Imelda Shanklin: Eternal Consciousness
We cut eternity into sections and we call the sections years, days, hours, minutes, seconds. This is the aspect of eternity which we call time.
Eternity is that which we mark with events, history, comings and goings of incarnation. In this aspect of eternity we group experiences.
When we invite our minds to scan fleetingly the great reaches of time which suggest as much of eternity as the human thought can compass, we speak of aeons that carve changes in the earth's crust; we allude to sidereal evolutions. In relation to these, we consider humanity in periods that estimate the appearance and disappearance of races, in obliterated civilizations, and in the chain of incarnations by which the individual perfects his part in the drama of life on the stages of the worlds.
When we abandon sense measurements we understand and feel that eternity runs through all of these; that it is the unending existence of God and of life, of creations and the possibilities of creations. It is the golden thread on which we string the baubles of fame, ambitions, and strivings; the thread which holds the pearls of honor, of true endeavors, and of sweet selflessness; the rosary of prayer and faith and adoration. It is the burnished cord of life, carried out from the Father's heart and returning to the Father's heart. It was, before we began to measure existence by fragments—years, defeats, triumphs. It will continue, after the misconceptions of life have been canceled by the knowledge that all aside from God is nothingness and that all outside his agelessness, all not held in his changeless peace, beauty, and sufficiency has no more of reality than is to be found in the phantasms of fevered dreams.
Eternity underlies time. In it are cast our lives and all that it true and good and lovely in our lives. No man wholly lives until he is conscious of his relation to eternity; until he withdraws his soul from the surface events that compose time, and abides in the interior realities of beginningless, endless being.
As a surface event, we are born in infant bodies. In surface events, we mature by schooling in the vicissitudes which characterize the commonwealth alien to Spirit. We slip from mirth to grief; we oscillate from hope to fear. We are attracted, and we are repulsed. We seek peace and find it not; we search for joy and it evades us. We die in the land of death, for the laws of the land govern the dweller in the land, be he native or alien.
Have we aught to do with time and the realm of phantasms?
Yes. We have incessantly to do with them while they exist for us. We have to do with time until we resolve it into eternity; until the horologe of events is hushed by the brooding stillness of being. We have to do with the phantasms, until, by living in the realities out of which they emerge as clouds out of the sea, they fade from sight. We have to work patiently, lovingly, wisely, with our own human estimate of life and with our human relationships. We have to bear generously with the views which others have of life. We have bravely to perform our part in the panorama of human consciousness, remembering never to be tricked by its changing lures and its evanescent hopes.
Doing all of these in a world of limitations, yet in no way surrendering to that world, we reconstruct that world after the model of the verities. The first work of reconstruction is in ourselves and for ourselves. We set our souls to watch, to discern the verities, and to repudiate the phantasms. Then the limitations plainly appear to operate nowhere outside their own field—the field of phantasms. They are seen not as realities, not to attach to being, but as floating wraiths impermanently joining themselves to the consciousness that will receive them, and departing when bidden to depart.
When phantasm is known to be phantasm, reality appears in consciousness. Complete reconstruction of the world of limitation is worked by a process of supersession. By vigilant address to the business, the phantasm is made to draw into the reality; it wholly ceases to exist when it is wholly drawn in; the mist returns to the sea. Scripturally, the process of supersession was outlined by John, the Immerser, when he said of the Messiah and of himself: "He must increase, but I must decrease." The immerser is the merger. The phantasm is baptized into the reality, and permanence is washed free of evanescence. Only the verity has abidingness, immortality, eternal duration.
Eternity is not in the future. It is now; it always has been now; it will always be now. It was, before the baubles were fashioned and strung upon the golden wire, to intrigue us in the infancy of humanity. It was, before the pearls were set there as a reminder of infinite courage, celestial chastity, and flaming hope. It was, before the rosary was threaded to cable our errant hearts to That which alone can give our hearts repose. It extends beyond the baubles, beyond the pearls, beyond the rosary. The shining thread is the life line, guiding us and providing such comfort for us as the ornaments can bestow. But, the baubles forsaken, the pearls past, the rosary exhausted, we go forward until we make the heavenly pilgrimage, straight into the heart of God.
We have always been. Incarnations and discarnations have dropped their curtains of forgetfulness, and we have entered upon the old as though it were the new. Consciousness of eternity as the background of being opens the door to eternal consciousness, in which the only change that we can experience is an increasing realization of our unity with God.
Memorandum. We do not finish with the baubles, the pearls, the rosary, while we fondle them and rely upon them in the conviction that they are verities. What we believe to be truth holds us, gripped by an unyielding strength. Eternal consciousness knows that even our prayers are phantasms, although the fairest, dearest, the alpha and the omega of their kind. They are efforts to reach God, therefore they are lovely. We always have God, and God always has us, therefore the prayer is not of the verities because it denies the verity of God-in-us. Eternal consciousness is unity of the Deity and the I. In it, we do not need to pray; we cannot pray, for there is no separation to induce prayer, and there is not that higher to which prayer must be addressed.
But until each consciousness takes on eternal scope, each one of us has always to pray for an entrance into eternal consciousness. We may know the phantasm for what it is, but it does not melt into eternal nonappearance until we consciously possess ourselves of the verity of which it is the semblance. Time sinks not into eternity by mere denial of time's reality. The vision must be so focused on the eternal that every thought is an affirmation of the immutable principle in which we have being. Effective denial and affirmation are enacted in the pilgrimage along the golden life line, when we set our hearts to know whither we go, the way by which we go, and the object of our travels.
In the aspect of eternity which we call time, there are three divisions: today, tomorrow, yesterday. Today is the age of creation. Today we shape the phantasm, cleave to it or repudiate it. Today is the beginning of a new age; the new age associates us with the phantasm or with the verity, as our use of today determines.
Tomorrow is the age of fulfillment. In it we shall have the act of today as a help or a hindrance to our realization of eternal consciousness.
Yesterday is the age of retrospect, wherein we measure what we did by what we hoped, what we were as compared to what yesterday's yesterday had dreamed. The three tenses combined make our hades or our paradise. The past and the future, converged to an intelligent bearing upon the present, are assurances of a heaven just ahead. The heaven just ahead is a stage of the journey to the supreme heaven, discerned upon the radiant horizon of an heroic achievement.
Today gives us entrance into eternity. Our use of today is more vital than all the phantasms that can be crowded into today. Birth and death will continue to perplex us with their unsolved mysteries; baubles, pearls, and rosary are ahead of us and back of us. They will vex, entreat, and lull us until we have found the thread upon which they are clustered, and finding it, cleave to it forevermore. We shall have entrance through the portals of eternal consciousness when we forever forsake the phantasm. We shall deeply explore the unconfined empire of eternal consciousness when we cleave to the verity as overshadowing and outlasting any event or state that time can summon. Greater than the building of any vesture of incarnation is the winning of that consciousness in which God and his timeless, immutable being possess us.
In any consciousness, recognition is equivalent to identity. The eye does not perceive beauty, but consciousness does. Where one man beholds beauty and another ugliness, the difference is one of consciousness. In the realm of verities, the object has but one aspect—loveliness. In the realm of phantasms, the object has as many unlike aspects as there are unlike mentalities considering it. In either realm we are what we recognize as having existence. When we link being to time and measure life by seasons, we cannot be conscious of the eternal nature of existence. Then we live fitfully; at eve we die in deep and unremembering sleep; at morn we incarnate, bringing into the body whatever we have fastened upon in our ramblings through the dim chambers of the palaces of dreams. When we follow the golden line out of time and into eternity, consciousness expands, and we fit ourselves to inhabit the infinite areas of being.
What we can now grasp of the eternal is the beginning of all that the eternal consciousness embraces. Prayer can begin when we know our needs; it can prosper as we learn of our equipment. We have the powers of God, and our existence, like his, is eternal. Now, this one pointed instant, is the beginning. To become eternally conscious, we must act from this one pointed instant, in the consciousness of omnipotence set in the beginningless and endless duration of God.
There is no point to the argument that we must pursue a given course in order to attain the eternal. We are eternal, in all the verities of being, and we do not attain what we possess.
We are not conscious of our possessions, and the attainment of consciousness is the work which we have to do. Doing this work, we shall win the blessings potential within our possessions. The infant has hands, but he is not conscious of them in the early weeks of incarnation; when he becomes conscious of his hands, they are objects of study to him. Later, he makes conscious use of them, whereas previously he had used them only instinctively, clutching objects without regard to their effect upon him. As the child becomes more familiar with his environment he learns to discriminate, and he forms positive thoughts as to what he should and should not handle.
Not knowing that consciousness is eternal in all aspects which can have permanent value to us, we have clutched at everything which held out a promise of prolonging consciousness in the phantasms. We have wanted to live, that we might enjoy the bauble, delight in the pearls, and exult in the rosary, not being conscious of consciousness. We have clutched at extraneous means of keeping soul and body joined, not conscious that the golden thread is the conduit of life; that he who follows it with soul alert may maintain consciousness in connection with the form he chooses; that he may carry the form through all the clusters on the thread, and clearing it of phantasms, bring it before God, as Image-Likeness deific.
Jesus Christ was the one incarnation of the verities which carried consciousness along the golden thread through the full circle, passing, unscathed by deception, baubles, pearls, and rosary. Others there have been in whom consciousness linked together many incarnations. But He who was the never-failing consciousness made visible, knew whereof he spoke, when he said of beginnings, "Before Abraham was born, I am." All the phantasms of the time zone he passed in transcendental review, when he said: "I came out from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go unto the Father."
Like Him, we can attain the never-failing consciousness, that deathless, ageless state in which we are what God has made us to be: like himself, because part of himself.
To attain this consciousness we shall have to train ourselves in memory. We shall have to remember that the phantasm is a form of the idea but not the soul of the idea; that flesh-and-blood bodies are thought bodies, therefore changeable and therefore redeemable. The ultimate of memory in this respect is deathlessness of body, as of consciousness; an incorruptible body as a token of an incorruptible consciousness.
We shall have to cease thinking of ourselves as castaways on the littoral of time, where treacherous sands of mutability are laved by the calm tides of eternity. The verity is anchored in eternity. Not out there, is the eternal consciousness, but here, within, at this one pointed instant in which we think the present thought. This one pointed instant embraces eternity. The present consciousness of our eternal natures, continued, sweeps us into eternity. This one pointed instant holds all that we have been, all that we shall be, while engaged with the phantasms. It holds that which surrounds and permeates the phantasms. It is that which says: "I remember. I remember from the beginning, which was in God, to the end which shall never be."
Eternity is the mother of the universe. The progeny of the universe is the worlds. In the respect of their material substances, the worlds are also baubles, pearls, rosary. They are blossoms on the life tree of the verity, and the verity is eternity. We use the worlds in their material substance natures, while we have need for them in that respect, and in that respect they will last so long as we have need of them. The wise prognosticator who foretells the crash of worlds and the disruption of systems, postpones the date of these events to a period in which the utility of the planets in their present aspect is past.
The worlds have souls, even as men have souls. They are aspects of God's mind, even as men are. Therefore, in the verities, they, too, are eternal; they are spirit individualized, functioning through a soul to externality. Penetrating the body of the planet is its soul; penetrating both body and soul of the planet is the spirit of the planet, even as in man.
Men are native to planets, as flowers are native to soil and climates. Transplanting may be accomplished in either case, and thriving may result. But the planet which man must have endures while he has need of it; his consciousness takes care of that. Eternal consciousness delegates to human consciousness the command of conditions necessary to orderly progress. Time, materiality, and their phantasms are not to be swept away by one cataclysmic stroke. Eternal consciousness will not leave its offspring without that upon which to rest the sole of its foot. Supersessions, not destructions, are the milestones on our journey home.
But, in a figure of speech which is also literal truth, for those who have discarded the bauble the sense world has been destroyed, and henceforth they are absolved from sensation; for those who have finished with the pearls, the world of desire has been disintegrated, and they are freed from torment; for those who are completing the rosary, the world of seeking approaches extinction, and soon they shall be joined to God.
What we know we possess we no longer seek. Eternal consciousness is ours; it is the verity of verities. What we know to be no genuine part of us can be discarded. Human consciousness is the phantasm of phantasms. This one pointed instant and the present thought dissolve the phantasm and merge us with the verity. We will forget naught save the phantasm. We will remember; we will remember from the beginning, whence issued the golden thread, to the beginning, whither leads the golden thread. We shall come again to that consciousness in which "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy!" We will discredit the phantasms of time and place, until they cease to find in us a point of contact, and with Jesus Christ we shall say: "I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God."
So leads the golden thread, and he who follows comes into eternal consciousness, even the consciousness of God, from everlasting to everlasting.
Let thy eternal consciousness of thyself become my consciousness, O God.