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The Consciousness of the Atom
Lecture IV - The Evolution of Man, the Thinker

This is the fourth in the series of talks which we have had the past month, and perhaps by means of them we have been able to get an idea of one of the fundamental principles which underlie evolution, and which can be seen working out in the solar system.

Let us first briefly recapitulate, in order that we may approach our subject tonight with certain ideas clearly formulated. We have seen that our interpretation of the processes of nature necessitates a threefold concept, which concerns itself with the life aspect, with the substance aspect, and with their close interrelation through the faculty of intelligence manifesting as consciousness of some kind or other. This interrelation will produce, finally, the perfected expression (through the medium of matter) of the conscious purpose of some indwelling entity. I seek to emphasize the fact that the goal of my endeavor is to put before you a hypothesis and a suggestion which may have within it the germ of a possible [78] truth, and which seems to some of us the clearest way of explaining the mystery of the universe. We have seen that the three parts of the one great whole are Spirit, or Life, manifesting through a second factor which we call substance or matter, and utilizing a third factor, which we call the intelligence. In the gradual synthesis, of these three component aspects of deity can be seen the evolution of consciousness.

We next arrived at a more technical discussion of the subject of substance itself, dealing not with the differentiated substances or elements, but with the concept of a primordial substance, and endeavoring to get back as far as possible toward that which has been called by Sir William Crookes "protyle," or that which lies back of the tangible, or objective. We considered the atom, and found that its latest definition was that it was in reality a unit of force or energy consisting of a positive charge of electricity energizing a number of negative particles. It became apparent to us that the tiny atom of the chemist and the physicist was within itself a solar system, with the same general conformation as the greater system, demonstrating a similar activity and governed by analogous laws. We found that it had a central sun, and that around this central sun, pursuing their definite orbits, might be seen the electrons. We noted, also, the fact that the elements differ [79] only according to the number and the arrangement of these electrons around the central positive charge. From this we passed on to the consideration of the soul, or the psyche, of the atom, and found that scientists recognize the truth that atoms themselves possess quality, show symptoms of mind or intelligence, and can discriminate, select, and choose.

We then proceeded to weave what appeared to be a fairy tale. We pictured the human being as an atom, and traced the resemblance of man to an atom; we found that he attracted and held within his sphere of influence the matter of his various bodies, mental, emotional, and physical, in exactly the same way as the electrons were held revolving around their central focal point. The idea proved capable of still further expansion, and we turned our attention to the planet, picturing it as similar in its nature to the human atom, and to the ultimate atom of substance, being but the expression of a life manifesting through a spheroidal form and working out an intelligent purpose. Then we reached our consummation, and viewed the solar system as a cosmic atom, energized by the life of the Logos.

We have, therefore, under consideration, four kinds of atoms:

If we are right in our fundamental concept, if there is a grain of reality in our hypothesis, and if there is a substratum of truth in our idea of the atom from which the elements are compounded, it is to be recognized as a life working intelligently through the medium of a form. Then it can perhaps be proven that man is equally a life or center of energy, manifesting through his bodies; then it can perhaps be demonstrated that a planet is also the medium of expression of a still greater center of energy, and further, under the law of analogy, it may perhaps be proven at some distant time that there is a God or central life back of material nature, and an Entity Who functions consciously through the solar system.

At our last lecture we took up another phase of manifestation. We studied the atom itself, and considered it as it entered into relationship with other atoms, and through their mutual coherence formed groups or congeries of atoms. In other words, we considered the atom as it was built into the different forms in the various kingdoms of nature, and found that, in the process of evolution atoms themselves gravitate towards other and greater central points, becoming in their turn [81] electrons. Thus, every form is but an aggregate of smaller lives.

Very briefly then we touched upon the different kingdoms of nature, and traced the development of the soul, or the psyche in all of them. Of the atom we have already predicated intelligence, or discriminative power, and we found that in the building up of forms in the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms what we understand as sensation begins to appear, and we then have the rudiments of embryonic emotion, or feeling - the physical plane reflection of love. Thus we have one aspect of the threefold nature of God, intelligence, demonstrating through the atom; and through the form we have the love, or attractive quality manifesting. This can also be expressed in the recognition that in these two aspects of the central divine life you have the third person of the Logoic Trinity cooperating with the second; you have the intelligent activity of divinity, or the Holy Spirit aspect, working in connection with the second aspect, or the Son, Who is the builder of forms. This is brought out in an interesting manner in Proverbs viii. where Wisdom cries aloud (Wisdom in the Old Testament representing the Christ aspect), and after pointing out that He was with God before ever there was creation, goes on to say that when "He appointed the foundations of the earth, then I [82] was by Him as the master worker or builder." Students would do well to study this chapter in connection with the ideas that we are here formulating, being careful to ascertain the exact translation.

We now come to the consideration of our subject for tonight, that of the evolution of man, the thinker. We shall see that in man comes in another aspect of divinity. Browning, in "Paracelsus," covers the subject that we have been considering in a most interesting manner, summing it up as follows:

"Thus He (God) dwells in all,
From life's minute beginnings up at last
To man - the consummation of this scheme
Of being, the completion of this sphere
Of life: whose attributes had here and there
Been scattered o'er the visible world before,
Asking to be combined, dim fragments meant
To be united in some wondrous whole,
Imperfect qualities throughout creation,
Suggesting some one creature yet to make,
Some point where all those scattered rays should meet
Convergent in the faculties of man."

Having, therefore, discovered two aspects of divinity in the atom and in the form, we shall find the triplicity perfected in man. We have been told that man is made in the image of God, and we would therefore expect to see him reflecting [83] the threefold nature of the Logos. He must demonstrate intelligence, he must show forth love, and he must manifest will. Let us consider some of the definitions of man as found in the dictionary and elsewhere. The definition found in the Standard Dictionary is a profoundly uninteresting one, and is as follows: Man is "an individual of the human race," and then follows a long list of suggestive derivations of the word man, running through every known tongue, and concluding with the statement that many of them are improbable. That derivation which ascribes the definition of man to the Sanskrit root 'man,' the one who thinks, is to my mind the most satisfying. Mrs. Besant, in one of her books, gives an exceptionally clear definition as follows: "Man is that being in whom highest spirit and lowest matter are linked together by intelligence." Man is here pictured as the meeting place for all the three lines of evolution, spirit, matter, and linking intellect; he is shown to be the one who unifies the self, the not-self, and the relation between them, and he is seen to be the knower, that which is known, and knowledge. What is the purpose of the intellect, or of knowledge? Surely its purpose is to adapt the material form to the need and requirements of the indwelling spirit, surely it is to enable the thinker within the body to utilize it intelligently, and for some definite purpose; and surely it exists [84] in order that the central energizing unit may constructively control its negative aspect. We are all of us entities, ensouling a form, and through the intelligence endeavoring to utilize that form for a specific purpose which exists within the conscious will of the true self.

In a very old occult book - so old that the date of it cannot be ascertained - can be found a definition of man which is very illuminating, and in line with the thought that we are seeking to develop tonight. Man is there defined as "the Life and the lives." We have seen that the atom is a life, manifesting by means of the little sphere of which it is the center. We have seen that all forms are an aggregate of lives, built up into the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms. Now we can pass to the next stage on this great ladder of evolution, and we will then find that the human being is the logical sequence that grows out of all these earlier developments. First, the primordial stuff, essentially intelligent energy; next, atomic matter, in all its varying activity forming the elemental combination; then the form, the aggregate of these atoms, up to the dweller within the form, who is not only active intelligence, not only inherent attraction and love, but is also a purposeful will. This "dweller within" took possession of the form when it had reached a certain stage of preparedness, and when the component [85] lives had reached a certain vibratory capacity; he is now utilizing it, and repeating, within his own sphere of influence, the work of the atom of matter; he demonstrates, nevertheless, not in one way, nor in two, but in three. In man, therefore, in deed and in truth, you have what the Christian would term the "image of God." For, as must be apparent to all thinkers, the only way in which we can know God is through the study of His nature, or His psychic quality. We know that God is intelligence, we know that He is love, or the great attractive force of the solar system, and we know that He is the great will or purpose back of all manifestation. In every Scripture in the world the Deity is pictured under these three aspects, and manifests through nature in this triple manner.

The evolution of substance is a thing of gradual growth; it is in time supplemented by the slow working out of the inner subjective quality of the life of God, and thus His essential nature is demonstrated. First, you have one aspect demonstrating, then another slowly appears, and finally the third can be seen, and you have the stupendous combination and consummation, the human being. He synthesizes and blends the three aspects, uniting them in himself. He is the totality of the divine attributes, though as yet they are largely embryonic, and he has to repeat within his cycle [86] of evolution the identical processes that the atom itself has followed. Just as the atom pursues its own internal course, and just as it also has later to be drawn into and to merge and blend with other atoms in the formation of a group, so the human atom equally has to find his place within a greater form.

Let us, therefore, consider for a little what is the method of the evolutionary process for a human being. We have seen that in him the three lines converge, and that he is a point of synthesis, with one aspect as yet predominant, that of the intelligence, with the second aspect of love-wisdom just beginning to make its presence felt, and with the highest aspect of spiritual will as yet purely embryonic.

We have, nearly all of us, been brought up in the belief in what is called "the fall of man." There are few these days who believe the story of the fall as it is given in the third chapter of Genesis, and we most of us credit it as having an allegorical interpretation. What is the occult truth underlying this curious story? Simply that the truth about the fall of the spirit into matter is conveyed by means of a picture to the infant mentality of man. The process of the converging of these lines is a twofold one. You have the descent into matter of the entity, of the central life, and the incarnation of spirit, and then you [87] have the working up, out of matter, of that life or spirit, plus all that has been gained through the utilization of form. By experimenting with matter, by dwelling within the form, by the energizing of substance, by the going out of the Garden of Eden (the place where there is no scope for necessary development), and by the wandering of the Prodigal Son in the far country, you have the various stages which are pictured in the Christian Bible where man makes the discovery that he is not the form, but that he is the one who utilizes it. He is intelligence, and therefore he is made in the image of the third Person of the Trinity; he is love, and through him the love aspect of the Deity will some day perfectly manifest, and he will be able to say with his elder Brother, the Christ, in reply to the demand "Lord, show us the Father," that "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father," for God is Love; and finally, through him the highest aspect, the will of God, will become manifest, and he will be perfect, even as his Father in heaven is perfect.

Just as in the evolution of substance three stages could be seen, - that of atomic energy, of group coherence, and of eventual synthesis, - so in the evolution of man will the same appear. You will have, in the early stages of human evolution, that which we might call the atomic stage, in which man comes to a gradual recognition that he is a [88] self-conscious unit, with an individuality all his own. Anyone who has brought up children knows that stage well. It can be seen in that constant utterance of "my, my, my," the stage of appropriation for himself, with no thought of any other self. Children are naturally, advisedly, and wisely selfish. It is the stage of the gradual recognition of separate existence, and of the utilization ever more potently by the human atom of its own internal atomic force. The infant human being rebels against the enforced guardianship of those who seek to protect it, and considers itself sufficient unto itself. This can be seen in the individual and the race.

Then, as life goes on, the man passes out of the atomic stage to a higher and a better one, when he becomes cognizant of his group relationships, when he becomes aware that he has group responsibilities, and that he has functions to work out with other separate atoms. The group consciousness begins to make itself felt. Thus the human atom finds its place within the group, the larger unit to which it belongs, and the love aspect begins to show itself. The man has passed out of the atomic stage into that of group coherence.

Later comes the stage when the man begins to realize that he has not only responsibilities to the group, but that there is something greater still. [89]

He realizes that he is a part of a great universal life which underlies all groups, that he is not just a universal atom, that he is not just part of a group, but that, after merging his identity with the group - although never losing it - the group itself has to be blended again with the consciousness of that great Identity Who is the synthesis of them all. Thus he arrives at the final stage of intelligent appreciation of divine unity.

This triple idea can be found summed up in the Bible in a rather interesting phrase, where Jehovah says to Moses, the representative man, "I am that I am." If you split this verse into its three parts you have what I have been seeking to bring out tonight: First, the atomic consciousness, I AM; then the group, I AM THAT; a consciousness that he is not just a separated individual, not only a self-centered unit, not only a self-conscious entity, but that he is something still greater. Man then reaches the recognition which will lead him to sacrifice his identity in the service of the group, and to merge his consciousness in that of the group. Of such a conscious union we know practically nothing as yet. This is succeeded by the still greater stage, when I AM THAT I AM will be for us not an impossible ideal, and a visionary concept, but a fundamental reality, when man in the aggregate will recognize himself as an expression of the universal life, [90] and the group consciousness itself will be merged in that of the Aggregate of all groups.

We suppose, and we hope, that we are passing rapidly out of the atomic stage, and that our sphere of influence and interest is not bounded by our atomic wall, but that we are becoming (to use a now familiar term) radioactive. When this is the case we shall not be circumscribed and limited within our own shell, and the narrow confines of our own individual life, but we shall begin to radiate, and to contact other atoms, thus reaching the second stage, the attractive.

What, therefore, is the goal ahead for each one of us? What is the goal for these different atoms with which we are concerning ourselves? We are told in some of the old Eastern Scriptures, that the goal for the atom of substance is self-consciousness. What is, therefore, the goal for the human atom, who is already self-conscious, who is already individualized, and guiding himself by means of his will? What lies ahead for man? Simply the expansion of his consciousness to include the consciousness of the great life, or being, in whose body he is himself a cell. Our physical body is, for instance, made up of innumerable lesser lives, or atoms, each one of them separated from its neighbor, each one of them distinguished by its own inherent activity, and [91] each one forming a sphere which holds within its periphery other lesser spheres or electrons.

We have seen that man is the positive charge, and holds his multiplicity of atoms, or lesser lives, energized and bound together into coherent forms. At death, when the spirit aspect withdraws itself, the form disintegrates, and is dissolved, and these little conscious lives, having fulfiled their function, dissipate. The consciousness of the atom within the body is a very different thing to the consciousness of a man, and this we can realize with very little thought. If we concede that man is a cell in a greater sphere, may it not be possible that there is a consciousness which is to the man what his consciousness is to the cell in his body? Is it not possible that we may have ahead of us the achievement of that consciousness in the same sense as the atom of substance may some day achieve the consciousness of a human being? May it not be that this is what Browning had in his mind when he said: "Mankind, made up of all the single men; in such a synthesis the story ends." Here he holds up before us a concept of a greater Man, who is the synthesis or sumtotal of all the lesser units. Perhaps that synthesis may be the great Life, or the planetary Entity Who lies back of our planetary manifestation, and Who is the sumtotal of the group consciousness. I suggest that just as self-consciousness is the goal for all [92] the subhuman forms of life, and as group consciousness, or the consciousness of the Heavenly Man, is the goal for the human being, so for him, also, there may be a goal, and for him the achievement may be the development of God consciousness. So for him comes the struggle to evolve the realization which is that of the solar Logos.

Thus can be seen the unity of consciousness from the most minute atom up to the Deity Himself. Thus opens up before us a wonderful picture, and a vista of possibility. Thus may the life of God be seen in its essential triple manifestation, working out in an ever-expanding consciousness; demonstrating in the atom of substance, and expanding through the medium of form, until it finds one point of culmination in man, then proceeding on its course till it demonstrates as the planetary consciousness, which is the sumtotal of all the states of consciousness upon our planet, the earth, until we arrive at the fundamental basic Life, Who holds all the planetary evolutions synthesized within His greater sphere, the solar system. Thus, in summing up, we have four states of intelligent activity, which we might term consciousness, self-consciousness, group consciousness, and God consciousness. These demonstrate through four types of atoms: first, the chemical atom and all atomic forms; secondly, the human atom; then, the planetary atom; and [93] finally, the all encompassing solar atom. Ensouling these atomic forms can be seen manifesting all subhuman types of life, from the life of the atom of substance to the informing life of the higher animals, then that life which we call human, that of man, the thinker; next, the Heavenly Man, and then the great Life of the solar system, Whom the Christian calls God, or the Logos.

Browning expresses this idea of the gradual expansion of the consciousness of a human being into something greater and vaster in the following words:

"When all the race is perfected alike
As man, that is; all tended to mankind,
And, man produced, all has its end thus far;
But in completed man begins anew
A tendency to God. Prognostics told
Man's near approach; so in man's self arise
August anticipations, symbols, types
Of a dim splendor ever on before
In that eternal circle life pursues.
For men begin to pass their nature's bound,
And find new hopes and cares which fast supplant
Their proper joys and griefs; they grow too great
For narrow creeds of right and wrong, which fade
Before the unmeasured thirst for good: while peace
Rises within them ever more and more. [94]
Such men are even now upon the earth
Serene amid the half-formed creatures round
Who should be saved by them and joined with them." [97]