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Entheasm

On Living a Life That Is
Immersed In Divine Consciousness
 
 
Alexander Wilder
 
 
 
Neoplatonist Alexander Wilder (1823-1908)
 
 
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A 2012 Editorial Note:
 
This article was first published at “The
Theosophist”, Bombay (Mumbai) , India, June
1880 edition, pp. 218-220. Helena P. Blavatsky was
then the editor of the journal. Although the article is
highly consistent with classical Theosophy, its author
indulges in the use of the word “God”, probably in an
attempt to be understood in his own 19th century. In
theory the term “god” in the singular form could be
accepted in theosophy as meaning “universal law”, or, at
the individual life, “Atma”, or still the whole Nature and the
Universe, as in Spinosa. In reality, though, the term always tends to
create more confusion than light, for it is heavily charged with the
unfortunate magnetism of centuries old fanaticism and blind belief.
Regarding the theological trap in philosophy, we add a few footnotes.
 
(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)
 
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“The man who has the habit of speaking
the truth may do so automatically. Honest
and upright dealing may be practiced in the
same way. Goodness becomes a part of the being,
and is fixed in the ganglia and fibers of the brain.”
 
 
 
The concept of actual communication with Divinity underlies all philosophical thought. It is the basis of religious faith. It has in all ages constituted the goal toward which the steps of every believer in a future life have been directed. The world has always had its Mystics fondly cherishing that ideal, sometimes even fondly believing that they had attained it. We may deem them visionary and mistaken, but we cannot impugn the excellence of their desire and purpose. If it is meritorious to do good, to be good, to entertain good-will toward others, certainly the highest meed belongs to whosoever aspires to achieve the Supreme Good.
 
Such an attainment requires the most imperative conditions. It is as essential to know as to believe. Indeed, faith is of little advantage where it is not fixed in actual truth, so that it shall possess the stability of knowledge. It requires all the moral energy of a strong nature to believe. The weak and vacillating character carries doubt for its index. It is often necessary in important undertakings, where all the strength is required to achieve the desired result, to thrust such persons aside. The vision of the Right is darkened in the atmosphere where they dwell. Any transcendent knowledge is rendered imperceptible. They not only shut out the light from themselves, but dim the sky into which others desire to peer. In this way, whether unwittingly or purposely, they do to others the greatest mischief of which they are capable.
 
The highest attainment, after all, is knowledge. There is really nothing which any one can afford not to know. It is a coming short of the human ideal to be ignorant in any respect. To love knowledge is to desire perfection; to despise it, is equivalent to being content with a bestial life. In all times the wise have won respect, as being the abler and better among humankind; and even when they were passed by and unhonored when living, they have been praised, revered, and obeyed in subsequent time. They are the luminaries that have from age to age preserved light to the world, and thereby rendered it capable of renovation.
 
It has always been the aim of every right-thinking person to extend the circuit of his mental vision, and to exalt as well as intensify his perception. The field of the sciences has been explored and mastered with profit as well as pleasure. It is a labour of achievement worthy of human endeavour. The mind is expanded in its scope and faculty, and the power to accomplish results is vastly enhanced. The inventor of a mechanical implement - whether it be a stone hatchet, or a telephone - and the discoverer of a new star or a new mineral, is a benefactor. He has given us more room to think in, and, with it, the opportunity.
 
Our earlier lesson of Origins instructed us that man was produced from the spore-dust of the earth - protoplasm, perhaps - and chemistry ratified the declaration. We have since been told that our corporeal substance was compacted from the same material as the stars, and animated by forces akin and identical with those which operate all-potent in the farthest-off world. Yet what matters it if the postulate of the scientists is true, that we took our origin from molecules not unlike to those of the jelly-fish and fungus! We are not bound to such conditions, but have a universe to occupy. The Delphic maxim - Gnóthi  seauton (know yourself) is our commission of conquest. The knowledge of the ego is to know the all; and that which is known is possessed.
 
Charters and franchises are limited. The right of man to liberty, which we are told by high authority that no man can divest himself of, the ignorant cannot enjoy or exercise. They are free, whom the truth makes free. The very word liberty implies a boon from the book. [1] The liberal are the learned, the intelligent, who therefore are free. Codes and constitutions, whatever their provisions, can declare and establish no more; so necessary is it to eat of the tree of knowledge. But we may begin with our own interior selves. The germ is in us; it may not be transplanted from without. Not letters, but life chiefly educate him who becomes truly learned. We cannot create that which is not inborn; we may only evolve and enrich the natural endowment.
 
Pause right here, whoever cares for aught rather than for the highest. To such we are only visionary. They have neither time nor ears for us. Where delusion is the breath of one's life, to know is to die. As for Wisdom -
 
“To some she is the goddess great;
To some the milch cow of the field -
Their care is but to calculate
What butter she will yield.” [2]
 
In these days that which has been characterized as Modern Science, is audacious to repudiate whatever it does not canonize as “exact.” Unable to cast its measuring line over the Infinite, it appears to be diligent in the endeavour to eliminate Him out of its methods. The personality of Deity, as implying an active principle in the universe, is now sometimes denied. Whatever we do, think, or wish, must be with no conception of Him in the mind. An actual communion with Him is nowhere within this modern scientific cognition or recognition.
 
A leading medical journal [3] several years since, contained an editorial article upon this subject, which significantly expresses the view taken by physicians who alone may be esteemed to be learned and regular. “Numa, Zoroaster, Mohammed, Swendenborg,” it remarks, “claimed communion with higher spirits; they were what the Greeks called entheast  - ‘immersed in God’ - a striking word which Byron introduced into our tongue.”  W. B. Carpenter describes the condition as an automatic action of the brain. The inspired ideas, he says, arise in the mind suddenly, spontaneously, but very vividly, at some time when thinking of some other topic. Francis Galton defines  genius to be “the automatic activity of the mind as distinguished from the effort of the will - the ideas coming by inspiration.” This action, the editor remarks, is largely favored by a condition approaching mental disorder - at least by one remote from the ordinary working-day habits of thought.
 
This is about the attitude which modern “exact science” has attained in its understanding of man when  inspired, or in the state regarded as communion with the Deity. We fail to find any better explanation in its definitions. Whoever would know the truth of the matter must “go up higher.” It is a hardly acceptable reasoning, that inspired ideas coming in the mind spontaneously indicate a condition approaching mental disorder, because they seem to be remote from ordinary habits of thought. In everyday life many faculties are atrophied, because of not having been duly exercised. On the other hand, any habitual employment becomes more or less automatic, and even involuntary. What we habitually do, and often the thing which we purpose to do, fixes itself upon us, insomuch that we perform it almost unconsciously. We awake from sleep at the hour assigned; we become suddenly conscious of a fact or idea from specific association; and do things that we are not aware of or thinking about. The man who has the habit of speaking the truth may do so automatically. Honest and upright dealing may be practiced in the same way. Goodness becomes a part of the being, and is fixed in the ganglia and fibers of the brain. Faith, too, grounds itself in the constitution, and love in the corpuscles of the flowing blood. All this is normal. It is legitimate to carry the conclusions farther, and to consider whether entheasm, even though supposedly automatic, is not, nevertheless, a wholesome condition of the human mind, and the true means of receiving actual knowledge.
 
How, is the next inquiry, how may we know God, or define Him? A king of Sicily once asked the poet Simonides to give him such a definition. He craved a day to consider; then two, four and eight. The impatient king finally asked why he required so much time. He answered that the more he considered the question, the more difficult he had found the solution. The finite human understanding is not equal to the endeavour to comprehend the Infinite.
 
In a world of unreasoning disbelief, God is regarded as a thing. Even now, in several schools of opinion, it is common to affirm that He is not a person. This seems to be equivalent to declaring Him an illusion of the fancy, a nonentity, and not in any sense whatever a thinking, intelligent Being, but simply a vagary or whimsy of the imagination. [4] It is doubtless a notion evolved by the rebound from that unreasoning faith which requires a thing to be worshipped as God. Somewhere between these extremes is the golden wedge of truth. It is the vocation of the true student to find it. But let modesty go hand in hand with faith. A person was once discoursing volubly with a Spartan concerning the felicities of the future life. “Why” demanded the latter, “why do you not die in order to enjoy it?”  It was a pert, if not a pertinent question, and certainly conveyed a taunt that might profitably be accepted as a wholesome reproof. We may not, often we cannot, speak profoundly to those who are irreverent or who disbelieve. One may profane the truth by speaking it. In uttering to another something which is real to ourselves, we veil it in a mantle of illusion which may transform its nature, in his comprehension, to something incongruous. The impure ear will tarnish the purest speech. It is well to believe in God, but ill to say much about Him. [5]
 
We may not reject utterly the methods which they employ who stubbornly, and perhaps obtrusively, demand the reasons on which faith is based. We can hope to be truly spiritual only by being wholly rational. The true man supersedes no methods because he transcends them. His concepts are characterized by a wisdom of their own. Although in his case it may not be the product of the schools, it is capable of deriving lustre from their light. The plurality of faculties of the human mind exist for a purpose. They are to be trained and employed, but none of them may be eradicated.
 
Simple men long ago inferred that fire and air or spirit, in some arcane manner, constituted the entity of man. They had noticed that the dying departed with the breath, and that the warmth peculiar to the living body also disappeared. This led to the adoration of the flame as the symbol, and to the contemplation of the spirit as the source of life. Analogy pointed out the fact that as living beings derived existence from parents, man was descended from the First Father.
 
We are all of us conscious that the individual, as we see him with our eyes and perceive with our other physical senses, is not the actual personality. If he should fall dead in our presence, there would still be a body to look upon, as distinctly as before. But the something has gone forth, which had imparted sensibility to the nerves and impulse to the muscles. It was the person, the real man, that went. The HE or SHE gives place to the  it. The person had seemed to accompany his body, but has departed leaving it behind. We witness the phenomena, but ask to learn the noumena. Here exterior, positive, “exact” science fails us. Its probe can detect no real personality, nor its microscope disclose any source or entity of being. The higher faculties must afford the solution of the problem on which everything depends.
 
The witty, but somewhat irreverent, Robert Ingersoll prefixed one of his lectures with the travesty of [Alexander] Pope’s immortal verse: “An honest God is the noblest work of man.” [6] Many are astonished, perhaps shocked, at the audacious expression. Nevertheless, it has a purport which we will do well to contemplate. If we have an actual spiritual entity exceeding the constituents of the corporeal frame, it exists from a vital principle extending from the Divine Source. A genuine, earnest faith is essential to our felicity. Do we regard Him as having “formed man in His own image” and after His likeness? Are we sure that our ideal of Him is not some extraneous personification, the product of our own character and disposition - created in our image? Have we caught a view of our own reflection in the mirror of infinity and set that up as God?
 
Certainly we have no medium for the divine ray except in our own minds. If it is refracted, or even hideously distorted, this must be because that medium is clouded and pervaded with evil thoughts, motives, and propensities. The image which will then be formed, may be the individual’s highest ideal of God. But it will look to enlightened eyes more like an adversary of the good. Fear alone could persuade us to offer it worship. To speak the truth unqualifiedly, we all hate those reflected images that are so often obtruded as the highest concept of the Divine Being. Many of us would say as much if we only had the courage.
 
Let us bear in mind, then, that what we consider to be God is only the index to what we conceive of Him. We need not hesitate, because His actual Being transcends the power of the mind to comprehend Him. The ability to form an idea, implies that it is possible to realize it. The idea is itself the actual entity, the prophecy of its accomplishment in the world of phenomena. Such conceptions as the being of God, spiritual existence, eternity, the interior union of God with man, the eventual triumph of the Right, could never be found in the mind as dreams, if they had not somehow been there infixed from that region of Causes where real Being has its abode. We must, however, go up higher than external science reaches into the domain of Faith.
 
The ether which contains the Light is more tenuous and spirit-like than the air that transmits sound; but it is none the less real because of the greater difficulty to explore the secret of its existence. All that we suppose to be known concerning it is actually a matter of faith, rather than the “exact knowledge” of the scientist. The next lessons pertain to the higher mathematics [7]; how, from what we know of ourselves, to find out God. We must see, if at all, with a sight not possessed by us in common with the animals; piercing beyond that which appears clear to that which is.
 
Our searching awakens in us the perception of the Divine One. Our wants indicate to us His character. We need wisdom that transcends our highest learning, a providence that considers all things, a power supreme above our faculty to adapt means to ends, a love ineffably pure to inspire all things for the completest good of all. Knowing that whatever we see is transitory, we are cognizant that we must have other than mortal vision to behold the Permanent. It is enough that we acknowledge Him as the fact of which we are the image; and that we devote our attention accordingly to the clarifying of the medium which receives His effluence. Let the scope and purpose of our life be devoted to becoming what we recognize to be the inherent character of the God that we need. In due time the likeness will be indeed the similitude, and not a “counterfeit presentment.” We shall embody in our disposition and character the very ideal which the witty unbeliever so strangely pictured. This is the meaning of the problem. A pure man will display the like image of his God. [8]
 
Entheasm, therefore, is the participation of the Divine nature together with prophetic illumination and inspiration. The modern physician, scientist and psychologist, it has been noted, define the condition as “approaching mental disorder,” and “remote from the ordinary working-day habits of thought.” It is doubtful whether they can, from their standing-point, see the matter any more clearly. By their logic, God the Creator is only a myth, or, at most, the cause of disorder in the minds of men. We cannot wisely seek for truth at such oracles. The earlier teachers taught and builded better.
 
The conviction has been universal that men did communicate with the Deity and receive inspiration from Him. The Hebrew polity had its seers and prophets, schooled by Kenites and Nazarim. There were similar castes of wise men in the various countries of Arabia, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Inner Asia. The Greeks, whose arts and poetry are even now praised and imitated, had also their sages, seers, and hierophants. The Romans, likewise, however bestial, cruel, and arrogant, nevertheless endeavoured, by means of pontiffs, augurs, and haruspices, as well as by adopting the worship and divinities of other nations, to learn whatever they could from the supernal world. All seem to have believed that the living on earth was really death, and that dying from the earth was a passing from this death to that of actual life. A gill of poison did not extinguish Socrates. The phenomena of the every-day world were regarded as the illusive cheat of the physical senses; but beyond it they contemplated the existence of a region aethereal, and not aereal, with no limits of time or space, where all was real and permanent. Thitherward they aspired in the hope that haply they might unite the potencies of that world with the scenes of the temporal universe. Was it a bootless aspiration, a beating of the air, a vagary of untutored frenzy?
 
Among the individuals notably regarded as entheast, were Socrates, also styled  theomantis, or God-inspired; Ammonius Sakkas, the God-taught; and Baruch or Benedictus Spinosa, the God-intoxicated. Plato, Gautama-Siddharta, Apollonius and Iamblichus, were also named DIVINE. “They were called  gods to whom the word of God came.” It was the universal belief that men might receive superior illumination, and that a higher and more interior faculty was thereby developed.
 
It should not embarrass us that peculiar disorders of the body are sometimes attended by extraordinary spiritual phenomena, nor that great and unusual commotions of the mind may occasion them. No more is proved by this than by the fact, equally well established, that shocks and excitement often restore paralyzed limbs and functions. As for fasting and prolonged intense mental action, they are methods in every studious endeavour to develop a more perfect perception. They are legitimate aids to enable the mind to get beyond the impediments to clear thinking and intuition, into a higher spiritual domain. There is no morbidness or abnormality in this, but a closer approaching to the Source of real knowledge. Science owes more to such methods than scientists are aware or willing to acknowledge. It is not fair to cite them as arguments against spirituality.
 
The entheastic condition indicates a life that is lived beyond and above the physical senses. It is a state of illumination rather than a receiving of messages from the Divinity. Indeed, it is safe to affirm that there are no new revelations. The same word that ordained Light to exist never ceases to so ordain; the same spirit or mighty mind, that moved and operated upon the waters at the genesis, is potent and active to-day. The world may vary in form and aspect, but that which gives it life is always the same. Whoever will ascend above the changing scenes, will know and mirror in himself the Unchanging. This is what is meant by being involved and included in the divine aura and light.
 
The old Mystics used to teach that we must be passive and not active. This by no means implied physical or moral inertia, but simply receptiveness. Just as a mirror receives and infixes an image, so every divine radiation and inflowing should be retained and embeinged. The light is not given or received for the sake of having the borrowed splendor to shine with, but that it may be assimilated and incorporated into the life. The word is not mere speech, but the reason taking that form. The true speaking of a man is itself the man. Every revelation of God is God, himself [9] coming to man. Every such one expressing God in his life and act is the word of God made flesh.
 
Thus we perceive that entheasm is the participation of the divine nature, spirit, and power. It is the end for which mankind has existed on the earth, the culmination of the divine purpose.

 
NOTES:
 
[1] Liber, a book or writing - liber, free, whence libertas, freedom. (Note by A. Wilder)
 
[2] Schiller. (Note by A.  Wilder)
 
[3] The Medical and Surgical Reporter, 1875.  (Note by A.  Wilder)
 
[4] In fact, “He” isn’t a person, for “He” doesn’t exist, except as a literary metaphor now worse than useless.  No singular or exclusive form of “God” is actually so kind as to exist, except in the often fertile theological imagination. This is the point of view of theosophy, classical philosophy, Taoism, Buddhism and Hinduism. Instead of any exclusive and nationalistic “god”, there is a vast plurality of divine inclusive intelligences in the universe.  The present article by Wilder is valuable in spite of his use of the word “god” in the singular form, a term with no real meaning in philosophy. (CCA)
 
[5] This is a reason for secrecy or some sort of “selective action” in esoteric philosophy: not everyone is prepared to deal with the wording of universal wisdom in a responsible way, so as to keep such concepts and literature unspoiled. See more on this point at the second paragraph of the present article. (CCA)
 
[6] At this point the author starts to prepare his 19th century readers for the uncomfortable news:  “God” is after all but a metaphor created by men, a reflected image of themselves. Wilder clearly did his best, though, to be politically correct. (CCA)
 
[7] Reference to a series of articles Wilder was writing.  (CCA)
 
[8] In this context, the kaleidoscopically vague word must mean one’s own Monad, one’s Higher Self, or Atma, the seventh principle of human consciousness. (CCA)
 
[9] Id est, one’s own higher self, Atma; in some aspects, the Universal Law with which Atma is One. (CCA)
 
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Entheasm




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