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THE EVOLUTION OF THE SOUL
Copyright by the William F. Ayers Foundation 1949
Lecture on the William F. Ayres Foundation by Mr. Igor I. Sikorsky of Bridgeport, Connecticut at Plymouth Congregational Church, Lansing Michigan, November 15, 1949.
Mr. Igor I. Sikorsky was born in Kiev, Russia, his father and mother being prominent physicians there. While studying engineering at the Institute in Kiev he made noteworthy experiments with the helicopter and various types of airplanes. In 1913 he perfected the first four motor plane in history and built a number of these ships for the Russian army during World War I. After the Revolution Mr. Sikorsky came to America where he faced years of hardship, but he succeeded in building a successful plane and in establishing a factory in Bridgeport, Conn. His clipper ships were soon circling the globe and he was recognized as one of the world’s foremost inventors.
Returning to the helicopter, he soon established the American record and developed a new vehicle that has been widely used in rescue work, agriculture, exploration, and transportation. Sikorsky Aircraft is now an important division of United Aircraft. Their research and invention made a significant contribution during World War II. Mr. Sikorsky has traveled widely. His hobbies include astronomy, mountain climbing, volcanoes, music and philosophy. His books have been widely read: The Winged S,
The Lord’s Prayer, Invisible Encounter. He has written many articles and has been included in many books such as: Man’s Flight to Fly, The Story of the Helicopter,
Pioneering With the Helicopter, Sky Pioneer - The Story of Igor I. Sikorsky by Robert M. Bartlett.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE SOUL
The subject of this series of lectures belongs to the most important questions which a man can face in this life. It is interrelated with our ideas about the ascent of man, and the meaning of his existence in the stupendous universe which outwardly appears to be so indifferent, not to say hostile to our grade of life. The subject assumes a particular significance in our turbulent epoch of tragedy and disappointment.
The character of the recent turn of events has been well defined by Prof. Sorokin in the powerful lines! "At the present time neither the innocence of children nor the white locks of venerable old age nor the tenderness of girls and women is spared. If anything, they are the main victims of war, revolution, crime, and other forms of violence. The civilization that before 1914 boasted of its humanitarianism and sympathy, in contradistinction to the alleged cruelty and inhumanity of the Dark Ages, has degenerated into something so base and brutal that it exceeds the alleged cruelty of the barbarians. Reemerging during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in a spirit of humanitarianism, compassion, earthly wisdom, and noble aspiration, the sensate culture of the West has terminated this phase of its existence in a riot of sub-animalistic brutality and violence. No more complete and tragic bankruptcy could be imagined."
The French scientist, Descartes once stated, "In order to reach the truth it is necessary once in one's life to put everything to doubt so far as possible. This rule seems to be very applicable to the discussion of the evolution of the soul in our tragic time.
To begin with, nearly one half of mankind is not controlled by a materialistic ideology which de facto denies the very existence of a "human soul". On the other hand, religiously minded observers who believe firmly in the existence of a potentially immortal human soul, may, in our time, question the reality of its moral progress. For a long time the ascent of man, which can be interpreted as the constructive evolution of his mind and soul was associated with the increase of wisdom, honesty, tolerance, kindliness, sympathy, compassion, altruism, good will, respect for truth, and the like. However, the current century witnessed the greatest rejection of these tendencies and consequently became the bloodiest of the twenty-five centuries of recorded history. Taking these facts into consideration, it becomes difficult to state with assurance whether, in general, there has been any progressive evolution of the human soul during the five thousand years of recorded history.
The present attempt to discuss this subject and to recognize some orderly and progressive general trends, in spite of the discouraging and chaotic contemporary evidence, must be preceded by certain explanatory remarks.
The term "soul" will be used in this discussion to designate the highest, potentially immortal component of human personality. It is this part of our conscious being which reacts to such factors as respect for truth, compassion, good will, forgiveness tolerance, love, and the like. So long as this is the case, the term ran not be identified with the term intellect.
In both literature and life we can easily find examples of simple, uneducated human beings with, nevertheless, highly refined and developed souls, who feel clearly and react unmistakably to the above mentioned higher factors of life. As a rule, this is connected with active religious faith. On the other hand, in life as well as in the works of great authors, we find cases where high intellect and extensive learning are combined with a crude soul which may be below that of a caveman, and may, in some cases, descend to the level of a beast. In fact, the Russian expression "soulless" may be significantly closer to reality than what is usually assumed and yet such characteristics may well be combined with a strong intellect and great learning.
The term "evolution" will be understood to mean a process of gradual change which is essentially directed toward ascent, expansion, improving and refinement. The term "evolution of the sound", taken in its widest, ultimate meaning may then be understood as a gradual process of development in which human beings may ascend from the likeness of a beast toward the likeness of God.
In general, the term "natural evolution" is usually associated with the idea of a long process of gradual change which resulted in the development of all living beings that inhabit the earth. The use of the same term with reference to the development of the soul would suggest the existence of analogies between the two processes which undoubtedly is true. The evolutionary development of plants and animals influenced by certain natural laws of the physical order which encourage the development of faculties that would, in general, the specie more fit to survive. It must be noted that the above mentioned natural factors manifest themselves not so much in promoting the desirable qualities, but mainly in causing the elimination of species which failed to develop the characteristics which were necessary in order to remain within the stream of life.
By analogy we may expect the existence of natural laws or factors of higher order that could influence, in some way, the ascent and development of the human soul. In attempting to discover such factors we will analyze certain examples taken not only from the human but also from lower grades of life.
The use of the animal world as a point of departure in this study appears to be Justified by the following considerations. The vegetable and animal life on the earth may be regarded as the predecessor and the cradle of the human race. Furthermore, it could well be expected that certain fundamental laws of higher order would, to some extent, influence all life on the earth just as the fundamental law of gravitation, which controls the movement of immense celestial bodies, controls also the behavior of minor particles on the earth.
The present discussion would be based on the assumption that among modern living creatures we may usually find certain kinds that would correspond to the carriers of highest intelligence at some remote period. Thus some modern bacteria and lower forms of life probably are similar to specimens earliest life, our modern lizards and crocodiles probably are comparable to the dinosaur, and so forth. This gives us an opportunity to observe living beings similar to the ones which inhabited the earth hundreds of millions of years ago.
The gradual progress of intelligence among animals and the rapid advancement made by man are, of course, obvious and indisputable. Therefore, in the present discussion we will use the intellectual development as a frame of reference and observe the real or figurative ascent of the soul in relation to the general development of the intellect. The term "figurative" has been used because reference will be made in the beginning to the development of certain higher motive impulses among animals.
In order to observe some sequence in this development, we will study, in particular, the relation which exists between the degree of intelligence and the following factors:
1. Organization and leadership.
2. The development of higher and nobler feelings and motive impulses.
3. The significance of death.
With respect to the first of the three factors, it is possible to observe the following.
In the case of lower animal life and in the whole vegetable kingdom, the very idea of organization and leadership has no meaning. In higher animal life organization appears once in a while. Flocks of birds sometimes follow a definite leader as do herds of buffalo or deer. The most pronounced example of a complex social organization based on mechanized discipline and a planned distribution of work and food can be observed in the case of bees and ants. The ant-hills represent a good example of totalitarian economy and, with the ants, it works. Their case seems, however, to be a sharp symbolic warning to man who is now moving dangerously in the same direction. In order to make this planned community a success the following three factors were necessary.
1. The ant lost its wings which symbolizes the loss of freedom.
2. It virtually lost the use of eyesight which symbolizes the loss of access to true information.
3. The ant lost the opportunity to have its own posterity because, in the ant-hill, the whole reproduction of the population is carried out by the queen on a mass production basis.
It must be noted that, in the animal world, cases of a large organization, represent a rare exception. The cases of bees and ants produce the impression of nature experimenting with an arrangement which, generally speaking, is not necessary for this grade of intelligence because a multitude of other living beings of comparable physical and mental stature continue to exist just as well independently without any trace of belonging to and organization. Only among the intellectually highest animals, namely birds and mammals, do we find a form of a small organization which is widespread and obviously important for the survival of the specie. It is the organization of a family.
Passing from animals to primitive men, we find that, besides the family, there is need of a larger organization, namely a community or a village. Accordingly, leadership becomes a necessity. As intelligence increases, the size and intricacy of the organization and the importance of leadership become greater.
In this stage the collapse of the organization or a failure of the leadership may become the cause of a major disaster. Further increase of intelligence and scientific knowledge creates the need of a still larger and more complex organization until a stage is reached where a world-wide organization becomes necessary for the survival of the specie.
A group of prominent scientists recently voiced the opinion that mankind is now approaching such a stage. Their views were expressed in a booklet entitled One World or None. Indeed, the immediate cause of their conclusion was the discovery of the atomic bomb. However, this miraculously powerful instrument of destruction is, in itself, only one of the consequences of the scientific and intellectual progress.
Summarizing this part of the discussion, we find that in primitive life, organization and leadership are meaningless and impossible; on the next level of intelligence such as insects, fishes, reptiles and amphibians, organization is still, as a rule, unnecessary and does not exist except for the few strange and rare cases that were mentioned; in higher animal life only the family organization becomes needed and, as intellectual development increases, a larger and more complex organization becomes necessary until, at a certain stage, a world-wide organization and a good leadership become desperately needed for the very survival of the race.
(2) The development of higher and nobler feelings and motive impulses.
Reviewing the case of plants and lowest animal life, we can see that the idea of higher feelings and impulses is inapplicable to them. Little traces, if any, can be recognized among a number of other living beings of, so to say, intermediate intelligence, such as insects, crustaceans, fish, amphibians, and the like. As we pass to animals of higher intelligence, namely, birds and mammals, we observe a definite appearance of higher and nobler impulses. This becomes manifest first in the relations between the parents, particularly the mother, and the little ones where we observe altruism and charity that may reach the degree of self-sacrifice. A mother bird would spend several days hatching the eggs and then spend weeks of hard work in providing food of the little birds.
A mother bear or cat would tenderly take care of her little ones and would risk her life defending them against even a bigger or more dangerous adversary. The elephants may go into slavery if the little ones have been captured. Dogs may display genuine attachment and loyalty to their masters and will risk their lives in protecting them. It may be noted, however, that in the animal kingdom, the cases of pronounced altruistic or higher motive impulses are almost entirely limited either to members of the family, mostly young offspring, or to one or very few human beings; in the case of dogs and some other domestic animals.
As we pass form animals t o primitive men, we find that the sphere covered by higher feelings and impulses becomes deeper and wider. Besides the family relations which become more pronounced and frequently life-long, there appears an attachment and loyalty to one's own community, tribe, eventually nation, and finally, among the greatest of men, there comes a feeling of devotion to the whole of mankind.
Reviewing this part of the discussion, we may observe the following significant sequence of developments. With respect to vegetable and lower animal life, the ideas of higher feelings are inapplicable even in a figurative way. As intelligence increases, the higher feelings and impulses make their appearance and the need therefor increases with the growth of intelligence.
It must be stressed that the increased intelligence itself is not the cause of higher moral feelings and nobler motive impulses. However, it is true that the increase of intelligence creates t he need for greater altruism and nobler feelings. The re are reasons to believe that this is one of the fundamental higher laws of the universe. Indeed, the influence of this law does not manifest itself with the punctuality of the rules of mechanics and chemistry. We know only too well that a clever, unscrupulous individual may enjoy health and success in spite of a disregard of moral laws and higher principles. However, it may be stated that specie of living beings can not survive unless it would include a sufficient number of individuals whose higher impulses and nobler feelings would correspond to the general level of intelligence that was reached by the race.
(3) The significance of death.
Interesting conclusions can be reached in reviewing the phenomenon of death in relation of different grades of intelligence. Among beings of lowest intelligence, natural death is, in general, non-significant and sometimes even absent. Various simple organisms, like the protozoa, prove to be, in a certain sense, immortal. They reproduce by simple fission of the body, one individual becoming two and leaving behind in the process ;nothing corresponding to a corpse. If the environment is kept favorable, the process may go on indefinitely. There would be no natural death. This life can be destroyed only by accident.*
Shifting our attention to the next grade of intelligence, say the insect world, we see that individual natural death is firmly established as a general rule. However symbolically and, to a large extent, actually, death involves no ugliness and probably very little suffering. The death of a parent or of a child has no significance because the insects, as a rule, do not know their relations and can not suffer form their loss.
* See "British Encyclopedia under the title "Death"
With animals of highest intelligence, such as birds and mammals, death becomes a tragedy and is frequently associated with genuine mental suffering. The mother bird or mother cat may suffer keenly the loss of children particularly if caused by violence.
Nevertheless, the tragedy of death in the whole animal kingdom is undoubtedly not too great. The suffering caused by the loss of dear ones is limited mainly to loss of children and is , as a rule, of a short duration. Even more important, is the fact that throughout their lives until they become ill of in danger, animals probably doe not know and do not feel that they are mortal.
It is only with human beings that the phenomenon of death reaches its full significance and tragedy. A man, not matter how strong and healthy, always realizes that he himself and all who are dear to him are mortal and that, in the face of all astronomical and geological realities, human life is absurdly short. The loss of a loved one represents a tragedy that may be felt for years or even for a whole life. From time immemorial one of the designations used for man was the "mortal one". It stresses the significance of death and the feeling of humiliation and tragedy associated with it.
The above considerations suggest the following conclusion. Among the lowest grades of life natural death of the individual has virtually no significance, involves no suffering, and, in many cases, appears to be absent. Assuming the insect world to represent the next grade of intelligence, we observe that individual death is firmly established; however, it seems to involve very little suffering and obviously no sorrow for the death of relatives. The significance, sorrow and tragedy of death became manifest only when a certain degree of intelligence is reached. They assume real and great intensity with human beings. The sorrow and tragedy of death would increase considerably further in a higher grade of intelligence unless counteracted by faith in resurrection and a future life.
In connection with the ideas that were mentioned, it becomes possible to describe in the following way one of the fundamental rules of the moral evolution in our world. For reasons that are generally comprehensible, the process of natural evolution promotes the gradual increase of intelligence among living beings. This, in turn, creates conditions which compel the living beings to advance in the direction of higher feelings and nobler impulses. A failure to advance morally in proportion to the intellectual progress would threaten the specie with degeneration or extinction.
An actual symbolic demonstration of this law can be observed in many instances even in the animal kingdom. As a rule, the living creatures of low and intermediate intelligence shed their seeds or lay their eggs and pay no further attention to their posterity and yet the species can survive.
However, a specie of birds or mammals that would fail to give care and attention to its posterity would promptly go out of existence. It can be seen, therefore, that in order to remain within the stream of life, a family of more intelligent beings is forced to display a certain amount of altruism.
With mankind, the rule goes considerable further. Not only does it become necessary to take care of the children for several years, but there are a number of other moral obligations which expand and grow in importance with the increase of intelligence and scientific knowledge.
The nobler feelings of duty and altruism directed towards one's community gradually expand to a complex set of feelings and motive impulses towards one's nation; next, inevitably towards a group of nations and finally towards the whole of humanity.
The present discussion calls for a brief review of modern ideas about natural laws. Only a few centuries ago, nearly every natural event on the earth or in heaven was considered a direct act of God. Planets and comets were changing their positions in heaven because angels were actually moving them; storms and epidemics were manifestations of divine wrath, etc. The discovery that all this happens in accord with natural laws, and consequently can be, in many cases, foreseen and, in some instances, even controlled, was, at first, received with sharp protests and considered almost a blasphemy. However, at present, we recognize that the orderly operation makes the universe of God incomparably more beautiful and impressive. We recognize at present that the splendor and the miraculously precise operation of the universe result from the action of natural laws which God uses as tools. A major factor which keeps the universe in orderly operation is the law of gravity.
A reckless person who will fall from a high building may cripple or kill himself because of the action of this divine law. In this way his misfortune may be regarded as an act of God. However, it would perhaps be more correct to say that his suffering is due to his own error and that we cannot expect that God would suspend the operation of the major laws which control the universe in order to protect a reckless person from the results of his foolish acts.
The case seems similar with respect to the danger in which the human race finds itself at present. Mankind seems to be running headlong against a fundamental higher law which requires a certain moral ascent to correspond to the progress of intelligence.
The present situation bears certain symbolic similarity to a strange event which happened 60 million years ago. Until that time and for more than 100 million years, our globe was dominated by the race of the dinosaurs which finally reached formidable dimensions and power. The larger of these beasts could probably bite in two a tiger or trample an elephant under their feet and yet, for some reason the race became extinct completely, almost at once, about 60 million years ago. One of the explanations given for the sudden disappearance of the physically most powerful race ever to inhabit the earth is this: the dinosaurs laid their eggs in the warm sand and then paid no further attention to their posterity, as do modern lizards and a number of other animals of lower intelligence. It is believed that some smaller animal learned of this and began to feed upon the unprotected eggs of the dinosaurs , thereby bringing the stupendous race into extinction.
If this is true, then it would appear as if the strength and prominence of this powerful race required at least a minimum of altruism such as displayed by birds or mammals who take care of their posterity and thereby perpetuate the race. The dinosaurs failed to display this minimum of altruism and the huge race went into extinction and oblivion.
Modern mankind may see a symbolic warning in this story. The man of the 20th century may be regarded as an intellectual super-dinosaur. Our planet has never seen the display of such stupendous intellectual power as we see in the 20th century. Only 100 years ago a number of things which we take for granted, our conversation across the oceans without even a wire, travel at 1000 miles per hour and finally the atomic bomb which gave modern man the real opportunity to destroy all life on the planet, if he so desires; all this was not only thoroughly unsuspected but it would be utterly incredible if told. Now this mental power is a reality but it is also a challenge. Man must advance with respect to the moral evolution of his personality; in other words, of his soul. If he fails to do it he runs against a major law of the universe. Such an error may well be fatal.
A conclusion of this nature would sharply contradict the ideas of radical materialists on these subjects. According to them, organization alone is all that is really necessary because the motive impulses are themselves only a product of the surrounding background which can and must be arranged by an all-powerful state. This surrounding, supported by a system of rewards for the obedient and punishment for the disobedient, may enable an organization to run efficiently and smoothly for indefinitely long periods of time without the need of faith and of genuine higher and nobler feelings. Nothing is needed except discipline and absolute obedience to the leadership, while religion, faith and all higher feelings are pronounced to be the product of superstition or the outcome of chemical processes in the glands or brain tissues.
Some materialistically-inclined scientists were ready to go even further than that. They expressed the belief that medical science would permit to discover, in the future, some chemicals and instruments that would influence directly human feelings and behavior. Consequently, government agents would inject obedience and meekness into the average subjects, fierceness into the soldiers before a battle and so forth. An approach of this nature means actually the denial of any reality to the term "human soul".
The shortness of time will not permit further discussion of this subject which I tried to analyze in more detail in my work The Invisible Encounter. I may only express my firm conviction that an arrangement of this nature would represent an attempt of replacing the higher and nobler spiritual feelings by a synthetic forgery. An organization based thereon will never be stable; it will inevitably crush down under the weight of its formidable brutality within a few generations even if it succeeds in temporarily dominating the whole world.
This first part of the discussion may be summarized as follows. The gradual increase of intelligence among living beings and the rapid scientific progress among mankind seem to be a part of the natural evolutionary process. The increase of intelligence calls for an increasingly large and complex organization with a good leadership. This, in turn, creates the necessity of a moral ascent because no organized society can exist unless there will be a certain amount of genuine high and noble motive impulses among its leaders and members.
It may be observed that this rule operates more or less like the natural law of the survival of the fittest. A specie of higher animals or a race of men must develop within itself a certain volume and degree of higher and nobler impulses to correspond to its intellectual level. If it fails to do it, it condemns itself to a setback or extinction.
The rules of moral ascent that were mentioned above at first give an outward impression of justice. A race which ascends morally is rewarded by survival and expansion. The one that fails to do it is punished by tribulations and in extreme cases by extinction. However, the aspect of justice seems to fade away if the destiny of individual men is considered and, with respect to justice, this alone is the thing which matters. Only too frequently we can observe the unscrupulous and immoral enjoying success and power, and, in contrast, the greatest number of sufferers in soul or body coming from among the noblest and best. From Akhenaton and Socrates to Ghandi and Bernadotte and a countless number of others like them, the best seem to suffer most and first; and this is without even mentioning the Founder of Christianity and a number of His greatest followers.
The rapid intellectual and scientific progress is an obvious fact. An extremely slow moral ascent can be recognized, at least among the better part of mankind, in spite even of such tragic setbacks as the current one. But, so long as the earthly life alone is considered, this process seems to lead nowhere.
It is not at all certain that modern men, who belong to the most brilliant and advanced civilization that ever existed on the earth, are really better or happier than the people who lived three hundred or three thousand years ago and it is almost certain that there is more restlessness and less of peace of mind now that there was before.
The hopelessly sorrowful aspect of the earthly existence becomes particularly obvious at a time of disturbance when the evils of life come openly to the surface and it becomes clear that mankind is not and never will be able to take them under control. However, the greater and nobler souls recognized the evils of earthly life not only at a time of an open crisis but at all times. Such conclusions manifested themselves in a number of pessimistic philosophies and religious doctrines such as some forms of Buddhism. According to these, individual unconsciousness or non-existence would be preferable to life.
Several great men in moments of anguish, addressed their sorrowful reproach even to Divine Providence itself. Pushkin, the greatest poet of Russia, a man of genius, fame and wealth, wrote the following lines on his 29th birthday.
"Gift of chance so vain and useless,
"Life - why wast thou given me?"
The poet continues, "What hostile power called me out of non-existence, filled my heart with lust, filled my mind with doubts?"
Omar Khayyam, the Persian poet and thinker of the 12th century, expressed similar ideas even more sharply.
"What! Out of senseless
nothing to provoke
A conscious something to
resent the yoke....
O Thou, who man of baser
earth didst make,
And ev'n with paradise devise
this snake ....."*
Until recently, Christian tradition maintained that the world as created by God was perfect, that the lamb and lion were both feeding on grass and peacefully playing with each other; that even in the animal world disharmony, suffering, bloodshed and death were unknown until they were introduced by the sin of man.
We know at present that suffering, bloodshed and death existed in the animal kingdom on the earth for more than one hundred million years before the first man committed his first sin. Therefore, man is not the cause, but rather the victim of disharmony in living nature.
* Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, pages 78, 79
It will never be possible to discover a truly satisfactory explanation of the disturbing questions that were mentioned as long as the search for it will be limited to the tangible realities of the present life. A complete and satisfactory explanation becomes possible if the search will be carried above and beyond the limits of the present order of realities.
In connection it may be right to review the second and the most important phase of the evolution of the soul. The first preliminary phase which has been discussed earlier influences the moral ascent of a specie or race and forms a part of the process of natural evolution. Its moving factors are relatively simple, mostly understandable and are generally located among the tangible realities of the present order of life. The conclusions that were reached would be acceptable for a materialist about as much as for a religious person even though the former may use different terms.
In contrast with this, the second and the main phase of the evolution of the soul is mysterious and consists essentially in the preparation of the individual human personality for the ascent from the present into a higher order of life. It is a subject which belongs to religion and which for a non-believer would appear to be the product of imagination or superstition. It is no longer the case of a race which consciously or instinctively strives for its survival and expansion within the stream of earthly life. It is the case of the individual human being which strives toward the ascent and survival on the higher eternal order of realities.
A human being cannot originate this move and make progress therein without establishing contact by way of meditation and prayer and receiving guidance and help from a Higher Order of Life.
The main part of this subject belongs to religion. It includes the fundamentally important and deeply mysterious questions about the spiritual origin of man and about the meaning of the acts of Christ. These subjects have been extensively discussed by men incomparably better qualified than the present speaker. I would like, however, to make a few remarks about this subject in connection with the present discussion.
Some sixty or eighty years ago it seemed that science was directing mankind away from religion and toward materialism. At the present time this trend appears to have been reversed. True science points the way back to God even though it calls for the revision of some traditional ideas which were proved to be incorrect. On the other hand, it enables ;us to understand better some fundamental religious notions.
One of the most important of these if the faith in eternal life. Eternity itself has sometime been understood to be an endless flow of days and years. Modern scientific ideas my suggest a different understanding which will be illustrated by a simple example taken from geometry.
Let us consider a geometrical surface, say a square yard. We know that it is an abstract notion; it has no reality. A good way to visualize it is by observing a shadow on what we call the hard surface of a body. If we pass from a finite number to the infinity of square yards we can visualize the result in two different ways. One is to stretch, in our imagination, the surface a countless number of trillions of miles straight in all directions. This is sometime expressed as the moving of the surface in the direction which is contained within its own plan. In this form it still seems to have no more reality than it had as a square yard.
The other way would be to imagine an infinite number of square yards of surface laid flat one upon the other until they form a geometrical body, say a cubic yard. This is also expressed as moving the surface in a direction not included in its own plan. In this case the result is no longer a shadow; it becomes a geometrical body - a reality.
The above example may illustrate what is believed to be the correct understanding of the term "eternal life". It is not an existence extended within the flow of time; in other words, within the flow of our own order for countless trillions of years. It is a true life that must ascend and be born into a new and higher order of realities. From the standpoint of this higher order, our present life will appear as having no true reality - as being only a dream of shadow.
Returning to the subject of disharmony which we are witnessing now on the earth and of the sorrowful questions of the great men that were mentioned, we can state that if this is the only way be which free living beings may evolve and ascend toward a real life of higher order, then the whole process is certainly justified.
In attempting to penetrate deeper into these mysteries, we must realize the severe limitations imposed upon us by the modest grade of life to which we belong. I believe, however, that the following example taken from the natural world may symbolically explain the objective of the process.
If we take grains of pure gold and diamonds, wash them thoroughly in expensive perfume and plant into them a flower seed, nothing will come out of it. But, if bed is prepared of loam mixed with ill-smelling manure and the seed planted therein, it may come forth and grow into a beautiful aromatic flower.
Symbolically, the seed had to become dissatisfied with the dark ill-smelling surroundings. Indeed, it used it as a point of support from which its tender sprout started to fight its way against the sticky ground and the force of gravity and toward the golden sun and the blue sky. In contrast with that, if the seed would be satisfied with its dark surroundings and would decide to stay there, it would simply die and decay.
It may be that the deep melancholy and dissatisfaction with the whole earthly order of life which has been so many times expressed by great man, has not merely a cause but a worthy purpose. The dissatisfaction with the present order of life encourages the search for a better one. The realization of the fact that man, himself, is and will remain powerless to prevent the outbursts of evil chaos will bring him to the humble recognition and request for help and leadership of a Higher Order.
The above comments are not a suggestion that disharmony in nature, the sin of man and the resulting chaos are the instrumentality's that were needed for guiding the human soul in its ascent. These are only the temporary and perhaps inevitable by-products of the process which will be eventually wiped out and will lose all reality except as bad dreams.
What was really needed for the ascent of the human soul was the chance to display within certain limits the freedom of will and to observe and sometimes even to suffer the consequences of the use or misuse of this freedom by the man himself and by other human beings.
The literal understanding of the Bible story of the Creation can no longer be maintained in our time, but the record undoubtedly includes brilliant sparks of divinely inspired truth presented in a mysterious symbolic way. One of these is the story about the Tree of Knowledge, of good and evil, which was planted at the borderline between mortal and eternal life. The comments that will follow must not be regarded as an interpretation and, least of all, an authoritative one. They are presented as ideas that were inspired by this story together with other evidence and which are believed to point generally in the right direction.
It seems that there were two different roads leading toward immortal life. One of them was painless and relatively easy; it requested nothing but total obedience. However, it seems that the being who would follow this way was expected to remain merely a creature; indeed, a very pure and obedient one, but still a sort of an automaton because a creature which does not know the difference between good and evil could hardly know much else and consequently could not be trusted with the dignity and power of a conscious being of a higher order.
I am convinced that artists, the same as prophets, may sometimes penetrate, for brief moments, into the mysteries of the other world by way of intuition or inspiration and may subsequently tell about their discoveries in a symbolic way. One of the subjects very often used in a number of great religious paintings is that of an angel presented as either a little child, or only the head of a child with little wings. The picture symbolically represents eternal human beings who remain forever in the state of babyhood and never mature. They symbolize purity and sweetness, but do not suggest the idea of intellect and power.
The other way was turbulent and tragic. More than that, it was dangerous in the deepest sense of this term because the failure in making the ascent into real life along this way involved the danger of final and eternal death and it was made known that a number of living beings would actually perish along this road. It involved the learning of the difference between good and evil in a direct and hard way. Whether God had really forbidden the use of this road or only warned of its tribulations and dangers is a different question.
This hared way had not been chosen for the human race by a single boy and girl some 4000 years BC.. It had been determined by the general progress of life on the planet at least ten and possibly one hundred million years ago which means that directly or figuratively it could not have happened except in accord with the plan and the will of the Creator, and possibly some other factors which were beyond the knowledge and influence of man. This process, when arrived at its conclusive stage, involved drenching of our planet with human tears and blood, involved the Calvary of Christ on the earth and involved some mysterious, direct, divine action within and above the stream of earthly life.
The living beings who succeed in ascending along this hard way, in learning the difference between good and evil, in making a firm and conscious choice between the two and a loving request to God for a spark of the true immortal life, may, in the end, receive this spark and be born into the eternal life of higher order.
While this process is going on and before a firm decision for good against evil, for truth against deception and for the Divine leadership against a rebellious self-will supported by the forces of evil, is made, death will remain an absolute necessity. It is a safety valve which places a limit on the amount of insulted and suffering which one human being may inflict upon another. It places a limit on the power and evil pride of brutal oppressors and tyrants who, from time to time, appear among mankind. The absence of natural death under the present circumstances would eliminate the freedom of will, would render the process dreadful as well as meaningless and would tend to transform the earthly life into Hell. In and imperfect order of intellectually advanced life, death is a necessity. In a perfect one it would be a revolting absurdity.
The subject of this discussion calls for a bold attempt at making a conjecture about the relationship which may exist between the final destiny of human beings and the immense universe which outwardly appears to be so indifferent to our modest grade of life. To make this attempt it would be useful to place ourselves in the position of an independent observer who does not belong to the human race but merely happened to land on earth. The observer is assumed to possess the intellect and knowledge available to our grade of life and was introduced into this discussion in order to liberate ourselves completely from the influence of any preconceived or traditional ideas and arrive at conclusions only on the basis of evidence and of freely-made conjectures. The observer is assumed to be a religious person because this is believed to be a right attitude for a fully developed rational being who would take into consideration all evidence which is communicated to him by the lower and higher faculties of his mind and soul.
In the universe he will recognize two fundamental kinds of realities - matter and life. Both terms are not thoroughly satisfactory but are used for lack of better ones. With respect to the first, we have certain information about a sphere of approximately a billion light years or six billion trillion miles in diameter. The whole universe is, of course, larger, but the part which could be observed impresses us by its greatness, orderliness, splendor, immense charges of energy and miraculous mathematical precision of operation. It sings glory and bears testimony of the wisdom and power of its Creator.
With respect to life, all our direct knowledge is limited to the species that inhabit the little globe of less than eight thousand miles in diameter. From the standpoint of the imaginary observer, this globe is only one, picked at random, out of trillions of similar ones. There is not material evidence to confirm or to deny the existence of any life anywhere except on the earth. On can still maintain that the earth is the only, or at least the most important inhabited globe in the universe. However, according to the rules of probabilities, chances are overwhelmingly against such assertion.
Life on the earth is in a state of disharmony and of constant changes. Nevertheless, there are some rules which are so uniformly manifested that they suggest the idea of being general rules probably applicable to most or all of life in the universe. Some of these fundamental rules are the following:
1.No life has ever been observed to appear within dead matter except from a living predecessor.
2.No life of advanced grade has ever been observed to appear at once in a finished form. In all cases its appearance has been preceded by a long process of gradual evolutionary development.
3.The above process is sometimes dimly intimated by the rapid changes of the unborn offspring within the body of its mother.
Thus the carrier of the future human life appears at first like a microscopic living creature, blind, deaf and brainless; next, grows into a semblance of a tiny water animal or fish, then assumes the aspect of an unborn mammal to such extent that none but a specialist would distinguish the embryo of an ape or even a dog, an only finally developes the shape of a human baby. All this transformation is telescoped into a miraculously brief period of nine months. However, it appears to symbolize a development which required, roughly, a billion years for its completion.
As a general rule, it may be observed that the intellectual power of living beings increases greatly with the increase of transparency of the medium in which they live. Thus, the dark and turbid media in small places or within the bodies of living beings can be inhabited only by the lowest grade of intelligence, namely bacteria or germs; clear water is inhabited by beings of intermediate intelligence while highest earthly intelligence moves over the surface of the ground which means living in the most transparent medium - air. Besides this, it seems certain that higher intelligence requires more room for its activities and development. The factor of intelligence being even more important than the size of the body. Domestic animals may be satisfied with a few acres; crocodiles or hippopotami with a few square miles of swampy rivers or lakes. In contrast with this, man, driven by intellectual hunger, eagerly explored every corner of the globe, including the polar regions, inaccessible mountains, deserts, and the like. Intellectually, he begins to feel that the earth is already too small for him.
Consequently, for considerably higher intelligence, a still more transparent strata and a much larger homeland would be needed; in other words, inter-stellar space including the heavenly bodies besides a number of other known and unknown realities. The fact that we never observed such life and can not even imagine it, as well as the fact that no life similar to the earthly one could exist in the inter-stellar space, is, of course, no proof that a radically different kind of conscious life could not dwell there.
Space is not dead, not empty and not dark. Space is filled with light and radiation; there is much more of it in the vicinity of the stars, but there is some of it everywhere throughout the known universe. The well known astronomer, Prof. Jeans, remarked "The tendency of modern physics is to resolve the whole material universe into waves, and nothing but waves. These waves are of two kinds: bottled up waves, which we call matter, and unbottled waves which we call radiation or light."*
*The Mysterious Universe by Sir James Jeans, page 83
Consequently, the reality from which all matter has been formed exists abundantly in space. Besides light and other forms of radiation the immense home of stars and galaxies, in other words, the astronomical heaven, includes another most important and concrete reality, namely the unknown and unimaginable carrier of gravitation. It is the mysterious agent which transformed the primeval chaos into an orderly majestic universe. As a practical engineer, I would insist that the agent which transmits the prodigious forces of gravity must be real and concrete on every inch which separates the sun from other planets. Yet, in spite of all efforts so far it was impossible to explain the nature or to discover any traces of the agent, which seems to have no mass, no weight and no physical properties except formidable strength and infinite flexibility.
Our earth is guided in its movement around the sun by a gravitational force of about three and one half million trillion tons. If this force had to be carried by a steel cable its diameter would have to be about equal to the diameter of the earth. It can be demonstrated that under certain circumstances the force of gravity may transmit efforts hundreds of times greater than what can be supported by a high grade of steel cable of equal cross section. The invisible carrier of gravitation crosses billions of miles of cold open space with the same ease with which it crosses the dense bulk of the earth or the formidably hot interior of the sun. We do not know its speed but there are reasons to believe that it travels considerably faster than light.
The invisible and intangible cables which possess immense strength and infinite flexibility and which hold together the solar and other heavenly systems, remain for us a great and impressive mystery. The modern term "curved space" is not an explanation of its nature but merely a new name given to the old mystery.
Until recently, all ropes used by men were manufactured from organic materials, such as skin or hair of animals or filaments of plants. This means that human bodies are formed of essentially the same materials from which ropes are manufactured. By analogy it would seem reasonable to make a conjecture that the "bodies" of heavenly living beings may be formed of such reality as the one from which the Great Architect formed the mysterious cables which hold together His universe. The beings formed of such or similar super-material substances would be invisible, intangible, indestructible, equally at home in the cold inter-stellar space or in the unimaginably hot interior of a star, not to mention the surface of a planet. No material body could interfere with their movements although the beings themselves could presumably influence all of them, including even light.
The other component which seems to be fundamentally necessary for life is energy. Heaven or space is, of course, vigorously charged with energy. The power which supports life and all phenomena on the earth comes in the form of radiation from the sun, by way of space, and represents about a two-billionth part of the energy dissipated by our star. All other stars also continuously charge space with formidable amounts of energy in the form of light and radiation. The possibility of intercepting any amount of energy would not need a miracle even from our standpoint. However, this elementary form of energy may even be unnecessary for the living beings of higher order. They may receive directly higher forms of energy which undoubtedly are abundant in the Heaven-Universe.
As it has been mentioned earlier, all intellectually advanced life on the earth resulted from a long process of development which, as a rule, had its beginnings in some small sheltered places. The major stages of the process are, in many cases, reflected in the events preceding the birth. Thus, the eagle begins its life not as a powerful creature soaring in the blue skies. It begins in the form of a small morsel of living tissues within the body of its mother, continues its development in the small, warm and well protected spaces within the egg-shell and only finally reaches the powerful, majestic form which enables it to soar freely high above mountains and valleys. The above rule appears to be a general one with even man being no exception.
By analogy it would seem possible that the incomparably more powerful and intelligent living beings which may inhabit the Heaven-Universe may also begin their experience in some small sheltered space. Compared to the universe a planet may well be regarded as such small sheltered place - a sort of an egg-shell.
The scientific and cultural progress of the last century or two forced the abandonment of the earlier ideas about heaven and hell. Instead of the crude understanding which bore excessive similarity to earthly sights and feelings there came the idea of heaven being abstract, being reduced merely to a state of mind and to the joy of permanent contact with God is some non-material and somewhat unreal surrounding. The true universe whose immensity and magnificence were formerly unknown and unsuspected later became somehow excluded from the picture of this future life or at least completely ignored.
I believe that such understanding is in need of a revision. Modern science disclosed to us the wonderful picture of the immense, majestic and orderly universe. Its size, intricacy, beauty, miraculous efficiency and mathematical precision of operation leave no doubt that it had not been created in vain. It must have a noble meaning and a worthy purpose which must be in conformity to its greatness and to the infinite dignity of its Architect.
It is impossible to visualize this universe as a dead machine which carries no life except one or more colonies of disorderly low-grade mortal beings that are reliably imprisoned on a few insignificant microscopic planets and in their state are forever deprived of chances to communicate with other or to escape into the vastness, freedom and splendor of the heaven-universe.
There certainly must be life of higher order which could move freely and swiftly from star to star and from galaxy to galaxy which could participated in the activities, admire the indescribable beauties and under the Supreme guidance reunite mentally and spiritually into one whole, just as it is reunited physically by gravitation, light and possibly some other known agencies.
On the little earth a sensible man can fine a number of realities that are impressive, inspiring, beautiful and intensely interesting for scientific study or creative activity.
Mountains, for instance, have always attracted poets, artist-painters, scientists and a multitude of average men with their inspiring beauty. But let us imagine other mountains. They are hundreds of miles high. They are made of brilliant fire, bluish, reddish and of all colors. They are all vigorously alive, moving about, rapidly changing their shapes and height, and dancing. From time to time this majestic spectacle is superseded by and incredibly greater one. The mountains bulge thousands of miles up, and release a fountain of scarlet, golden flames which rise majestically to a height of tens or even of hundreds of thousands of miles. Could it be that no conscious living being would ever admire this sight, ever create a poem about it, ever study if scientifically at close range? Indeed, the surface of a star will never be a sight for our eyes. But it certainly will be and is a sight for some other conscious living beings. Yet this is only one instance. The amount of inspiring beauty, of points of interest, of formidable natural phenomena, of colonies of strange life and of a multitude of other marvels can not be even remotely visualized from within the microscopic eggshell of our earth.
If a child or any simple-minded person would be asked, "where is heaven?" they would usually point up. An astronomer would do the same even though he would do it from his standpoint. The sun and stars were traditionally called the heavenly bodies, indicating that the place where they are located is heaven. All this being the case, I firmly believe that the ideas about Heaven and Heavenly-Kingdom, besides referring to a state of mind and to a more intimate contact between a man and his Creator, have also a direct meaning as referring to the territory to the Heavenly Kingdom which is the whole universe.
The question is frequently asked, "If higher life is a reality, why did no one ever return from it to tell openly what it is all about?" It may be replied that a grown-up eagle can not get back into an eggshell. I believe that this explains one of the causes even though there are undoubtedly other reasons as well. It is probable that immortal life bears to our earthly existence about the same relation which our present human life bears to dead matter.
The human soul, although not made of flesh and blood, is nevertheless only the highest manifestation of earthly life and as such it can not become immortal by itself.
It may be concluded that the final stage of the evolution of the soul within the course of earthly life consists in developing, by way of inner effort and prayer, of the urge to receive and the power to withstand the charge of eternal life which, having entered the soul after the death of the body, would burn out the remnants of evil and would inaugurate and direct the growth of an immortal being with power, vision, intellect, faculties of perception, means of locomotion and other faculties and powers that would be beyond anything that we could anticipate or imagine.
There can be no doubt that the birth into eternal life is not something symbolic, not merely a change of attitude of conversion. It is a real event which happens in accord with the natural laws of higher order, and which has as much factual reality as the birth into present life.
It must be stressed and repeated that the analogies that were used in this discussion may cover only a small, and not necessarily a primary, part of the subject. The major part of it is mysterious and we may not be able to visualize it from the present standpoint. It must always be recognized that we are attempting to visualize the eternal and absolute from the standpoint of the temporary and relative. At present we are still within the disorderly turbulent process of earthly life surrounded by disharmony, and threatened by an onslaught of evil chaos. However, in spite of all this a confidently optimistic outlook can be maintained if the fundamentals of the Christian faith are accepted as fact. Even though evil and death proved to be stronger that the fragile, mortal life of the present order, yet the triumph of the eternal life of higher order is infinitely stronger than the present imperfect life and death taken together. The evolution and ascent of the human soul in preparation for the mysteries transition into the higher grade of life represent by far the most important phenomenon which takes place on our planet. It is this fact which gives a noble, worthy and lasting meaning to the whole process of earthly life.
last update SEPTEMBER 22, 2012