the decisions rendered by intelligence. Truth is the secret place of the Most High into which evil never penetrates, nor does disease invade it. When assailed by the illusions of sense, man needs to emulate the example of the turtle, and withdraw himself from the world into his inner sanctuary where the Soul of Soul reposes in truth. Faith is a clear, spiritually intellectual perception of Truth, and therefore faith is the greatest saving, healing force in the universe. Paul says, “whatever is not of faith is sin,” because what is not of faith, is of sense perception and therefore nothing. Nothing is sin.

[335] Love and faith were the twin weapons with which Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, and overcame the world; and the things that he did, “shall ye do also.” Plotinus has said: “Since matter is neither soul, nor intellect, nor life, nor form, nor reason, but a certain indefiniteness; nor yet capacity, for what can it produce? Since it is foreign to all these, it cannot merit the appellation of being, but is deservedly called non-entity.” Plotinus proceeds to affirm that “it is but the shadow and imagination of bulk,” like an image in a mirror or in water. It is constituted in the shade and defect of true being, and hence must be the most unreal thing in the universe, a mere flying and ever-changing mockery. It has, in fact, no solidity which is one of the most firmly seated of our illusions in regard to it, and one of the last to quit its hold upon us. For when a man puts his hand upon a block of marble, it is difficult to feel that its solidity is only a sensation of resistance in us. So of all its so-called properties. Supposing sensations to be all removed from the soul; with their removal, all matter, and hence also the human body, is gone. And whenever those modifications of mind or sensation exist in us, then matter exists, for it is nothing else. [Primitive Mind Cure, by Evans.]

Plotinus also says “that those who view the body as a real being, and make sense the standard and measure of truth, are affected like persons in a dream, who imagine that the perceptions of sleep are true.” For sense is alone the employment of the dormant soul; since as much of the soul as is merged in the body, so much of it sleeps. But true evolution and true wakefulness are a resurrection from; and not with, the dull mass of the body. “For indeed a resurrection with the body is only a transmigration from sleep and from dread to dream, like a man passing in the dark from bed to bed.” [Primitive Mind Cure, by Evans.] It was in view of this immortal truth that Paul said: “Awake to righteousness and sin not,” which means to wake toright thinking, and come out of the lethargy which is the spell of sense illusion. This is “the first resurrection,” the rising of the soul above its prison of sense. We are told that those that have part in this resurrection;—this liberation of the soul by intellect from the subjugation of sense—are they upon whom “the second death has no power.” That is to say, that if the soul is liberated through spiritual understanding, it will not be necessary for death to effect this separation. The day of judgment, in which the so-called dead are supposed to be united to their bodies, is the day in which the soul puts off shape and puts on form, puts off mortality and puts on immortality.

“Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with Him. And these two (Christ and God) are one.” The fact that [337] Mind is the realm of ideas, the enduring realities of the universe, and that all ideas have an inherent tendency to actualize or externalize themselves in form, proves that form expresses the idea of spiritual reality. A thought assumes form in an idea which is the living image of the thought; but the idea tends to a further externalization in that it becomes an actuality in the world of sense. What is seen as shape is form misunderstood. The renewal of the body by the creative power of the divine idea is the real regeneration spoken of by Jesus in Matthew, where he says: “That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye shall also sit upon thrones.” Regeneration, then, is based on the science of right thinking. Like everything else, the body exists in thought. It is patterned after our own image, and thus Isaiah could say of himself: “I was shapen in iniquity,” while Jesus, who was the living example of regeneration by the renewing of his mind said: “I and my Father are one.”

God made man in the image of spiritual form, but man created his ideas in the image of shape. “Therefore be not like after the illusion of the senses but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Every new and higher or lesser material conception which we form, of the reality of man’s being, or of our own being, by an undeviating law, tends towards spiritual regeneration in an outward manifestation. Thought is [338] a manifestation of Mind. It is a power which is the ground of all reality, and the basis of all possibility. Thought has power to alter the nature of things so as to radically change their quality. Paul overcame the otherwise fatal bite and poison of the viper by thought. All disease is a creation of sensuous seeming; therefore the only true remedy is right knowing. True education consists of understanding spiritually how to free the soul from the trammels of sense, and to raise it from the plane of the mere seeming and evanescent to the realm of the real and enduring by spiritual knowledge.

Swedenborg advances the doctrine of mental degrees, the teaching of the Hermetic philosophy, which is that, “in every man there are three degrees of life,—the celestial, the spiritual, and the natural.” The natural degree is the sense plane wherein abide illusions and fantasies. The creations of this degree of mind, therefore, “shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney.”

The celestial degree is the conscious union of man with God. Thus are the captives of sense transformed from the thraldom of fancy to “the glorious liberty of the sons of God.” Dante says, “Make as nature makes in fire.” This is an admonition to let your thoughts ever ascend towards the real, the realm of God.

The second degree, or the spiritual, is where [339] the intellect comes to the soul’s aid by virtue of which man is enabled to discard illusions and administer righteous judgment.

Someone has said that the soul is a vital spark of heavenly fire, and this is because it is the nature of the soul to ascend, as ever and always flame ascends. Everything in nature depicts ascension and resurrection, and the real resurrection is the ascension of thought above the mist of matter; the realm whose creations “are as grass: as a flower of the field, so it flourisheth. For the wind (Spirit) passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.” Thus we understand the allness of God and the nothingness of that which appears as a mob of sense illusions, unreal and temporal.

Pythagoras taught his disciples that God is the Universal Mind, or intelligent life-principle, and that man is the complete unfoldment of the Mind which is God. Man, therefore, has an inseparable union with God, and to see and understand this union, man has only to awake from the dream of life in matter, and ascend in thought to the spiritual knowledge that God, Good, is the real and eternal. Then man becomes one with “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.”

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The Astor Lectures
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