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(p. 12)



            (4) TO COME to the argument from the intrinsic nature of the case as determined by the function of religion, the purpose of revelation, and the constitution of man. It is the function of religion to enable man, considered as a permanent being, to turn his existence to the highest possible account by becoming the best that he has it in him to be.

            And as it is only by knowing how and of what he is made, in respect of his permanent part, that he can work intelligently to this end, and only by revelation that such knowledge can be attained, it is the function of revelation to supply such knowledge. For revelation is the disclosure from interior and spiritual sources of knowledges which, by reason of their interior nature, can be obtained only from such sources.

            Now, the permanent part of man is that which is called the soul, and it is only by means of the perfectionment of this part that the purpose of religion can be fulfilled. From this it follows that a Bible, which is by its nature a book of the soul, a compendium at once both of religion and of revelation, must be addressed to the soul, and not to the senses; and must deal, therefore, not with things physical and external, belonging to times, persons, and places, but with things spiritual and interior – with principles, processes, and States directly related to the soul, and valid always, everywhere and for all, being eternal verities inhering in man’s nature, having their witness within him, and everlastingly cognisable by him. Being thus, religion and revelation are, respectively, definable – religion as the culture of the soul, and revelation as the knowledge requisite for such culture. And, whereas the soul is no exception to the rule, that things are at their best only when pure, it follows that only when pure the soul and, therefore, the man – is perfect. So that the method of redemption is by interior purification. And

(p. 13)

whereas this is an interior process, involving a change in the spiritual condition of the individual, it can by no means be effected from without or by proxy. From which it follows that, were the Bible historical in the sense ordinarily understood, it would contain no divine revelation and have no saving message for the souls of men. For, by the very fact of its externality, it would be unrelated to, and void of meaning for, man considered as a permanent being.

            In this relation “the first lesson to be learnt ... is the truth that the mind can apprehend and assimilate that only which presents itself mentally. In other words, the objective must be translated into the subjective before it can become food for the spiritual part of man. Truth is never phenomenal, but always metaphysical. The senses apprehend and are concerned with phenomena. But the senses represent the physical part only of man, and not that selfhood which philosophy intends when it speaks of man. This, the true ego, cannot come into relation with, or take account of, events and persons which present themselves phenomenally and objectively only. Thus, they are but vehicles and symbols by which truths, principles, and processes are conveyed to the subjective apprehension – the hieroglyphs, so to speak, in which these are portrayed. Belonging to time and to matter, persons and events are – in their phenomenal aspect – related only to the exterior and perishable man; while principles and truths, being noumenal and eternal, are cognisable only by that in man which, being also noumenal and eternal, is of like nature with them – namely, his subjective and spiritual part. For the apprehender and that which is apprehended must belong to the same category ... From which it follows that, so long as we regard religious truth as essentially constituted of, and dependent upon, causes and effects appertaining to the physical plane, we have not yet grasped its real nature, and are spiritually unconscious and unilluminate. That which is true in religion is for spirit alone.” (1)

(p. 14)

            “The keynote of religion is sounded in these words, My kingdom is not of this world.’ All her mysteries, all her oracles, are conceived in this spirit, and similarly are all sacred scriptures to be interpreted. For anything in religion to be true and strong, it must be true and strong for the soul. The soul is the true and only person concerned; and any relation which religion may have to the body or phenomenal man, is indirect, and by correspondence only. It is for the soul that the Divine Word is written; and it is her nature, her history, her functions, her conflicts, her redemption, which are ever the theme of sacred narrative, prophecy, and doctrine.”

            By this will be apprehended the force of the contention that the profound mystics from whom was derived so much of divine revelation as is contained in the Bible, while expressing themselves in terms belonging to the physical world, wrote from the spiritual stand, and intended truths belonging to the spiritual world, so that only when interpreted from that standpoint can their meaning be either comprehensible by the mind or assimilable by the soul.

            There is yet another and insuperable objection, also founded in the nature of the case, to the conception of religion as something historical. This is the objection that historical knowledge is, by its very nature, incapable of verification and perpetuation, since the testimony on which it rests is itself fallible and perishable, and its evidences become ever fainter with the lapse of time, finally to disappear altogether. It is, moreover, accessible but to few, and its very externality precludes it from finding a witness in the soul. As well rest the demonstration of a proposition in geometry upon history as that of religious truth.

            The objection is insuperable if the merits of a religion are to be determined by its fitness to meet the requirements of man’s nature in any stage above the most rudimentary. Let us enumerate the conditions indispensable to this end. Not only must the religion be in itself such as to satisfy both head and heart, intelligence and moral conscience, mind and soul; it must also be perfectly simple, obviously reasonable, logically

(p. 15)

coherent, self-evident, founded in the nature of things, incapable of being conceived of as otherwise, absolutely equitable, eternally true and recognisable as all these, invariable in operation, independent of all accidents of time, place, persons, and events, and comparable to a mathematical demonstration in that it needs no testimony or authority beyond those of the mind; and it must require for its efficacious observance nothing that is extraneous to, or beyond the reach of, the subject-individual, but within his ability to recognise and fulfil, provided only that he so will. And it must be such as to enable him by its observance to turn his existence to the highest account imaginable by him, and this as independently of any being other than himself, as if he were the sole personal entity in the universe, and were himself the universe. It is further necessary, because equitable, that he be allowed sufficient time and opportunity for the discovery, understanding, and application of the process. Such are the terms of an ideally perfect religion.

            But this definition excludes all, or nearly all, the characteristics ordinarily insisted on as appertaining to religion, and notably to that of the Bible, literally and historically accepted. For, in excluding everything extraneous to the actual subject-individual, and requiring religion to be self-evident and necessarily true, it excludes as superfluous and irrelevant history, tradition, authority, revelation as ordinarily conceived of, ecclesiastical ordinance, priestly ministration, mediatorial function, vicarious satisfaction, and even the operation of Deity as subsisting without, and apart from, the man – all of which are essential elements in the prevailing conception of religion.

            But this is not to say that the system contained in the Bible fails to realise an ideally perfect conception of religion. For although, when accepted literally and historically, it not merely fails to fulfil, but actually reverses every condition postulated of such a system, when interpreted mystically and spiritually it fulfils them all.




(13:1) This and other citations not otherwise specified are from The Perfect Way and Clothed with the Sun. – E.M.



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