Chapter XX: The Men of God
Rhanya certainly struck his ploughshare deep into the subject he had been commissioned to expound for my edification. Like the Master he so fervently counselled me to follow, he spake with no uncertain sound, though behind his fervour it was easy to discern a background of caution to temper the zeal with which the tares were plucked up lest the wheat might also suffer. His confidence was firm in the inherent vitality of truth as contrasted with the transient existence of error. The former must triumph, the latter must fail. He would have the labourer in the harvest field toil that the consummation might not be delayed.
Still, though he would not have the tares carelessly and recklessly destroyed, he was equally determined to do his best to prevent them sowing their seed abroad. The present crop must for the present remain, for the sake of the wheat found to be growing in close association therewith, but so far as he could avoid it there should be no chance of succession. Other toilers were responsible for the past and present condition, his duty was concerned with the future, on behalf of which he was resolved to show himself a workman approved by God and needing not to be ashamed.
The firm tone and manner he assumed from the first inspired my confidence in him. He made no attempt to distinguish between the relative merits of different religious systems, but finding that all rested upon a supposed authority they did not possess, and that every hierarchy was reared upon a false foundation, time was too valuable for him to use it in pointing out distinctions of detail. He was willing to admit that all possessed a desire to render a certain service for the good of humanity, and so far as that desire honestly reached, he would accept whatever service the institution could render; but the instant any system applied the measurements or limitations of a man to the capacity and attributes of ‘the unknown God,’ the moment the priest attempted to say what God would, and would not do, on the sole authority of the leaders of his particular school, Rhamya put his foot down, denied the authority, and would have no further association with the aspiring usurper.
The church has a good and useful work to do, but that is first to follow—humbly and faithfully to follow—in the steps of Christ, and let the light of Christ shine through its own spiritual nature to lead a blind and ignorant world into the fold of regeneration. But in doing this the church can never be more than a willing servant, who can know the mind and will of God only in proportion to its likeness to Him. The purposes and secrets of God are revealed to individual souls, not deposited in trust with institutions, so that none can claim any succession in an unbroken line except the common one of human frailty and lack of understanding.
This was the goal to which Rhamya was clearly directing my attention, and in his effort to do so he had captured the interest of Eilele equally with my own.
“Was not my decision to appeal to Omra a wise one?” she asked as Rhamya paused, indicating the end of that part of his argument.
“I never had the slightest doubt of that,” I answered.
“My point was not that I objected to a greater teacher, but rather that I should be willingly content with yourself.”
“Let there be no thought of greater or lesser between us,” suggested Rhamya; “in this life all things work together to supply the best adapted means to every requirement, and it is in accordance with that provision that Eilele asked, and I am sent to your assistance. At the same time I must ask you to guard against any exaggerated anticipation of what I shall be able to do in this way. I wish you distinctly to understand that I can only direct your attention to the way in which truth lies. It is impossible for me to fully expound or discuss in detail the revelation which has already been granted, without attempting to indicate what has yet to be revealed, these expansions must be left to your own study and experience; but you may be well assured of this, that what is left unnoticed of the past, equally with that lying in the future, will be found open and accessible to you along the line of the law of God, from which no development can ever deviate. No man in his search for truth need turn either to the right or left, for the path of God is always straight forward, and shines more and more unto the perfect day, that the wayfaring man, though a fool, may not err therein.”
“I like to hear you interweave those familiar quotations into your arguments; they appeal to me as new and living commentaries by the way you use them, and give to the old book a brilliant significance I have not found before.”
“Will you also notice that I only quote from the prophetic parts of the book? In my exposition of truth I have no need for, and receive no assistance from, any part of the priestly system or ceremonial law. If you will bear this in mind it will help you to understand how clearly and completely the two cults are divided.”
“Thanks for the hint. I will keep it steadily before me.”
“I need not dwell upon the wild and fanciful postulates of the later religious systems, from the self-evident contradictions and impossible assumptions of which a calmly inquiring mind recoils as being contrary to all intelligent conceptions of God. You have discovered all these things for yourself. I will therefore pass from the negative to the positive consideration of religion. And here I must ask you to give me your most careful attention while I lead you by a somewhat unknown path into that highway of spiritual evolution of which I have just spoken as being ‘The highway of holiness’ where ‘wayfaring men, though fools,’ should not err by reason of not being able to understand.
“This new point of view we find in the after-light in which you and I are now standing, from which we look back and see the providences of God as we never were able to understand them from the level of the lower life.”
“Will you excuse me if I ask whether this new position is a valid one under the circumstances? Does not the necessity for any religion arise from the peculiar position in which man may be found at a given time, and must it not be truly natural to that condition?”
“I am glad you have asked your questions, because the inquiry will assist you to grasp the central thought upon which I wish to fix your attention. Keep them well in view, and I will proceed to answer them by continuing what I was about to say.
“As seen from this after-life all creation is a unit working through innumerable successive stages towards a definite and well-defined goal—the production of a divine humanity. In tracing this lineage, however, it will be unnecessary for us to go further back than where we find the ford of the Rubicon where man crossed into the consciousness of individual existence. Behind him lay the fogs of oblivion in which all remembrance of the yesterdays of the past were lost. When he sufficiently understood himself and his faculties to begin to make comparisons, the difference between himself and nearest neighbour in the animal world was so great as to lead him to believe he was a new order of being—a new creation. But as he became more intimate with the operations of nature, in the chrysalis was found a link uniting the caterpillar with the butterfly, constraining him to pause and ask if there might not be another absent link, upon a higher stage, uniting himself with the life below. It is not for us, however, to linger here in our present inquiry, but we pass on to more wonderful phenomena which forced themselves upon the attention of the unfolding mind. One of his earliest discoveries inspired him equally with terror and curiosity. He learned by watching and comparison of experience that while he lay quietly unconscious of all around him, he was possessed of other eyes, ears, and senses than those of his body; was able to hunt and follow various pursuits while his friends assured themselves that he was lying quiet in his cave; he met and talked with companions who had long since been eaten, burned or buried. Presently someone brought back from his sleep a memory of something foreseen which afterwards transpired in real life, and others, like Balaam, grew into the habit of consulting sleep-people as to their daily doings: ‘And he (Balaam) said unto them, Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the Lord shall speak unto me: and the princes of Moab abode with Balaam. And God came unto Balaam, and said, What men are these with thee?’ (Num. xxii. 8-9). Others found they were able to make requests in their sleep and receive gifts which rendered them peculiarly valuable service in their daily vocations. Let us take the record as given of Solomon’s experience as an instance of this. In the Book of Kings (I Kings iii. 5-I5) we read:
“‘In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.
“‘And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto Thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before Thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with Thee; and Thou has kept for him this great kindness, that Thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
“‘And now, O Lord my God, Thou hast made Thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
“‘And Thy servant is in the midst of Thy people which Thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
“‘Give therefore Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people, that I may discern between good and bad; for who is able to judge this Thy so great a people?
“‘And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.
“‘And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgement;
“‘Behold I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.
“‘And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.
“‘And if thou wilt walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as thy father David did walk, then will I lengthen thy days.
“‘And Solomon awoke; and, behold, it was a dream.’
“But the gift did not vanish with the waking. The wisdom of Solomon has always been proverbial. Others again were endowed with the powers of interpretation of dreams, as Joseph; or, going yet a step further, we hear of Daniel asking for time to enable him to revisit the realm of sleep and recover knowledge of the king’s dream before he made known the interpretation.
“Now, it is no part of my purpose to ask you to believe that all dreams are divine communications—I simply affirm that sleep is a convenient and natural agent to be so employed, and also I wish you to see in the records I have named the origin of the prophetic gift in which we are now interested. Here is to be found another link, this time uniting the natural and spiritual conditions and available for the further carrying on of an unbroken system of evolution. From this crude beginning the prophetic stream may be clearly traced onward as the divinely appointed channel of revelation. ‘If there be a prophet among you’, God is recorded to have said, ‘I, the Lord, will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream’ (Num. xii. 6). A little later we find the prophet to be a man upon whom, in a normal condition, the Spirit of the Lord descends and changes him ‘into another man’ (I Sam. x. 6), compelling him to speak not his own words, but as the Spirit shall give him utterance. Here, then, we find the divine and living way by which God has ordained to make His revelations to man, and in this prophetic line we shall presently find the Christ of God.”
“Pardon my interrupting, but is not this descent of the Spirit upon the prophet that which I have seen in Cushna’s overshadowing of our own psychic?”
“Precisely; and if you have watched Cushria’s control you will understand far better than by any explanation I might give.”
“I have not only watched,” I replied, “but have been permitted to send a message back to earth. But before you go further will you allow me to ask for information respecting one injunction which raises a difficulty in my mind respecting this open communion, to which you are so clearly bringing me?”
“What is it?”
“I refer to the command in Deuteronomy forbidding consultation with familiar spirits as an abomination to the Lord.”
“The inquiry is most opportune, and we will at once consider it. The prohibition is an enactment of the priests, and as such, being of purely human origin, has no valid force when directed against a natural phenomenon. It does not deny, but rather admits the genuineness of the communion, or there would be no reason to forbid it. It is not the only time in the history of religion where priests have used the power of the state in a futile attempt to crush the truth. The effort to put an end to this direct intercourse with spiritual powers was a vital necessity to the existence of the priest. Whenever priest and prophet clashed it was always the latter who proved to be superior, and the former were only able to maintain themselves by the support of the throne. So pronounced had this fact become that the Temple authorities in Jerusalem were at length driven to an acceptance of the prophetic principle, and once a year the High Priest was supposed to directly consult God by means of Urim and Thummim. But though the form of consultation was observed, its spirit was absent, and there is no record of any priestly success. I must not, however, leave this subject without pointing out that by the possibility of this communion being due to a natural law, access is given alike to high and low intelligences to engage therein, the law of God, in this as in every other instance, being without respect of persons. This the prophets have seen and recognized from the first, and advisedly laid down this rule concerning the intercourse: ‘When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him’ (Deut. xviii. 22). Such a law bears on its face evidence of its emanation from the truth; it does not insist on acceptance, immediate and unconditional, because declared even by inspired lips, but with all the charity of reason seeks acceptance when its verity has been established. It is the spiritual law at one with the natural—‘By their fruits ye shall know them’. Its law works both ways, therefore in your intercourse with earth let it be known without equivocation that whoever approaches this intercourse will attract to themselves souls who are in close sympathy with the lives they are living. What they who seek the communion are, they who respond to the call will be. Those who are good will attract the good, and the curious, the deceiver, the hypocrite, the impure, the vicious and immoral will bring themselves into association with characters who are in harmony with their own natures. This law is inexorable, and there is no evading it. Therefore let all who would enter into the enjoyment of this divine privilege approach it with clean hands and pure hearts, for only such have power to ascend the hill of the Lord, where those are to be met with who know and are able to declare the secrets of the kingdom.”
“I thank you for your caution,” I answered; “I have been with Ladas through the sphere of his work, where I have seen this law of attraction in active operation, so I am not likely to forget.”
“If you have seen it, you will not forget it. Now, having glanced at the rise of prophetic inspiration, and found it to be a natural provision for supplying an unavoidably existent need, let us go on to see how it is designed to elevate man into the region of the Divine, and thus secure the salvation of the whole race by bringing it into actual at-one-ment with God.”