The Elasticity of a Permanent Body
From Some Mystical Adventures
By G.R.S. Mead
Perhaps it may be thought that I propose, in this adventure, to treat of some recondite problem of physics; but that is not my intention. I propose briefly to consider the nature of the permanent element in a religious and international body.
Many confuse the idea of body with notions of shape and form, but I would venture to suggest that form is of the mind while body is of substance. There is a doctrine that man is possessed of a 'permanent body,' the substantial ground, as it were, from which proceed and to which return the births and deaths of his evolutionary becomings, and the storehouse of his diversified experiences.
It is not asserted that this 'body' is unconditionally everlasting, but rather that it is permanent in the sense of lasting as long as man desires himself to be a separate individual.
It is his last limit as man, his 'Ring Pass Not' until the Great Day 'Be one with Us,' when man transcends individuality, and wins his freedom from the dominion of the spheres of evolution, by making joyful surrender of himself, - that is, of every thought of possession in the substance of his so-thought individuality. All his powers of their own selves make joyful surrender of themselves to the Great Powers, and thus becoming these Powers, as Trismegistus says, he is in God.
But that is apotheosis, the transcending of the man-state of separate existence, and the entering into the Communion of Those-that-are; that is to say, the energising in the Everlasting Body of all things.
The 'permanent body,' then, is not the Everlasting Body, but the age-long substantial limit of the separated man-consciousness. How long this aeon of substantial limits lasts, depends on the nature of man's activities; nevertheless this 'body' must in any case be considered as permanent, when contrasted with the length of the days of the bodies of incarnation which a man uses in his many lives on earth, or in the 'three worlds.'
When, however, we come to consider the meaning of 'body' in this connection, we should be careful to keep our ideas concerning it as fluid as possible. We are here on the very borderline of individuality, and it depends entirely on the nature of the activities of the man whether, or not, the substance of this 'body' shall be so condensed and classified as to form 'sheaths' to veil and dim the consciousness of the Self, or so wisely enformed and woven into such fine textures that it can supply 'vestures' of glory and radiance for the manifestation of the greater mysteries.
The nature of this 'body' changes completely, according as the desire of the man is set to 'go forth,' or the will of the man is fixed to 'return.' We therefore find it described in the ancient books under quite contradictory epithets, such as ignorance and bliss; for it is on the borderland between the particular and the general, the individual and the cosmic.
It is indeed on of the most difficult concepts for us to understand; for if we understood it really, we should have solved the riddle of what is called in Indian philosophy maya (illusion)' and avidya (nescience), and karana, that is to say 'casual,' in the sense of its being the cause of our continuing to proceed forth into duality, and therefore the root of ignorance and the source of illusion. Nevertheless at the same time it is also the vehicle of our return to reality, and our means of contact with unity; as such it is the complement of knowledge, and the spouse of the Divine energising.
It is, therefore, evident that if we call it 'body,' we shall be doing less violence to the meaning of its actual nature, by qualifying it with the contradictory epithet 'spiritual,' than by leaving it unqualified, to the danger of its being confused with notions of physical bodies. I should prefer to call it substance rather than matter, vehicle rather than body.
The legitimate lord of this living nature is Atman or Spirit, the Self; this pure substance is corrupted by the misdeeds of men.
When we consider these mysteries from the human point of view that is, as related to our individual selves - we have, it is true, some immediate feelings, intuitions and experiences to go upon; but when we proceed to argue, on analogy, with regard to 'bodies' other than our own, we run the risk of setting up our limited selves as a measure of the universe.
When, therefore, we come to consider a body of individuals, we must be very careful not to beg the question, by assuming that we are dealing with a problem of a like nature to that of an individual human being. We are here face to face with the idea of a group, and should rather seek analogies in whatever notions we may have, as to the nature of that far more difficult concept which is sometimes called the 'group-soul,' or 'group-spirit.'
This idea connotes something that is other than the individual. The term is generally applied to animals, and not infrequently, with out more ado, we conclude that the human individual is vastly superior, and in our conceit thank God that we have got beyond that stage. But this is a short-sighted view, based upon the comparison of a single man with a single animal. The group-soul idea, I would venture to think, is connected with far wider conceptions.
In the first place, it is connected with the tradition of the 'sacred animals,' which all but a few in the West have relegated to the limbo of exploded superstitions. The 'sacred animals' are said to be 'lords of types,' of whom the mass of animals of that type are, as it were, the corpuscles of their body. These 'corpuscles' are ever going coming and going, ever being born and dying; but so long as that 'type' is manifested, there is a permanent vehicle for it even on the physical plane. These 'lords of types,' it is said are great intelligences of the master-mind; they are truly 'sacred animals,' types of intelligence as well as orderers of modes of life.
Now what obtains among the animals, we may well believe, is not in principle confined to them alone; it is rather a showing forth, in modes and forms that man can distinguish plainly in the external world, of the mysteries of his own greater nature.
As there are forms and modes without, so there are forms and modes within; and within our own kingdom there is, I would venture to suggest, a precise analogy with the animal group-soul and the lords of its type.
Families, clans, and peoples, are all, accordingly to types, conditioned by super-human intelligences, and representative of the 'permanent bodies' of such greater beings. Here the bond is blood; and blood is, I venture to think, more potent than mind, using the term mind here as indicative of mind in individual man.
When, however, we come to consider a religious body, we are confronted with a still more difficult problem; and therefore, whatever suggestion one ventures to put forward, must be advance with all reserve.
I can well believe that the real work of such a body may be the evolution of a conscious instrument, or permanent ground, for the incarnation or manifestation of a Great soul; that is to say, that while at the same time it affords the conditions for its individual members to perfect themselves, it should also have a common object that no individual in it can achieve by himself, and that this object should be the endeavour to realise consciously a corporate common life, by means of which the power, wisdom and love of a Great Soul may manifest itself to the world.
This, I believe is also a question of 'blood,' for 'the blood is the life.' But this blood will be the Blood of those who are 'of the race of Him.' There is much talk of a 'new race,' and some people are looking for a new type of race on the lines of the old separated nations and peoples but I would fain to believe that the 'new race' will, as it has ever been prophesied concerning it, be of every nation under heaven, as far as its physical bodies are concerned.
This has been attempted before; nations and communities of religionists have boasted themselves to be the people, are doing so to-day. This exclusiveness should be avoided, if we would live according to reality and grow in wisdom. Performance, and not the making of claims, should be our business, if we would attain to gnosis.
The Spirit that we desire to see incarnate is, I believe, not the spirit of individual, but a Spirit that subordinates individuality to the good of the whole.
Many are endeavouring after this ideal in manifold instinctive ways. Some, again, have the ambition consciously to set about this great work, and knowingly to be about this holy business; they long to come into conscious contact with a Great Soul of the order of Him who uses the whole body of humanity as His Body, and knows that all types of bodies and souls and minds are necessary for the purpose of the expression of His Life.
With such an enlightening belief, it is scarcely possible to think that any one particular type of religion will absorb the rest, any more than we can believe that one member or limb of a body can absorb the rest; for if it should be so, it would be along the lines of disease and not of health.
Therefore, if we would consciously realise the life of the whole, we are bound to accept as the condition of our common endeavour that we shall make no distinctions of creed, sex, class, or country. The bond of union is to go deeper than any of these distinctions; for the bond that binds us together as member of a natural family in our inner nature, must surely be of a spiritual order.
Now we are told by science that "a body is perfectly elastic when it has the property of resisting a given deformation equally," and we are further informed that "all bodies have different elasticities as different temperatures."
Temperature, in the case of living beings, applies especially to the blood; and temperature, when thought of in connection with a deeper meaning we have ventured to give to the idea of blood, in an organism bound together for a spiritual purpose, is rather temperament.
To be perfectly elastic, therefore (and their aim is surely eventual perfection), the members of such a body should have the property of resisting any given deformation equally. They should have the will to resist equally throughout the body that is to say, in every unit or corpuscle of which it is composed any temporary deformation from the type. Those who have not the power of resisting and remain deformed, necessarily cease for the time to realise that they form part of the permanent elastic body of the spiritual type.
The most apparent nature of this type seems to me to be very clearly set forth in the ethical teachings of all the great religions. The further marvels of its glorious nature are for the most part hidden from us, for they transcend the individual consciousness. But this much we can know, that, that it is this type or mould of being that develops in us, or impresses upon our substance, what we very rightly call moral character.
The permanent element must therefore be sought in the power of resistance to all deformations from rectitude, - to any impressions but those of the Great Soul that are lords of truly human types, and who, we may believe, manifest their greater nature for men's consciousness through groups of like-willed human beings. Elasticity is further defined in the dictionaries as "possessing the power or quality of recovering from depression or exhaustion; able to resist a depressing or exhausting influence; capable of sustaining shocks without permanent injury: as elastic spirits."
Let us, then, whatever religious body we may belong to, strive to be ever more and more elastic. "Elastic spirits," an excellent combination! That is the business we should ever be about, the great work.
Re-formation, re-adjustment, re-storation and perpetual re-freshment must ever be more and more possible for spiritual cosmopolitans. Elasticity of body, soul and spirit is the aim, that so men may individually and collectively mirror forth the activities of some Great soul that shall vehicle the true Mind of Wisdom.
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