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The Consciousness of the Atom - The Field of Evolution
We have seen that evolution, whether it is of matter, of intelligence, of consciousness, or of spirit, consists in an ever-increasing power to [24] respond to vibration, that it progresses through constant change, by the practice of a selective policy or the use of the discriminative faculty, and by the method of cyclic development or repetition. The stages which distinguish the evolutionary process might be broadly divided into three, corresponding to the stages in the life of a human being: childhood, adolescence, and maturity. Where man is concerned these stages can be traced in the human unit or in the race, and as the civilizations pass on and increase, it should surely become possible to trace the same threefold idea in the human family as a whole, and thus ascertain the divine objective through the study of His image, or reflection, MAN. We might express these three stages in more scientific terms, and link them with the three schools of thought earlier referred to, studying them as
  1. The stage of atomic energy.
  2. The stage of group coherency.
  3. The stage of unified or synthetic existence.

Let me see if I can make my meaning clear. The stage of atomic energy is largely that which concerns the material side of life, and corresponds to the childhood period in the life of a man or a race. It is the time of realism, of intense activity, of development by action above all else, or pure self-centeredness and self-interest. It produces the [25] materialistic point of view, and leads inevitably to selfishness. It involves the recognition of the atom as being entirely self-contained, and similarly of the human units as having a separate life apart from all other units, and with no relationship to others. Such a stage can be seen in the little evolved races of the world, in small children, and in those who are little developed. They are normally self-centered; their energies are concerned with their own life; they are occupied with the objective and with that which is tangible; they are characterized by a necessary and protective selfishness. It is a most necessary stage in the development and perpetuation of the race.

Out of this selfish atomic period grows another stage, that of group coherency. This involves the building up of forms and species until you have something coherent and individualized in itself as a whole, yet which is composed of many lesser individualities and forms. In connection with the human being it corresponds to his awakening realization of responsibility, and to his recognition of his place within the group. It necessitates an ability on his part to recognize a life greater than himself, whether that life is called God, or whether it is simply regarded as the life of the group to which a man, as a unit, belongs, that great Identity of which we are each a part. This corresponds to the school of thought which we [26] called the supernatural, and it must be succeeded in time by a truer and a wider concept. As we have already seen, the first or atomic stage developed by means of selfishness, or the self-centered life of the atom (whether the atom of substance or the human atom); the second stage grows to perfection by the sacrifice of the unit to the good of the many, and of the atom to the group in which it has place. This stage is something which we, as yet, know practically little about, and is what we often vision and hope for.

The third stage lies a long way ahead, and may be considered by many a vain chimera. But some of us have a vision, which, even if unattainable at present, is logically possible if our premises are correct, and our foundation is rightly laid. It is that of unified existence. Not only will there be the separate units of consciousness, not only the differentiated atoms within the form, not only will there be the group made up of a multiplicity of identities, but we shall have the aggregate of all forms, of all groups, and of all states of consciousness blended, unified, and synthesized into a perfected whole. This whole you may call the solar system, you may call it nature, or you may call it God. Names matter not. It corresponds to the adult stage in the human being; it is analogous to the period of maturity, and to that stage wherein a man is supposed to have a definite purpose [27] and life work, and a clear-cut plan in view, which he is working out by the aid of his intelligence. In these talks I should like if I can, to show that something like this is going on in the solar system, in the planet, in the human family, and in the atom. I trust that we can prove that there is an intelligence underlying all; and that from separation will come union, produced through blending and merging into group formation, and that eventually from the many groups will be seen emerging the one perfect, fully conscious whole, composed of myriads of separate identities animated by one purpose and one will. If this is so, what is the next practical step ahead for those who come to this realization? How can we make practical application of this ideal to our own lives, and ascertain our immediate duty so that we may participate in, and consciously further the plan? In the cosmic process we have our tiny share, and each day of activity should see us playing our part with intelligent understanding.

Our first aim should surely be self-realization through the practice of discrimination; we must learn to think clearly for ourselves, to formulate our own thoughts and to manipulate our own mental processes; we must learn to know what we think and why we think it, to find out the meaning of group consciousness through the study of the law of sacrifice. Not only must we find [28] ourselves through the primary childhood stage of selfishness (and surely that should lie behind us), not only should we learn to distinguish between the real and the unreal, through the practice of discrimination, but we should endeavor to pass on from that to something very much better. For us the immediate goal should be to find the group to which we may belong. We do not belong to all groups, nor, can we consciously realize our place in the one great Body, but we can find some group in which we have our place, some body of people with whom we can cooperate and work, some brother or brothers whom we can succor and assist. It really involves the conscious contacting of the ideal of brotherhood, and - until we have evolved to the stage where our concept is universal - it means finding the particular set of brothers whom we can love and help by means of the law of sacrifice and by the transmutation of selfishness into loving service. Thus we can cooperate in the general purpose, and participate in the mission of the group. [31]

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