The Divine Principle Home Study Course
Human History and Man's Transformation from Death to Life.
"i thank you God for most this amazing day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes (i who have died am alive again today and this is the sun's birthday.)" e.e cummings. It may be said that the story of religion is the story of life and death. Certainly the joyful and triumphant verse above reflects this theme for the twentieth century, and other literature reflects it for all time. The Bible records that in the beginnings of human life of our first ancestors were told that they should not eat of the forbidden fruit for "in the day you eat of it you shall die." While through their wayward act, we may assume, some kind of death made its grim appearance, in the saving work of God death is overcome and life is won.
Within the Christian faith, this is most clearly portrayed in the Gospel of John, where Jesus is characterized as the harbinger of life. Releasing humanity from the deathly Genesis curse, Jesus proclaims: I came that they may have life, and have abundantly (Jn 10:10). Webster's tells us that the passing from death to life is resurrection. From having "died" to being "alive again today" then, such a person as e.e cummings has in some way been resurrected. The process of resurrection has many facets, and in this section of the Divine Principle we will examine them.
We will enter the controversy over the physical versus the spiritual interpretation of resurrection. up-dating some antiquated thoughts on the matter. We will examine humanity's ascendence toward true life as both a historical process affecting all people and as a particularly real hope for individuals today. Finally, we will look at some issues related to resurrection, such as reincarnation and religious unification and offer some unusual suggestions as to how resurrection may affect us, even after death.
Inner Death, Inner Life
Traditionally we are told that three days after his crucifixion Jesus rose and conquered death. Through his victory all those who follow him can themselves inherit eternal life. Accordingly, the traditional teaching of the Christian Church -- and the firm belief within fundamentalist circles today -- is that all those believers who have previously passed away will, with the return of the Lord, be redeemed from the dead. Early in his ministry, for example, Paul settled a burning issue of order among the eager Christians by declaring who it was that would be the first to meet Jesus. According to Paul, with the Second Coming of Jesus "the dead in Christ will rise first." (1 Thess. 4:16). Perhaps taking its cue from such affirmations as these, the Nicene Creed, recited even today in most Catholic masses and many Protestant services embodies a belief in the resurrection of the flesh.
A Spiritual Understanding
If we think of the process of resurrection as actually being physical however, we are involved in immediate problems. Are we to believe, for example, that with the advent of Christ, long-buried and decomposed bodies are to be reconstructed? Such notions do little to enhance the credibility of religious faith. Modern scholars, somewhat embarrassed by such a materialistic connection of eternal life, have thus tried either to substitute for it the Greek view of the immortality of the soul or explain that the doctrine of the bodily resurrection is a symbolic way of insisting that God cares for the total human personality. Divine Principle's view of resurrection reflects a spiritual understanding of the meaning of life and death. Luke tells us the story of a young disciple who comes to Jesus to pledge his active loyalty but who requests to first return home to attend his father's funeral. Jesus' reply is apparently paradoxical: Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you go and proclaim the kingdom of God (Lk 9:60).
In these words of Jesus we find two different concepts of death. The person to be buried is physically dead while those who are doing the burying are, ar least in Jesus' view, dead in a spiritual sense. The concept of spiritual death is ancient within the Hebrew tradition. Ezekiel, for example, compared the return of the exiles from Babylon to a resurrection from the dead (Ezek 37: 1-14). The Psalmist writes not infrequently of such things as being "brought up" from Sheol and "restored to life" (Ps. 30:3) and of the hope that having been in the "depths of the earth" the Lord will "revive" him again (Ps 71:20). Reflecting a parallel idea, the New Testament author of the book of Revelation writes scornfully to the Church at Sardis: "I know your works; you have the name of being alive, and you are dead" (Rev. 3:1). Also in support of this view of inward resurrection, the Gospel of John reports Jesus teaching his disciples that "He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live" (Jn 11:25). Here we are told that whoever is connected to God's dominion through Christ is alive, regardless of whether his physical body is functional or not. In John's view, life is essentially a spiritual quality, not a physical state, and one acquires it through his relationship with Jesus.
For all these Biblical writers death also is a spiritual state, a state of the heart. It is characterized by feelings of despair, lack of love and separation from God, the Source of life. By contrast, one who possesses spiritual life is empowered by his relationship with God to feel hope and express love. He is a person who is reconciled with God and with himself and who can share the life he has found with others in need. In the words of Paul Tilich, he is a new being. "Resurrection...is the power of the New Being to create life out of death, here and now, today and tomorrow... Out of disintegration and death something is born of eternal significance?"
Belief In Physical Resurrection
Against the spiritual interpretation of resurrection is the remarkable phenomenon reported on the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew. Here we read of events occurring immediately following Jesus' death on the cross. Among other dramatic happenings, we are told "The tombs also were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after (Jesus) resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many" (Mt. 27:52). Certainly if such an event actually transpired it would led strong support to a belief in physical resurrection. However, if all this had actually taken place, what happened to the risen saints? Should we not read of their subsequent exploits, perhaps in such places as the Book of Acts or the Letters of Paul? Should they not have been able to dissuade their fellow Jews from persecuting God's new work? It is perhaps because of such obvious problems with the story that so few people today take Matthew's account literally.
Divine Principle assumes that since resurrection does not involve bringing corpses back to life, there were in fact no physical bodies that arose from the grave at the time of the crucifixion. Rather, the spirit selves of the deceased saints were seen at that time, such as Moses and Elijah were seen with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. It must be recalled here that in addition to a physical body, each person possesses a corresponding spiritual form that he continues to inhabit eternally. For this reason, Moses and Elijah were recognizably themselves when they appeared with Jesus centuries after their deaths.
The Day You Eat Of It
A further assertion made by many faithful is that had our first progenitors not separated themselves from God none of us would have ever known physical death. In support of such a tenet, these believers cite Genesis 2:17, where the author quotes God as forbidding Adam and Eve to eat of the Fruit of the tree of knowledge for, as the Lord says, "in the day you eat of it you shall die." If they had been obedient, the argument runs, they and all their descendants would have lived eternally.
Divine Principle teaches that such an interpretation is incorrect. It was never God's intention that man would live eternally on earth. Our physical bodies are destined inevitably to age, to die and return to the soil. Indeed, Divine Principle points out that if God had intended us to live eternally in our physical bodies He would have had no reason to create the spiritual world for our spirit selves to go to. Rather than being the product of some retrospective thinking on the part of God.
The spiritual world was created from the beginning to receive our spiritual selves/ The death that Adam and Eve inherited as a result of the Fall was thus not physical in nature, but, again, spiritual. In addition, of course, we see from the account in Genesis that despite the promise of death, even after Adam and Eve ate the fruit they continued to be active and alive; they sustained themselves and gave birth to children. Indeed, Genesis tells us they lived over nine hundred years (Gen 5:5). Clearly their death "in that day", was something other than physical. In the New Testament writings of John, we read that "He who does no love abides in death.' (1 Jn 3:14). Such was the fate of Adam and Eve, Separated from God's love, they knew no love. Thus they encountered death.
The famed Jewish scholar Martin Buber once described the goal of life by reference to Hasidic legend:
"When God created man, he set the mark of his image upon man's brow and embedded it in man's nature, and however faint God's mark may become, it can never be entirely wiped out. According to Hasidic legend, when the Baalshem (the founder of Hasidic Judaism) conjured up the demon Sammael, he showed him this mark on the forehead of his disciples, and when the master bade the conquered demon begone, the latter prayed, 'Sons of the living God, permit me to remain a little while to look at the mark of the image of God on your faces.' God's real commandment to man is to realize this image."
If the death caused by the Fall is spiritual, then the transformation of that death must also be spiritual. Resurrection does not thus refer to the revival of decomposed bodies, but to resuscitation of inert spirits. It is the process of restoring the image of God within.
One may ask how this process can best take place. To lead man to new life, God gives us His Word. The Law, the Books of Wisdom, and the histories of the Old Testament are given us to teach us and guide us. Likewise, the ethical teachings and the incomparable life of Jesus given in the New Testament are given to lead us to new life.
In addition, in various scriptures (Jn 16:13, for example) we are promised yet a further revelation of God's truth with the return of Christ. The Lord gives His word in order that man might be resurrected.
As we learned in the fourth volume of the Home Study Course, both purification and growth take place through God's Word. The Word is a two-edged sword; not only does it effect judgement it also brings new life. Reflecting this power, Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John
".......he who hears my word and believes in Him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life." (Jn 5:25)
Resurrection, then, begins from the point of hearing the Word. It is not a matter for the future, but for the present. As Paul Tillich has noted, "Resurrection happens now, or it does not happen at all."
Dynamics Of Resurrection
Resurrection may be thought of in terms other than just life and death. Since it involves restoring fallen man's nature tot he standard originally created by God, for example, the process of restoration may also be thought of as restoration. From another point of view, resurrection is re-creation - God's re-creating that which was broken and lost.
However one conceives this process, Divine Principle affirms that there are definite principles according to which it proceeds. First of all, the saying "God helps those who help themselves" is more than a well-worn moralism. God's will is not accomplished unilaterally; the purpose of creation is fulfilled only when His efforts are complemented by ours. We need to do our part by understanding and following the Word.
Secondly, although resurrection is a spiritual process, it cannot occur apart from the physical body. As we learned in the Principle of Creation, each person's spirit self is created to grow and attain maturity only through its relationship with the physical self.
Consistent with this principle, resurrection also occurs in conjunction with one's physical self - thus while one is living on earth. The body is like soil in which the spirit may grow.
Finally, Divine Principle notes that resurrection is a historically cumulative process, advancing in accordance with the accomplishments of each age. An analogy may be found in the realm of science.
Today science is highly developed on the basis of the continuous research and discoveries of men and women throughout history. Generally speaking, the present generation has benefited greatly from scientific advancement, even though we had very little to do with it. We benefit simply because we live in a scientific age.
This is also true in the spiritual realm. Since the earliest times in man's history, God's servants have been laying foundations for the ever-higher spiritual advancement of humankind. As we will discuss more fully later, we of the present day stand on foundations laid by the prophets and saints of prior generations.
It is not our task, for example, to discover as Isaiah did that the Lord did not seek sacrifices and burnt offerings from His children, but rather justice, love and compassion (Is 1:11-17).
Because of such previous developments, we start at an advanced level. Not only are higher spiritual attainments therefore within our grasp; we are also contributing to the spiritual conditions inheritable by those yet to come.
Auguste Compte, the founder of sociology, theorized that man progressed through three stages: the theological, the metaphysical and the positivist. This doctrine of progress, adopted since the time of the French Revolution, details a cultural ascent of humanity similar the physical evolution identified by Darwin. For many, this rational approach to history parallels (though often not taking into account) religious evolution, and resurrection.
Like judgement, resurrection has been going on since the dawn of history ; and like revelation, it has a progressive nature. Humanity's religious ascent is from a primitive superstition and savagery to a greater sophistication and awareness. Students of the history of religion claim that mankind slowly turned from animism to polytheism to monotheism. God could shed only as much light as man could understand and constructively employ.
Divine Principle points out that the religious evolution of humankind may be thought of as proceeding through a succession of stages comparable to a person's life. If Adam and Eve had remained true to their instructions from the Lord, they would have proceeded through the steps of formation, growth and completion to true personal maturity and a fully mature relationship with God. Similarly, the evolution of humanity's spiritual consciousness can be seen as moving through three stages.
While God no doubt began striving for humanity's resurrection immediately following Adam's fall, there is little we can point to in the events recorded in the first chapters of Genesis that would suggest that the Lord had gained a secure foothold with man. Such developments as Cain killing Abel, Noah cursing his son Ham and the construction of the tower of Babel offer us little hope.
With the arrival of Abraham, however, some foundation seems to have been established. He is the individual with whom God initiates his covenant with mankind. He is the person whom the Bible depicts as faithfully offering his son Isaac on the altar; also his grandsons Esau and Jacob succeed in reversing the animosity of Cain and Abel by overcoming their enmity and accepting each other.
For Divine Principle, then, Abraham and his family constitute the starting point of universal resurrection, and the two thousand years between Abraham and Jesus comprise the formation period of humanity's return to God.
Although Abraham was an anointed man of the Lord, during his time even such chosen people were so distant from God that they normally approached Him through animal sacrifices and vegetable offerings.
After some spiritual advancement had occurred, God gave the Ten Commandments through Moses. Later the Hebrew prophets arose and elevated the spiritual life of the Israelites by teaching additional ethical and spiritual aspects of God's nature and the religious life.
In general, however, individuals who lived during this time could do their part in returning to God by faithfully obeying the Mosaic law, which we may think of as the initial stage of the revelation of God's Word. Overall, we may think of this period as a time when man's relationship to God was governed by law.
On the basis of this formative stage of resurrection, God sent Jesus of Nazareth with the mission to raise humankind's spiritual status to virtual completion. However , because of the failure of the people of his time to accept Jesus, such noble aim was not achieved. Rather the period from his death to the present became simply a second major stage in human religious evolution.
Whereas the Old Testament Word was the initial guideline for the Hebrews' approach to Yahweh, the New Testament fulfilled this role during the years following Jesus' death. We may thus think of the New Testament as the growth stage of the revelation of God's Word, and the New Testament Age in general as the time of justification by faith in the New Testament Word.
In accordance with this pattern, we may readily anticipate the next step. The Second Advent is to be fulfilled on the foundation of the previous stages. In our day the mission of the Messiah is to bring the Completed Testament, which is to fulfill the promises of the Old and New Testaments and complete the establishment of God's Kingdom on earth.
Men and women of this time can be resurrected to the completion stage by accepting and embodying the new expression of the Word and by accepting and supporting God's new Messiah. Therefore, while the previous age was the age of justification by faith, the Completed Testament age is a period of justification by service to the new Lord.
Divine Principle teaches that an individual attains completion when through the messiah he rids himself of the original sin and enters into full relationship of love with God. Completion does not mean that spiritual growth stops. On the contrary , it continues forever. Whereas the Apostle Paul portrayed the early Christians as "groaning inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons" (Rom. 8:23), in the final stage of resurrection men and women are to evolve from the position of being true sons and daughters of God. We may thus hope that the great promise of the writer of the Book of Revelation will ultimately be fulfilled:
Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God Himself will be with them (Rev. 21:3)
In his very thoughtful "Dreams: God's Forgotten Language", California's Father John Sanford, an Episcopalian priest and Jungian counselor, tells of a remarkable dream his worried father had after a series of illnesses and at an age when he knew death could not be far off. He reported it to his wife, who later recorded it. In the dream the father goes through different scenes from his life and
"Finally he sees himself lying on a couch back in the living room. I (Mrs. Sanford) am descending the stairs and the doctor is in the room. The doctor says "Oh he's gone." Then, as the others fade in the dream, he sees the clock on the mantelpiece; the hands have been moving, but now they stop; as they stop, a window opens behind the mantelpiece clock and a bright light shines through. The opening widens into a door and the light becomes a brilliant path. He (Mr. Sanford) walks out on the path of light and disappears."
To the author, the son of the dreamer, the meaning of the dream is clear. It is saying that having passed through the many phases of his life, time has now run out for the elder Sanford (the hands on the clock have stopped). However, this event is not the end, but the beginning of something else. On the other side of earthly time, a new dimension of life is opening up. The dream reassures Sanford's father that he will proceed into another world, one beyond space and time.
The idea that human beings survive physical death has been expressed in so many places that it is foolhardy to ignore it. In a number of Plato's dialogues, for example "The Republic" and "Phaedo", we encounter this master thinker's idea that after death the soul continues to exist in another realm. Dante, the greatest poet in Italian history, devoted his three part epic, "The Divine Comedy", to describing his travels through the spiritual realms of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. While we don't know how firm Shakespeare's convictions were, we do find him depicting Hamlet conversing with the revengeful spirit of his murdered father. And in the writings of Emmanuel Swedenborg, an eighteenth century Swedish scientist and mystic, we find voluminous records and thoughtful analysis of his experiences with the spirit world and its residents.
Nor should we overlook the Bible. Both Isaiah (26:19) and Daniel (12:2) write of their expectation of life after death, while both Jesus (Lk 9:30-31) and Paul (Acts 26:13-26) are reported as encountering non-physical beings. Indeed, in 1 Corinthians Paul goes to some length to describe the characteristics of the "spiritual body" in which the Apostle asserts that believers will be resurrected. (1 Cor. 15:35-50).
What is it like?
As was explained in the Principle of Creation, Divine Principle unequivocally affirms the continuation of life after physical death. Since God is eternal, He created His counterpart His children to exist eternally also.
The question is what will be our experience on the "other side". Although within the Roman Catholic tradition the dichotomy between heaven and hell is muted by the concept of purgatory, the historic position of the Christian faith is that the alternatives facing one upon his death are only these two: heaven or hell.
If one has followed God and accepted His son, eternal salvation in the Kingdom of Heaven is promised. If on the other hand one has strayed from the path, the torments of hell will be his. In ages past the horrors depicted in such pronouncements as a famous sermon preached by Colonial America's Jonathan Edwards', "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," have been sufficient to cow even the most intrepid into trembling obedience to the Law. The eternal terrors of the regions below, we have been told, are hardly to be taken lightly.
For Divine Principle, such expectations are the product of an incomplete religious awareness. The spirit world is not simply limited to heaven and hell but is differentiated according to many levels. One's position after death determined by his spiritual attainment during life. In contrast to traditional notions of heaven as a reward and hell as an imposed punishment, one's position in the after-life is a natural result of the quality of one's life on earth.
The Principle would firmly agree with Oxford University's John Macquarrie, who, in writing on the subject of heaven, argues sensibly for an organic connection between the stages of one's life before and after death:
"Heaven is not a reward that gets added on to the life of faith, hope and love, but it is simply the end of that life, that is to say, the working out of the life that is orientated by these principles. Understood in this way...the symbol (heaven) stands for fullness of being."
Just as the religious evolution of humanity may be thought of as proceeding through three stages, so may the spiritual growth of any person. Accordingly, Divine Principle asserts spirit persons at the different levels may be distinguished.
A person who has grown through the formation stage of resurrection may be said to have become a form spirit. After his physical death, he would live at the form spirit level of the spirit world. Similarly, we may use the terms of life spirit and divine spirit to describe those persons who have grown through the growth and completion stages, respectively, on earth. At the growth stage in the spirit world one enters the region called Paradise, while at the completion stage he enters the Kingdom of Heaven.
Traditionally, those of the Christian faith have understood Heaven and Paradise to be the same. Divine Principle, however points to a distinction. The Kingdom of Heaven emerges as the dwelling place for those who have fulfilled the purpose of God's creation.
Although Jesus came as the Messiah to fulfill this ideal and foster the salvation of humanity, he was prevented by the crucifixion from doing so. Therefore, since the three blessings and the Kingdom were not realized on earth, we may understand that the Kingdom of Heaven in the spirit world remains vacant. Jesus and his followers remain in Paradise, the region in the spirit world equivalent to the growth stage of resurrection. Their own resurrection to the Kingdom of Heaven is to take place through the ministry of the Second Advent.
Countless numbers of people have already passed on to the spirit world, with the great majority no doubt falling far short of having attained complete resurrection. Since a person needs his physical body in order to grow, we must inquire as to the fate of these persons who now possess only their spirit selves. Can they continue to be resurrected?
In his autobiography "Memories, Dreams, Reflections" the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung recounts his conversation with a highly cultivated elderly Indian, a friend of Mahatma Gandhi's. In discussing the different ways in which education took place in India, the Indian answered in reply to a question by Jung that his own guru was a man named Shankaracharya. Jung replies:
"You don't mean the commentator on the Vedas who died centuries ago?"
"Yes, I mean him," he said, to my (Jung's) amazement.
"Then you are referring to a spirit?" I asked.
"Of course it was his spirit," he agreed....
"There are ghostly gurus too," he added.
"Most people have living gurus. But there are always some who have a spirit for a teacher."
As Jung records, his conversation is an enlightenment to him, for over a period of time he had a similar experience, but he had not been able to explain it. Through his Indian acquaintance, he comes to understand people on earth are frequently guided by those on the spirit world.
For "Divine Principle", the phenomenon experienced by Jung and his associate is an example of activity by spirit persons who are pursuing their own continuing resurrection. Since these spirit people did not complete the process during their lifetime on earth, they return to earth in spirit form to fulfill the task they left unaccomplished. They do this by helping and guiding people who are still on earth. As the spirit person assists the growth and achievement of such people on earth, he himself is spiritually benefited and progressively resurrected.
Forces of Good.
That spirit persons cooperate with those on earth is an assertion which tends to raise eyebrows. However, as Notre Dame's Morton Kelsey has pointed out, such skepticism is restricted mainly to the perhaps too-rationalistic West. While Kelsey's argument is too complex to repeat here, in his "Encounter with God" he explains that spiritual forces generally have not been given proper recognition in Western civilization, due largely to the influence of one famous Greek:
"There is another view of man, however, found wherever the influence of Aristotle and nineteenth century Western thought have not been felt. In most cultures from primitive ones to the developed cultures of China, India, Islam and of Byzantine Christianity, nonphysical realities have been seen as a more powerful influence on man's destiny than the physical world."
Nor is the fact of spirit cooperation without documentation in the Bible. Jesus' assertion, for example, that John the Baptist was Elijah clearly suggests a spiritual relationship between the two. Although Elijah was in the spiritual world, "Divine Principle" holds that he was responsible to complete his own earthly mission working with John the Baptist as his successor. Along the same line, the writer of the "Letter to the Hebrews" suggests that earlier prophets and other servants of the Lord will find their own final salvation only through the present generation:
"And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised since god had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect." (Heb. 11: 39-41)
"Divine Principle" points out that both the period of Jesus' life on earth and the period of the Second Advent are special times when the possibilities for a spiritual advancement for the faithful on earth are especially great. After all, these are times when God's recreative Word appears anew, opening new avenues for spiritual growth and stimulating people of all backgrounds to new heights. Therefore we may expect the earthly activity of spirit persons to be particularly acute during these times.
The twenty-seventh chapter of "Matthew", for example, tells us that when Jesus died on the cross many saints arose from their tombs. As we have previously discussed, such reports should not be thought of literally, but rather should be understood as describing a spiritual reality. The passed-away prophets and saints were actively assisting God's new dispensation, seeking to elevate themselves to higher levels of spiritual attainment. Since this was the case in the past, "Divine Principle" would argue we may anticipate similarly intense spiritual activity at the time of the Second Advent.
While the relationship between the Indian acquaintance of Jung and his spiritual acquaintance of Jung and his spiritual guru was obviously an elevating one, this is not always the case. Many spirit persons, having lived unenlightened lives here on earth, proceed to the spirit world in a confused or even destructive state of mind. When this is the case, and such spirits relate to people here on earth, their influence is not a benign one.
Without discounting the psychological, emotional and even chemical factors involved, "Divine Principle" suggests that the presence of such dark spirit forces around vulnerable individuals can contribute to a number of different tragic experiences.
In the New York "Son of Sam" murders for example, a man who killed a number of young New York women said he was commanded to do so by an invisible voice belonging to a person named Sam. Also, although clearly an extreme account of spirit possession, the well-known film "The Exorcist" was in fact based on a true story.
It is perhaps in the area of mental psychosis, however, that the possibility of harmful spirit interaction is clearest. In his book "The Presence of Other Worlds," Dr. Wilson Van Dusan, a clinical psychologist who labored for sixteen years at California's Mendocino State Hospital, described his own discovery of what he calls the "presence of spirits in madness." Van Dusen had been vaguely familiar with the writings of Emmanual Swedenborg on the interaction of spirits with people on earth but only through his own experience with psychotic patients did he learn what the seventeenth century Swedish scientist was talking about.
Just as Swedenborg had discovered that spirits representing forces of both light and dark, good and evil, were in communication with people on earth, so Van Dusen discovered his patients both vocally and visually were in touch with forces they regarded, as autonomous spiritual beings. Describing the influence these beings can have, Van Dusen writes:
"I learned to two orders of experience...called the higher and the lower order. Lower order voices are similar to drunken bums at a bar who like to tease and torment just for the fun of it... They find a weak point of conscience and work on it interminably..... All of the lower order are irreligious or anti-religious...In direct contrast stand the rarer higher order (spirits)...(who) respected his freedom and would withdraw if it frightened him.... The higher order is much more likely to be symbolic, religious, supportive, genuinely instructive...." Presence of Other Worlds
Centuries ago, of course, concepts of spirit influence and spirit possession were prevalent. The New Testament, for example, clearly reflects Jesus' belief in spirit influence. On more than one occasion Jesus is described as casting out demons (e.g. Mt. 8:15-16, Mk. 5:1-20). Also, the Apostle Paul, after his long experience with the spiritual path, writes to his fellow believers in Ephesus of the reality of invisible powers acting on the striving devotee:
"Put on the whole armor of God...For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Eph. 6:11-12)
All these assertions tend to be dismissed by our materialistic West as reflective of an antiquated world view. In light of modern discoveries such as Van Dusen's however, and in light of modern psychiatry's acknowledged inability to heal much mental illness, perhaps a new openness to such perceptions as those of Jesus and Paul is merited.
Despite the potential power for good or evil that spiritual forces may have, Divine Principle holds that the ultimate responsibility for an individual's state of being and behavior rests with himself. It is we who make the bases which determine what kind of spirit influence we may attract.
Chevy Chase's famous dictum "the devil made me do it" may be an amusing out, but such a denial of one's own ultimate responsibility doesn't square with the way God made the world.
Belief in reincarnation has been with us since the earliest days of human life. Hindus and Buddhists have held to the belief for many centuries, and the Western world has become familiar with it through the channels of Oriental influence in the last fifty years. Let us examine it in light of the Divine Principle.
According to the doctrine of reincarnation the soul has successive bodies of flesh and, therefore, many lives upon the earth. Through these many lives, the individual soul is able to evolve. What a person does not work out or achieve in one lifetime, he completes in the next.
Assuming this is the case, the theory of reincarnation purports to answer questions such as the following: Why is one person so well placed in life, given every advantage that money and culture can confer, while another person is born into very difficult circumstances, where it seems impossible to make any advance in life? Why is one child born a cripple, or born blind, while another child arrives in this world with a healthy body? Why does one child live to a ripe old age, while another child dies after only a few days or years? Men and women are not born free and equal but start this life like horses in a handicap race, no one two bearing an equal burden.
How can this be, the reincarnationist is likely to ask, if indeed God is loving, just, and all-powerful? The reincarnationist answer is that we are reaping today, for good or evil, the results of the seeds we have sown during the course of many previous lives. Many times we have been a man, and many times a woman. Some of those at the bottom of the social ladder today have walked the earth as kings, presidents, generals, admirals and high priests; and some who now sit in the seats of the mighty have toiled as simple peasants in days gone by, pulled at the oar of a galley, or worn the chains of a slave.
Despite these arguments, Divine Principle objects to the theory of reincarnation on several grounds. First of all, the idea is contrary to the Principle of Creation, which teaches that man was originally to become fully mature in one lifetime. Afterwards, he was to pass on to the spiritual heaven and to live with God in the utmost joy and glory.
Human beings were thus not designed to take a physical form again and again, however imperfect one is at the end of his life on earth. Assuming one can progress only on earth, the doctrine of reincarnation ignores God's design for the blessed eternal spiritual heaven, in which there are innumerable spheres and regions for man's evolution and where he has great opportunities for improvement.
Within the Hindu tradition, the Karmic Law of cause and effect states that the consequences of every act must be discharged in this or some future life on earth. Divine Principle affirms that the law of cause and effect operates in the creation and that no one can escape it. However, the consequences of all our actions will be discharged not in another incarnation but in this life and the spirit realm. Therefore, it is important to realize what we think, love, and do now determines our life and character in the eternal spirit world, for we are forming our spirit self here on earth.
Nor can we be persuaded by the fact that the doctrine presumes to explain apparent worldly injustices such as why one man is poor and another rich. Such states cannot be simplistically attributed to one's prior goodness or evil.
As most people would agree, material wealth, physical comfort, prestige and power are not true blessings of ultimate spiritual value. Moses gave up an easy and comfortable life in Pharaoh's court and became a shepherd to be closer to God. Gautama Buddha left his palace, forsaking his position as a prince, in order to seek enlightenment. In our day, Albert Schweitzer chose to serve the primitive Africans with Christian love, giving up a good position and a high standard of living. Also, Helen Keller, though blind, deaf, and dumb, achieved the highest academic goal and spiritual light and peace. Many people turn to God and for the first time find inner joy and high purpose in life after a serious illness or accident. Why? Because an easy life and luxurious environment are often hindrances to one's spiritual growth.
Regardless of such argumentation, there are nevertheless many cases cited of people who, while reading ancient history or tales of other lands and times, "remember" the events about which they are reading. In the view of Divine Principle, a "memory" of this type occurs when cooperating spirits strengthen the mental images invariably created while reading.
Swedenborg, the great psychic and revelator of the seventeenth century, once explained that if a spirit were to speak from his own memory with a man, the man would not know otherwise than that the thoughts then in his mind were his own, although they were in fact the spirit's thoughts. Thus, startling ideas and thoughts can be influxes from the memories of cooperating spirits.
Finally, if reincarnation had been a fact throughout the ages, should we not find evidence of it in a goodly portion of perfected souls among us? Surely by this time we should see many mature and advanced spirits among the wealthy, the beautiful, and the powerful on earth. But is this true? On the contrary, in many instances such people seem to be just as immature and imperfect as the rest of mankind, if not more so!
In conclusion, Divine Principle teaches that a spirit person can reach maturity only in conjunction with physical body. Because of this principle, discarnate spirits are destined to return to contact earthly people in order to advance to the state of completion. Discarnate beings do come back as spirit persons to be invisible teachers, to guide and help humanity. They more they serve others, the more they progress.
This is especially so at this time. By serving and cooperating with those who work for the Lord of the Second Advent, those in spirit world can advance more rapidly than at any other time in history.
The eighteenth century British novelist Henry Fielding, in his famous satire "Tom Jones", uses the pontifications of a Christian minister to illustrate a classic religious arrogance. The minister declaims:
"When I mention religion, I mean the Christian religion, and not only the Christian religion, but the Protestant religion; and not only the Protestant religion, but the Church of England."
Although Fielding's portrait is a comic exaggeration of religious bias, it is nevertheless reflective of a type of bigotry not uncommon to many believers, whether they be Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or whatever. Such has been the religious fragmentation of the human family.
Divine Principle teaches that the time for such a divided state is nearly up. In an age when we are seen, in Archibald MacLeish's words, as "riders on the earth together," the future of the religious faiths is necessarily an interdependent one.
For Divine Principle, an integrated religious vision is the very tool necessary to bring the human family into a healthy wholeness. If religion fails to play this role, some other power, perhaps even a totalitarian force like communism, is likely to attempt to fill the gap.
Therefore, our age calls for a religious unity. A practical harmonization of the world's faiths will both release new energies against the problems facing humankind, and realize fully the spiritual values common to the religions themselves.
At the time of the Second Advent, Divine Principle teaches, traditional religious barriers are to be overcome. This process will no doubt be aided by input from the spirit side, perhaps even by the founders of the different religions themselves.
As was previously explained, spirit persons who have remained in Paradise are inevitably to return to earth and cooperate with the faithful at the time of the Second Advent, thereby to advance their own spiritual growth.
Through this intervention, sincere seekers on earth can be led by spirit persons to the Lord of the Second Coming. The time and type of guidance that a person on earth receives from a spirit person vary depending on a person's attitude, faith and disposition. In any event, Divine Principle suggests that through such guidance the unification of religions will gradually occur.
For Divine Principle, all religions have arisen through God's providence and have enlightened the consciousness of man. Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Islam, Shinto and Hinduism have all contributed to the spiritual development of man. These religions have laid the foundation for the fulfillment of the last dispensation, the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
At the center
However, while all great religions are thus based upon certain degrees of truth from God and have served His purposes in various ways, Divine Principle sees the Judeo-Christian revelation as the central revelation from God for humankind. Christianity is thus not a religion for Christians alone. Rather, it is the central religion whose insights enable it to be the core around which other faiths can make their own contributions most fully.
Accordingly, messages concerning the Second Advent are likely to come not only from Jesus but from founders of all other religions as well. These religious founders will fulfill their own missions and complete their own resurrection through the sincere participation of their followers in the ministry of the Second Advent.
Since the Second Advent of the Lord is universal in scope, its effects are not to be confined to the Christian world. Eventually all mankind will participate in this cosmic event in order to bring about the resurrection of each individual and the restoration of the universe.
For the first time in history, then, divergent religions will be harmonized, thereby leading mankind into one universal brotherhood. Ultimately, Divine Principle anticipates that the unity of the two worlds, the invisible and the visible, will be accomplished. Matured men and women will serve as the mediators between them, resulting in complete harmony and communication between the two worlds.
Consequently, the new world of perfection will be highly spiritual; it will be the Garden of Eden or heaven on earth. The life God has planned for all of His children will have been established and God's ideal of creation fulfilled at last.
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