Evolution in the Light of Mysticism

When the profound consideration of the Law of physical evolution has convinced, as it must convince us, that it is a duty in our condition as conscious beings to devote the best qualities of power towards the fulfillment of that law, the intelligence within us being gifted with sight to see, albeit dimly and in part, the direction and the drift of things, whence it is ethically an outrage against Nature, and a violation of the harmony of being, to go counter to that drift and direction – when this consideration has thus convinced us, and we would earnestly set ourselves to fulfil the law of our existence, we shall find that there are three sources to which we can look for assistance, and for a certain light and knowledge, as to the precise nature of our endeavor. Those sources are to be found in the universal aspiration of humanity, in the higher faculties of humanity, in the higher faculties of humanity, and in the processes by which man in all ages has endeavored to produce in his actual condition the ideal of perfection and happiness. The history of such processes is, in effect, the history of civilization itself; there is no doubt that each of them enforces its own particular lesson, and that we, as Mystics, can be made wise by the experience of them all. The work of pioneers and reformers does not live only in the ameliorated or favorable environment which it has helped to make, and in the general improvement of the human race; it lives also in the lesson that it teaches to the pioneers and reformers to come, and in every possibility of fresh application which is contained within it.

Now, if we would be truly acquainted with the end of our evolution and the nature of our perfection, the law of our welfare, the goal of our happiness, and the source of real being, we must learn these things of the Mystics. For it is the prime postulate of this treatise on physical and spiritual sanctity that arcane science is the fountain of initiation into the mystery of fundamental truth. We address those who have accepted this postulate, about which we do not argue or endeavor to verify because those who know are already convinced, while those who have yet to learn can be instructed only by experience. If unto these Mystics have been committed the keys of spiritual knowledge, it follows that it is not unreasonable to suppose that the possessors of the one transcendental science should, if we question their oracles, prove qualified to instruct us in the secrets of physical transcendency. From the double stem of the Golden Rose of Hermes these issue two perfect, mature, and adorable blossoms. If these, in their first significance, are the Sol and Luna of alchemy, and in their second, philosophical meaning are the physical and spiritual sides of the Magnum Opus, they are also more profoundly, and at the same time in a more direct manner, the two branches of the Great Subject Man – differentiated in sex but one in essence, one in root, one in origin, one in the divine completeness of a perfection that is more than possible, because it is substantially guaranteed by law; and they are, moreover, the outward and the inward side of this same great, universal, and supernal subject.

Those who know God must know also the secret of all power and of all beauty in heaven and on earth, and it is the thesis of this book that the counsels of mystical perfection which constitute the rose-lined pathway of the Absolute, the way of light and fragrance, though directly they act in the soul, have action also in a reflex manner upon the outward body of man. It is the law of that reflexion, and the education of that indirect action into an outward and manifested potency which is the whole subject of our enquiry as regards the outward man. Thus in the light of the Hermetic philosophy, the path of perfection becomes the path of beauty, as it is that of peace which is an index of its sweetness and delight; so do the Seven Gifts of the Spirit beautify by radiation from within the casket in which they are enshrined, and the Twelve Paradisiacal Fruits have an outward bloom and glow. The attainment of the end of evolution in the external man, the Christo-Theosophical culture of the fair flower of Christ, the “double rose of love,” can be secured only by the observation of ethical and spiritual laws. But the laws of the Spirit, the laws of God’s love, and of the joy in God, are in their ultimate the Grand Secret of the Mystics. Once more, therefore, it is to them that we must have recourse.

If we assume for the moment that it is our object to ascertain the nature of physical perfection in humanity, and the end towards which evolution is working in respect of the body of man – which we shall speak of hereafter, in accordance with mystical terminology, as the Glory to Come, the Manifestation of the Dual Flower, the Blossoming of the Almond, the Realization of Venus-Apollo, the Flowering of the Garden of Eden, and by such other names as an informed enthusiasm may direct us in accordance with mystic usage – if we assume this, and if we elect further to have recourse to the Mystics for light and guidance, our first and most natural step will be to enquire whether in the literature of Mysticism there may be any trace of a doctrine of evolution or development.

Now, it is a matter of general knowledge, and in these days when the silver trumpet of the soul sounds clearly through the nations, it is by no means confined to the Mystics, that all Hermetic literature is written in a strange terminology, that its principles and secrets are generally disguised in allegories, and buried beneath an entire palace of symbolism. If, therefore, such a doctrine should not appear on the surface of mystical literature, from an acquaintance with the methods of all grand initiates, that would by no means be proof positive that they were uninstructed in the workings of such a law. It would be legitimate to look for it behind the veil, and beneath the surface, for the precious gems which do shine not to the outward sight on the walls of the king’s Palace, or do glisten on turret and copula, might not improbably be stored all secretly in the subterranean treasure-house of the King. Indeed, if the jewels in question be the most prized of all jewels, it is perhaps reasonable to expect that they would concealed, nor ought we by any means to despair of finding them, if we are convinced that the Kind is exceeding rich, that indeed he has the secret of all wealth, and that he is the possessor of all things that are high in value, provided only that, in his grace and his mercy, he permits to us the key of his coffers. Thus, it is prima facie exceedingly likely that in order to discover the principle of development in mystical literature, we shall have to undertake an analysis of mystical symbolism, and he who is a lover of the Mystics should not be deterred from the enquiry by any common difficulty of research. It is, in fact, from a study of the typology of the physical Mystics that we shall expect later on to receive some assurance as to the nature of our Coming Glory.

So far, however, from the doctrine of evolution in nature lying perdu among the tenebræ of symbolism, it is, perhaps, the one principle of arcane procedure that the Mystics have paraded everywhere, and the first thing that must strike a modern reader of the old books is that every true alchemist – taking alchemical for the moment as the palmary branch of the written tradition of the Hermetists – was, in fact, an undisguised evolutionist. The doctrine of development was the open secret of the Mystics, as it was subsequently that of the Freemasons, who through the whole period of their history have been less or more attached to the tradition of Hermes.

But we are seeking not only for traces of the existence of an evolutionary doctrine; we are in need of an application of the law which intelligent and conscious man can bring his own faculties to assist the law of his nature, and this also we shall learn from the Mystics, for such an application is indeed the end of Mysticism, while it is also ostensibly, as it was once in sincerity, the chief object of research among the illuminated brethren of the square and compass. But redit Saturnia regna, and, in the time to come, there may yet be a regeneration of Masonry.