THE GREATEST GIFT
Once we use the twelve-fold zodiacal scheme of the seasonal cycle of the year as a basis for the classification of human types, we have also to state that the zodiac as a whole symbolizes that in which all men share: "human nature." Underneath all differences of type man's common humanity stands: a foundation, a vast structure of potential human energies and latent faculties.
No man or woman lacks such a foundation, unless perhaps critically injured in the process of birth. Much of this human potential may remain latent. It may be strongly activated only in some directions. Yet it is there, ready to be actualized under a variety of circumstances, favorable or seemingly unfavorable as the case may be.
What constitutes any one of the twelve types of human beings is the characteristic manner in which this particular group accentuates a definite quality of response to life and the source of life. This source, in zodiacal symbolism, is the Sun; for the spiritually inclined thinker or devotee, it is God. But, regardless of the interpretation, the essential fact is that each and all of these "qualities of response" are latent in every human being; they constitute his human inheritance.
The great danger inherent in all classifications of human types (physiological, psychological or astrological) is the all-too-frequent tendency to identify the person we meet with the established type that appears to fit them. We say: Look, how typical an "ectomorph extrovert," or it may be a "cerebrotonic," or a "Leo" type, or a Jew, a French artist, a Cockney, a hobo.
When we do this, we forget the two most essential factors: the common humanity in which we and all these persons share equally, and the uniqueness of the living individual who cannot be pigeon-holed by type, class or race - who eludes all defining, simply because he is not only "indivisible" (i.e. an individual), but essentially single and unduplicatable.
Actually these two extremities of every man's total being means the same thing, when we look at them in a practical and spiritual sense; because what makes a human being truly "human" is his potential capability to be a unique individual.
Every human being, it has been said, is a whole species of life. Billions of plants of wheat have identically the nature of "wheatness." But no two men are identically the same manifestation of "humanhood." I do not speak here of superficial differences of body-shape or environment; no two things in nature are absolutely identical in shape. I speak of more basic characteristics, of the inherent potential of development in any one human being. Because that being is "human" there is within him the potentiality of his reaching an absolutely unique status, of fulfilling a unique function in the universe.
This uniqueness is his implied Soulhood. Every human being can find his or her singleness of being; provided his or her life takes a definite course in a direction which is his or her own by "spiritual birth-right." He can; yet he need not do so! This twofold fact makes him "human."
What makes a being "human" is his ability as a particular person to choose; and therefore his ability to fail. No man would be "human" who would not be able to fail to become integrated with his divine essence, his uniqueness of function in the universe, his Soul. Man can be divine, eventually; but this potentiality may not be actualized by him. He may not even know that the potentiality exists; and not knowing it is latent in him, he cannot orient his consciousness and will toward the fulfillment of it.
The failure to use this latent inherent potency gives rise, sooner or later, to this peculiarly human phenomenon which we call "evil". The possibility of evil is simply the shadow - or negative aspect - of the possibility of becoming divine, and by so doing of fulfilling the essential meaning of the "human" status of existence.
What stands between the two opposite possibilities in man? Individual decisions - myriads of them, yet, in a sense, one great decision, made at some critical time, as the result of a long series of antecedent choices, which themselves are conditioned by a multitude of experiences of "awareness", positive or negative, of the basic potentialities in man.
Man can and, whether he likes it or not, eventually must make this essential decision. Yet, perhaps even then, it may not be absolutely irrevocable; or rather, it may not be utterly unredeemable. In this resides the deep and awesome mystery of Divine Redemption. God "redeems" man as an individual, just because man alone of all living beings has the capacity to be truly individual, and thus to make decisions singly and alone. Because man can and must decide singly and alone, God, Who is "the One", must react to man's great decision.
The cosmic "One" and the many single individual "ones" are indeed two polarities of one essential all-encompassing Harmony. Thus, the failures of the many human beings call forth a complementary, harmonizing response from God, the One - just as the over-accentuated use by a certain type of person of a specific aspect of human nature calls forth, as we have seen, a complementary "gift of the spirit".
However, when we deal with consistent evil we are confronted with a situation in which the whole of human nature in a man is committed; it has turned wholly negative, anti-"human". The only act that could answer such a total perversion is an act of the One God, of God as a Person. Only a divine Person can fully "redeem" (i.e. neutralize or balance in the cosmic World-Process) the very negation of human potential by an individualized human personality.
This act of redemption implies the "gift of Self"; it is symbolically the sacrifice, by the Deity Who is the origin of the World-Process, of His "Son" - that is, of His personified power. The divine Universal "becomes", in relation to human individuals who have chosen to respond to the source energies of their nature in a negative manner, a particular manifestation of life.
This particular manifestation can be said to have one evident purpose: to be a kind of "antidote" against the poison of evil. Yet, simply to say that does not go far enough. One does not understand very deeply the act of Redemption by considering it as a payment by God for man's sins! God does not "buy back" (the ordinary meaning of the term, redeem) man or his soul from a personified Devil. What is meant by this divine act of compassionate Love is that the One having projected Himself into a multitude of human centers - of little "ones" - must assume the responsibility of the negative results of human integration (i.e. of a man becoming an individualized, unique, single, non-duplicatable person). Evil is the generic term for all such negative results, for all the perversions of this process of individualization characteristic of "human" nature.
This process can and does backfire. This is the "exciting" fact about it! Man is God's excitement - shall we say, half-humorously? If we change the colloquial word, excitement, to more philosophical terms, dynamic out-reaching, we are getting at what is (at least in so far as we can understand at all cosmic ultimates!) the heart of the problem. We are approaching the "ineffable" core of the mystery revealed (i.e. "veiled again") in the myths of the Redemption. This core of the mystery can, I believe, be formulated in a simple little word: more.
The meaning of any universe is to make forever more inclusive, more valid, more powerful the Harmony that is the substance of divinity. We may conceive this Harmony in any way we wish, or are able to; but no concept, in my opinion, can explain significantly human experience which does not give to the factor of "motion" an absolute character. There must be perpetual, eternal activity; and this activity must be toward more than what is, toward an ever fuller actualization of an infinite potential of being.
This is the essential meaning of the term "creative". Man is creative in so far as he can become more-than-man. God is creative in as much as the manifestations of God's potentiality of existence are not only infinite, but always greater, always more inclusive, more encompassing. God is changelessly whole, but the Whole forever unfolds. To be compassionate (actually, if not etymologically) means to want to encompass always more.
How could the "more" be reached except by the temporary experience of inadequacy and want? How could a greater realization of abundance and of the meaning of plenitude of being be attained save by periodically realizing oneself empty, so that the spirit might fill, more than ever before, the cup of consciousness? How could the fully distended lungs inhale more air, unless they first exhale? How could God reveal more of His infinite potential of being unless there were evil to compel Him - because of God's very nature of absolute Harmony - to manifest in the act of Redemption?
To create is indeed to redeem. It is to answer a need for forms which will include more meaning, greater beauty, and thus a more inclusive and challenging sense of order and integration. God, the Creator, must be god the Redeemer. New universes emanate out of the Infinite Storehouse of Potentialities because old universes have ended, leaving a vast residuum of failures and waste- products; because God's nature cannot admit failure and therefore must create again.
For the Infinite Harmony no discord can be permanent. Discord, separativeness, evil can only be foot-stools to climb to a higher level of consciousness and inclusiveness. They are the servants of the greater, even in the very act of destroying the lesser. "Better" is forever the foe of "good". The Devil serves God, by opposing the old forms of the divine, in the world as well as in man. The function of evil is to compel a new "descent" of divine creativeness.
The real original sin is that of self-satisfaction with things as they are, the refusal to accept change and the always offered gifts of the spirit, the refusal to be transformed and to become more than one is now. The inability to receive steadily, and quietly to assimilate a new influx of spiritual power compensating for one-sided or tense activity, is the root from which all karma, bearing seeds of evil, eventually stems. Spirit knocks at the door of the soul, but the frightened mind rushes forth to bolt the door, impelled by the ego's obstinate clinging to its form and its privileges.
Yet even this fundamental inertia of the ego which forces the intrusion of evil into the evolutionary process on earth is made to serve the ultimate purpose of evolution. It releases, in due time, the greatest of all divine manifestations, the Redeemer of the self that, in hatred and violence, has turned away from the One Self. God must answer to the "lost" self by the gift of His essential power of Selfhood. This is "the greatest gift", the gift of divine Sonship. It is indeed the one essential gift, because it is the single gift of "the One".
We are judged by our response, as individuals, to each and all gifts of the spirit. We can refuse them; we can also take them for granted. In either case nothing is really gained. Nothing is ever gained spiritually except the individual, having received the gifts in deep and vibrant gratitude, feels inescapably the responsibility of matching the spirit's bestowal with his own beneficence toward others.
Actually the principal operating in such matters is not: "Having received, give" — but rather: "Give, that you may receive". Be empty, that spirit may fill you with more gifts, with greater power. This is the paradox of the spiritual life, which Jesus stated with enigmatic yet challenging power, in the so much quoted and so little understood "Beatitudes".
The man who is full and satisfied with fulfillment, the good man basking in the light of his own virtue or achievement, the "aristocrat" who merely enjoys his superiority and his culture, with patronizing and stilted offerings to the less endowed: these men can perhaps be blessed only by humiliation, sin and destruction! They must learn first to become empty.
The rebel and the criminal will meet, some day, their Redeemer. They will know that there is no ultimate failure, and in that knowledge they will be "saved"; they will be healed of their previous incapacity to use power constructively by being given greater power wrapped in love - in deeper, more-than-human, love; in that all-encompassing divine love that forever redeems, because it ceaselessly creates new solutions for the needs of the world, even for man's darkest evil.
Spirit is creative movement. It is the free flow of goods, of values, of meanings, of Images of ever wider perfection. It is incessant relatedness aiming at ever more inclusive wholeness. More volatile than air, subtler than perfume, it flows through all things. As it flows through, it transfigures. To hold the spirit within sealed Gifts of the Spirit vases, to cling to the divine Presence as it passes through the soul and through every moment lived in beauty and in personal abundance is blasphemy.
To be oneself a tide of gifts, to pour one's creative energy in incessant yet discriminate giving, wherever there is need and in terms of the need, is to live as the spirit. To live as the spirit is to live by the spirit and for the spirit. It is indeed to be so identified with the rhythm and purpose of spirit that there is no longer any separateness from the need of every moment. It is to perform all necessary actions and only necessary actions. It is, indeed, to be God-in-Act - oneself, a "gift of the spirit". (1945-46)
An Astrological Triptych