One of the questions so frequently asked me is, “Do you believe in eternality, and do you believe that all people are eternal?” Personally, I consider that the eternality of the individual life has been conclusively proved; and I am convinced that you and I and everyone else are destined to live forever, because the life which we now experience is the life of God in us. It is this life of God in us that is eternal, not the external form of flesh.
In a certain sense each one of us is two persons. One is physical and the other is mental or spiritual. The mental or spiritual uses a physical body in this world because it needs it. But at the time of death the spirit within us, which is independent of this physical form, severs itself from it, or as the Bible says: “Or ever the silver cord be loosed… Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”
To those who have inward vision, it is not at all uncommon to see the separation of the spirit from the body. And perhaps more frequently than we have realized, after this separation takes place we are able to communicate with those who have left this world. Personally, I haven’t the slightest doubt of this because I have had too many experiences in this field to question its reality. And it has been my privilege to know a number of highly trained scientists who have spent years of very careful research into this subject only to come to the conclusion that there is an eternal side to our nature. There is something about the personality that does not die, that continues beyond the grave.
But someone might ask, “How can you believe this when you are dealing with such an intangible thing? How can you trust your feelings and sentiments alone? Perhaps the whole thing is but an idle daydream, an empty wish, a forlorn hope?”
You might as well ask an artist if their vision of beauty is a forlorn hope. They don’t see the beauty but they do feel it. You might as well ask a mathematician whether or not the principle of mathematics is a reality. No one has ever weighed or measured it.
As a matter of fact, while biology is the study of the life principle in the physical body, no one has ever seen this life principle. And yet, at the very moment that it departs from the body, the body begins to disintegrate. Who can doubt that the integrating factor, the thing that held the body together, has actually left its earthly home?
Psychology is the science of the way the mind works in us; but no psychologist ever saw the mind, nor is there one who doubts its existence. It is an interesting fact, but a true one, that all we deal with in this physical world is the effect of invisible causes, of an invisible intelligence working through physical forms.
Jesus said: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.” In other words, there are different planes of existence and we progress from one to the other, always more and never less ourselves. We can see how this principle works right here in this world. There is a certain form of intelligence even in a piece of steel. There is an atomic intelligence in every physical object. And we see another level or graduation of this intelligence in animal life. Then it broadens out and reaches the human being, and we find this same intelligence with conscious awareness.
Next, we find that occasionally some people have what is called a cosmic intelligence, which takes in a lot more territory. We speak of them as being illumined and spiritually aware. Jesus, of course, was the greatest of these, and he definitely said that he knew about this world and about the next one. He knew how people lived here and how they lived there.
Everything that Jesus did was done as an object lesson to teach us the relationship we have to this world, to each other, to the next world, and to God. He taught that there is no long period between sleeping to this world and waking to the next; for he said to the thief on the cross beside him: “Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” It seems as though the whole life and teaching of Jesus was to give people the hope and the assurance that they are one with God, and therefore their personal lives continue to exist beyond the grave.
There is no doubt that Jesus had enough spiritual power at his command to resist any violence had he so wished. In order to teach the lesson that he
wanted us all to learn, it was necessary that he permit himself to be crucified, that his body be placed in a tomb, and that he become resurrected and appear as he did to hundreds of people who knew him personally so that there would no longer be any doubt in their minds.
The triumph of the cross was infinitely more than one man proving that he was eternal. It was a lesson, chosen for a definite purpose. The cross stands for the Tree of Life, whose roots are in the earth, whose arms or branches are stretched out in a protective manner, and whose head or top piece is pointed toward the sky. This really represents the threefold nature of humankind-spiritual, mental, and physical; or as the Bible says, spirit, soul, and body.
And so Jesus permitted that which was human about him to hang on this Tree of Life and to be taken down and placed in a tomb, which stands for everything that means an obstruction to life, everything that looks as though life were buried, inactive, and dead.
Let us not forget that even in this experience the tomb was filled with a light—the light that the Bible says lightens every person’s pathway, the eternal light of heaven. And it was this light, this life, that Jesus took into the tomb with him. It was the light that emerged from the tomb. The cross and the suffering and the anguish and the tomb were but preliminary incidents to the resurrection, to the triumph of the spirit; and the certainty that the cross cannot long crucify nor the tomb long contain that which is destined to live forever.
It is no wonder that the Psalmist long ago chanted: “‘Wither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.” And in another psalm of confidence, he says: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” We might call these the songs of the boundless soul, hymns of praise to the eternal Creator; a glad and joyful recognition that that life which has been given to humankind is guided and guarded into eternal pathways of self-expansion.
But perhaps there is more than one cross from which we need to be delivered; more than one tomb that needs to be opened. Fear and lack, failure, disease, and unhappiness are crosses upon which we hang until the day of deliverance. And too often we lie in some tomb of uncertainty and deny our good. However, even here there is a light accompanying us. Even here there is a voice that still speaks, telling us that the tomb doesn’t really represent life, that we can arise and walk forth free and whole.
What we need to do, then, is to rediscover the secret that Jesus knew, which carried him triumphantly through every experience of life and finally delivered him from the last enemy of humankind—death. He gave us the key when he said: “I and my Father are one… the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works…for my Father is greater than I.”
It was this understanding that God is all there is that gave Jesus the power to do everything he did, whether it was the miracles of healing or the raising of himself from the dead. I believe the possibility of all these things rests on just one simple proposition: There is one life, that life is God, and that life is every person’s life.
Of course, we are human beings and we do miss our friends. But when we understand that every person is eternal, that death is but the gateway to a larger life, we shall have a different viewpoint; and often, indeed, we shall recognize that our loss is their gain. It is necessary for us to realize that eternality is a principle in nature and comes alike to everyone. Sanity would forbid us to believe that some persons are eternal and others are not.
Jesus understood that and that is why he said that God causes the sun and rain to come alike on the just and the unjust. He knew that for the most part we do not live as though we were eternal beings; that we get caught up with our little problems and often get lost in the maze of our own confusion. But he saw through all this to the final end of humankind. He knew that every person has the same divine spark within them; that finally the Spirit will triumph in everyone’s life; and that good comes to all.
But he also said that the good is here now could we but see it; that the kingdom of God is at hand and we need to realize it. And he told about a daily resurrection that we may experience. We already possess the power; and when we learn to let the old slip away and be replaced by the new, when we no longer carry the burdens of yesterday into our tomorrows, we shall find each day a day of resurrection and of rejoicing. Eternality is something to be experienced here and now. We can open our minds to that other side of ourselves, that part which seems never to have completely been caught in the flesh.
“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” You and I did not earn our eternality. It is a gift of God. But we do have to earn the ability to experience and enjoy it. This is a gift we shall have to make to ourselves. This world and the next are but two parts of one journey, which can, if we permit it, be filled with hope and joy.
From a talk given at the Wiltern Theatre, Sunday morning, July 4, 1937.
Ever since the dawn of civilization, ever since the first humans began to grasp the significant fact that they were individual beings in a universe that seemed to be more or less hostile to them, the entire search of the human mind, its whole endeavor, has been to get free from evil, from bondage and the shackles of lack, want, fear, superstition, uncertainty, pain, disease, poverty, and fear of the hereafter. And because of this, human systems exist—organized philosophies spring up, sciences develop, educational systems are conducted, collective security is sought after, and religions are formulated to allay the fear of humankind relative to the soul.
The great demand in the world today is for a sense of security, freedom, and liberty. But we must be very certain that we do not swap one image of bondage for another. I have read a large part of the religious and philosophic history of the world and I have noticed that almost invariably, when the world traded one kind of religion for another, it didn’t get a good deal. The Pilgrim Fathers who came to the shores of New England came to worship God in their own way, but the moment they got there, everybody in the colony worshiped God in the way that the strong-minded members of that colony decided was the way to worship God. That was not freedom.
Even in our newer religions of the last seventy-five or a hundred years, very frequently we meet people who say they have now found the truth, and then, unfortunately, a large majority of them disclose that they merely have found an idea they liked and called it the truth because they were egotistical, self-conscious, self-righteous people with an attitude of condemnation toward others. That is not the truth. In studying one system of thought after another that has transpired in the last seven thousand years of human history, I have noted how extremely difficult it is for the human mind to conceive liberty without license, without egotism; and we can only give birth to freedom when we have conceived liberty.
True freedom—true liberty—has something cosmic behind it. If the time has come that modern science has proved that we cannot move a piece of paper without changing the balance of the entire physical universe; if we have come to the place where we know that the stuff of which our physical bodies are made is the same stuff of which the planets are made; if we have come to the place where such a profound unity is maintained that physicists believe there is no such thing as disunity in the physical world; then we can easily see what the great spiritual leaders of the ages meant when they told us of that greater unity in which we all live and move and have our being, and that the idea of freedom itself is tied up with the true concept of the unity of good. If our nature is one, if God is one—and we know that God must be one, for the universe cannot be divided against itself—then we are all tied into an indivisible unity. We shall have to get back to this unity to find the meaning of freedom. Nothing in any part of this cosmic whole could be considered freedom that would destroy the liberty of some other part of it. That would be self-destruction, would it not? As Jesus pointed out two thousand years ago, that would be a kingdom divided against itself. The kingdom of God is one kingdom. So we know that true liberty must spring from true unity.
We are bound into a supreme unity, we are tied into an immutable law of irrevocable cause and effect—that is unity moving into action. Cause and effect is something that happens as a result of the use of unity. Consequently we are one even while we are many, and since each one of us is a part of the whole, if we seek to destroy each other we only ultimately hurt ourselves. That is the great lesson of life.
Freedom, then, will come only in such degree as we no longer do anything that hurts anyone, but that does not mean we have to become spiritual or intellectual doormats. I do not believe in that. Nothing in my belief causes me to feel that God or the Creative Principle wants me to suffer for myself or for anyone else. I do it, I have always done it, perhaps I always shall in this world—but I know that it is wrong. How can the Supreme Being desire my suffering without imposing that suffering, and what kind of a universe has a God who suffers and imposes suffering in a changeless reality? The whole theology and religious reaction of people who believe that arises out of morbidity and fear and superstition and nothing else.
Well, it is not so—and still we suffer. Why? Because we do not understand. We might say that the world suffered darkness until somebody discovered electricity. It suffered crawling around on the face of the earth until technology was developed so we could fly and drive. It suffers limitation, not because the Infinite imposes limitation, but because the world does not understand its freedom. And when it begins to develop its freedom, seldom does it do it directly; it generally creates a new bondage. When we kill the old devil we are very likely to give birth to a new and more subtle one. War is more to be feared than ever before because we have more knowledge without more wisdom. And final freedom will come only as it is tied into divine wisdom.
What is divine wisdom? I am no prophet, but I would suggest that divine wisdom must be as simple and profound as this: Jesus said, “The kingdom of God cannot be divided against itself.” I think that is all there is to divine wisdom. The kingdom of God cannot and will not be divided; so long as I will seek to hurt, I will be hurt.
We desire freedom. We do not like evil, we do not like pain, we do not like poverty, we do not like unhappiness. Why should we? None of us likes to go to bed and worry all night and get up tired out in the morning. God does not impose it on us. Why do we do it? Because we sense freedom, we sense liberty, we sense God, yet out here in the objective world we experience limitation; and the argument is between what we feel ought to take place and what we see and the world experiences. It seems as though we are two people, one that experiences evil and one that knows there should be no evil.
The evolution of freedom in the human mind is a slow process. Many movements in the world that claim to be seeking liberty only produce new kinds of bondage. We should beware of them. They are born out of the idea of depression; they are born out of the spirit of bondage. If we want freedom, we must understand that freedom can never come by the imposition of a will of the minority over the majority. It is born finally, and only in such degree as some system is devised whereby individuals are allowed complete freedom so long as they do not, in their freedom, impose bondage on someone else.
I believe that the true spirit of democracy is a spiritual conception where there is freedom, liberty without license, and a flexibility that makes evolution possible on the foundation of freedom. As we enter into the spirit of the meaning of Independence Day, the day when liberty, symbolically, was conceived, the day when freedom, objectively, in our country was announced, we should think of it not merely as a political system or form of government, but we should think of it as a spiritual conception, an idea in the Divine Mind Itself, taking form in human experience; we should learn to love that liberty, and in loving the idea we should learn to tenderly and prayerfully handle the embodiment of that idea and nourish it always to greater strength; we should really conceive again the great spiritual conception of that rugged man of God who said: “…that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”