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The Consciousness of the Atom - The Evolution of Consciousness
The atomic stage which we are now considering is, for us, a peculiarly interesting one, because it is the stage in which the majority of the human family find themselves. In it we pass through the period (a most necessary one) of self-centeredness, that cycle in which the man is principally concerned with his own affairs, with that which primarily interests him, and lives his own intense, internal, vibratory life. For a long period back of us, and perhaps at the present stage (for I do not believe that many of us would feel insulted if we were not regarded as having attained perfection, or having achieved the goal), we are most of us intensely selfish, and only mentally interested in the things that are going on in the world, and then probably because our hearts are touched, and we do not like being uncomfortable, or we are interested because it is the fashion; and yet, [106] in spite of this mental attitude, our whole attention is focused upon the things which concern our own individual life. We are in the atomic stage, intensely active in connection with our own personal problems. Watch the throngs in the streets of any great city, and you will see everywhere people in the atomic stage, centered entirely in themselves, occupied only with their own business, intent upon their own pleasure getting, desirous only of having a good time, and only incidentally occupied with affairs which concern the group. This is a necessary and protective stage, and one of essential value to every unit of the human family. The realization of this, therefore, will surely lead us all to be patient with our brothers and sisters who may so often irritate us.

What are the two factors whereby we evolve in and out of the atomic stage? In the Orient for many ages the method of evolution has been regarded as a twofold one. A man has been taught that he evolves and becomes aware first by means of the five senses, and later through the development of the faculty of discrimination, coupled with dispassion. Here in the West we have primarily emphasized the five senses, and have not taught that discrimination which is so essential. If you watch the development of a little child you will become aware, for instance, that a baby develops the five senses in a certain [107] ordered sequence, usually. The first sense it develops is hearing; it will move its head when there is a noise. Then the next sense to be noted is that of touch, and it begins to feel about with its little hands. The third sense which seems to awaken is that of sight. I do not mean by this that a baby cannot see, or that it is born blind, like a kitten, but it is often several weeks before a baby consciously sees and looks with recognition. The faculty has always been there, but there has been no realization. So it is with the graded expansions of consciousness and realizations that lie ahead of man today. In these three paramount, or major senses, hearing, touch, and sight, you have a very interesting analogy to and connection with the threefold manifestation of Deity, the self, the not-self, and the relation between. The self, occultly, hears and responds to vibration, thus realizing Itself. It becomes aware of the not-self, and of its tangibility, through touch, but it is only when sight or conscious recognition comes in that the relation between the two is established. Two more senses are utilized by the self in making its contacts, those of taste and smell, but they are not so essential to the development of intelligent awareness as are the other three. Through these five senses we make every contact that it is possible to make upon the physical plane; through them we learn, we grow, we become aware, and we develop; through them all [108] the great instincts are evolved; they are the great protective senses, not only enabling us to contact our environment, but also protecting us from that environment.

Having, then, learnt to be intelligent units by means of these five senses, and having, through their medium, expanded our consciousness, we reach a certain crisis, and another factor comes in, that of intelligent discrimination. Here I am referring to the discrimination which a self-conscious unit demonstrates. I refer to that conscious choice which you and I evidence, and which we will be forced to utilize as the power of evolution drives us on to the point where we will learn to distinguish between the self and the not self, between the real and the unreal, between the life within the form, and the form which it uses, between the knower and that which is known. Here we have the whole object of evolution, the attainment of the consciousness of the real self through the medium of the not-self.

We pass through a long period or cycle of many lives, wherein we identify ourselves with the form, and are so one with the not-self that we recognize no difference, being entirely occupied with the things which are transient and impermanent. It is this identification with the not-self which leads to all the pain, dissatisfaction, and sorrow in the world, and yet we must remember that through [109] this reaction of the self to the not-self we inevitably learn, and finally break loose from the impermanent and the unreal. This cycle of identification with the unreal parallels the stage of individual consciousness. As the atom of substance has to find its way into some form, and add its quota of vitality to a greater unit, so through the evolutionary development of consciousness the human atom has likewise to reach a point where it recognizes its place in a greater Whole, and shoulders its responsibility in group activity. This is the stage which a great number of the human family are now approaching. Men are realizing, as never before, the difference between the real and the unreal, between the permanent and the impermanent; through pain and suffering they are awakening to the recognition that the not-self suffices not, and they are searching without and also within for that which will more adequately meet their needs. Men are seeking to understand themselves, to find the kingdom of God within themselves, and through Mental Science, New Thought, and the study of psychology they will arrive at certain realizations which will prove invaluable to the human race. The indication is therefore to be found that the form stage is rapidly approaching, and that men are passing out of the atomic period into something infinitely better and greater. Man is beginning [110] to sense the vibration of that greater Life within Whose body he is but as an atom, and he is commencing, in a small way, to make a conscious response to that greater call, and to find possible channels whereby he can understand that greater Life which he senses, but as yet does not know. If he persists in this, he will find the group to which he belongs, and will then change his center. No longer will he be limited by his own little atomic wall, but he will pass beyond it, and become, in his turn, a conscious, active, intelligent part of the greater whole.

And how is this change brought about? The atomic stage was developed by means of the five senses, and through the utilization of the faculty of discrimination. The stage at which a man awakens to group realization, and becomes a conscious participant in the activities of the group, is brought about in two ways: through meditation, and through a series of initiations. Now when I use the word "meditation" I do not mean what is perhaps usually understood by that word, a negative, receptive state of mind, or a state of trance. There is much misconception these days as to what meditation really is, and there is a great deal of so-called meditation which has been truly described by a person not so long ago, as "I shut my eyes, and open my mouth, and wait for something to happen." The true meditation [111] is something that requires the most intense application of the mind, the utmost control of thought, and an attitude which is neither negative nor positive, but an equal balance between the two. In the Eastern Scriptures the man who is attempting meditation and achieving its results, is described as follows - and from a consideration of these words may come much help and illumination to us: "The Maha Yogi, the great ascetic, in whom is centered the highest perfection of austere penance and abstract meditation, by which the most unlimited powers are attained, marvels and miracles are worked, the highest spiritual knowledge is acquired, and union with the great Spirit of the universe is eventually attained." Here this union with the group life is held to be the product of meditation, and there is no other method of attainment.

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