Looking thus at every man as Divine at heart, we begin to ask: If that be the meaning of spirit and spiritual life, what is the method for its unfolding? The first step is that which has just been mentioned, to get people to believe in it, to throw aside all that has been said about the heart of man being “desperately wicked”; to throw aside all that is said about original sin. “There is no original sin save ignorance, and into that we are all born, and we have slowly to grow out of it by experience, which gives us wisdom. That is the starting point, as the conscious sense of unity is the crown. And the method of spiritual life is that which enables the life to show itself forth in reality as it ever is in essence. The inner Divinity of man, that is the inspiring thought which we want to spread through all the Churches of the West, which too long have been clouded by a doctrine exactly the reverse. When man once believes himself Divine, he will seek to justify his inner nature.
Now that leads me to point out to you that as evolution proceeds, that which we call evil must necessarily be developed more and more. As evolution proceeds, the result of the evolution is to bring into conscious existence higher and higher types of organisations, higher and higher types of living things, which enter into more and more complicated relationships with others which surround them, and in these organisations there is developed more and more of this power of response. There is developed also the memory of response; there is developed not only memory but the power of placing things side by side, that is of comparison, and then of considering the results of the comparison and drawing therefrom volitions. And then there is the experience gradually gathered which illumines the developing consciousness, enables it to recognise certain things as things found to be against progress, to be against the higher evolution, certain things which retard evolution, certain things which check it, which tend to bring about disintegration instead of higher integration. Now what means evolution? It is merely the building together of higher and more complicated organizations that express with ever greater and greater perfection the Life that is Divine, the Life that in the universe is seeking manifestation. When we speak of manifestations as higher or lower, we really mean they express more or less of the Divine. We call them higher and lower merely as they manifest qualities, which tend towards the lessening of separateness and the developing of unity, that is which lead away from the pole of matter and lead towards the pole of Spirit. The grosser side of manifestations of the One Life is that which we describe as matter. Now there are two poles in manifestation the form side or that of matter on the one hand, and the life side or that of Spirit on the other. They are the two opposite aspects of the one Eternal Life, and the process of evolution consists in that life in its dual aspects going outwards to cause diversity, and when the limit of diversity is reached, drawing inwards to reintegrate the diverse separated units into a mighty and enriched unity. The outward-going life seeks diversity and may be said therefore to tend to the pole of matter; the inward-going life seeks unity, and may be said therefore to tend to the pole of Spirit. Here is a truth that the thoughtful should ponder over. If we take good to mean all that is working in harmony with the Great Law, and evil to mean all that is working against it, then qualities now regarded, and rightly regarded, as evil - selfishness, desire for material gain, etc. - would have been good during the “descent into matter”, as only by these could diversity be obtained, whereas now they are evil as retarding the process of integration, as checking the inward-flowing tide of life towards the pole of Spirit. Thus again we realise the relativity of evil, and understand that a quality which at one time was good, as subserving the progress of the universe, becomes evil when it should have been left behind in the sweep of evolution, and when persisting into a stage higher than that to which it belonged, it retards the progress which once it had accelerated.
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First comes the well-known fact of the quickening of karma, once a man has set his face resolutely towards the portal of the Path. We need not dwell on this, for it has been often explained, and it plays a comparatively small part in the bringing down of the darkness. One element, however, perhaps less often alluded to, may be mentioned here. Pleasure and pain, connected with the emotions and passions, belong to the astral world and are experienced through the astral body; consequently a very large amount of karma belongs, by its very nature, to the astral plane, and is there exhausted. Bad karma can, therefore, be largely worked out by suffering, apart from events; the suffering which normally accompanies misfortunes, disasters of every description on the physical plane, has its habitat on the astral, and we suffer on the astral while we are passing through our troubles on the physical. Now this astral suffering can be disjoined from the physical events with which it is normally associated, and can be passed through apart from those events. In the quickening of karma this result is largely brought about, and some of the darkness experienced by the aspirant is due to this cause; he is working out his bad karma by enduring the suffering that belongs to events not yet ripe for manifestation on the physical plane; and if he observes his own life, he will find that, later on, he passes through events that would ordinarily be regarded as of the most distressing character with a calmness and indifference that surprise himself. The fact is that he has already borne the suffering normally attached to them, and he meets on the physical plane the mere shells and semblances, the empty forms, which are all that remain when the astral consciousness that normally vivifies these forms has been withdrawn. (Students may be reminded - though the subject is too large a one to be entered on here - that man’s consciousness is astral, at the present stage of evolution.) The aspirant may therefore comfort himself when an apparently causeless gloom descends upon him with the knowledge that he is exhausting some of his karmic liabilities, and that the payment of karmic debts is never demanded twice.