Edna L. Carter - Preserving the Unity of Soul and Body
Preserving the Unity of Soul and Body is an early, classic Unity tract, written by Edna L. Carter, who was regular contributor to Unity magazine during the decade of 1900.
Modified versions of this text are included in James Dillet Freeman's 1951 book The Household of Faith, in another tract published in 1988 (attributed to Charles Fillmore) and also in lesson thirteen on Reincarnation of Charles Fillmore's Keep A True Lent 93. So it is not apparent if the original author was Edna Carter or Charles Fillmore.
I have been told that this tract was included with Lesson Four of the Unity Correspondence Course, Beginner's series.
This tract was the basis for my letter to the Unity community in June 2014 regarding the Unity Worldwide Ministries member assessment proposal.
Preserving the Unity of Soul and Body
THE western world in general looks upon reembodiment, or what the Orientals call reincarnation, as a heathen doctrine, and many people close the door of their mind upon it without waiting to find out what message it brings when interpreted in the light of Truth. It is the object of this article to set forth the Unity teaching concerning reincarnation; to show why we consider it reasonable, and to explain its relation to and its place in the Christ doctrine.
The teaching of Jesus is that all men shall through him be made free from sin and be saved to the uttermost—spirit, soul, body. But until this salvation is attained, there is death and the grave. Now there must be some way to give men the opportunity to get the full benefit of salvation. Life is necessary, and a body through which to express life. So, when by death one his body, the law of expression works within him for reembodiment, and he takes advantage of Adam's habit of regeneration to regain a body. But it is not strictly under the Divine Law; Divine mercy permits it in order that man may have further opportunity to demonstrate the Christ life. Death and generation must both give place to regeneration and eternal life. The necessity of rebirth must therefore pass away with all other makeshifts of the mortal man. It has no place when men take advantage of the redeeming, regenerating life of Christ and quit dying.
Reembodiment should not be given undue importance, because it is merely a temporary remedy to be followed by the real, which is resurrection, that is, the lifting up of the whole man, spirit, soul and body into the Christ consciousness of life and perfection.
Through "the light (the indwelling Christ) which lighteth every man, coming into the world," (the indwelling Christ), the so-called heathen have discerned many truths to which the more material minded people of the newer countries have been blind. Whenever there has been a nation of thinkers who were not bound in materialism, they have accepted re-embodiment as a fact. It is rejected only where the craze for wealth and for fame and for the things of the world has darkened the mind with materiality.
Bu the "heathen" who have not received Truth as revealed by Jesus, do not know where and how reembodiment fits into the race redemption and, to them it is a fixed, unalterable law. They believe in karma, the accumulated effects of the sins of past lives. The burden of karma they have carried for ages, and expect to carry it for ages more, until they have worked out of it. This makes them victims of a blind fatalism, weary treadmill travelers from birth to death and from death to birth. There is no such hopeless note in the doctrine of Jesus Christ. He came to bring a full consciousness of abundant life, complete forgiveness and redemption from all sin, victory over death and the grave, so delivering from any occasion for reembodiment and from all ideas of karma.
The "heathen" hold that reincarnation is one of the natural evolutionary steps of man's development. We teach, and our doctrine is sustained by the teaching of Jesus, that rebirth is the unifying force of Nature at work in its effort to restore man to his original deathless estate. Man, through his disregard of the law of life, brought death upon soul and body, as taught in the third chapter of Genesis. A single span of life from the birth of an infant to the death of an old man does not constitute all man's opportunity for life. Life is continuous and in harmony with the wholeness of Being only when it is expressed in a perfect body, hence, man must have a body in order to gain an abiding consciousness of life. Through repeated trials at living, the human family are finding out that they must learn to control the issues of life. The divine law, as taught by Jesus Christ, must be understood and applied to all life's details, and when this is done, the Eden state will be restored.
The objections that the natural man raises to reenbodiment are largely from the fact that he lives in the personal consciousness and cannot see things in the universal. He thinks that by reembodiment he loses his identiy. But identity endures. Personal consciousness does not endure. The personal man is not immortal and he dies. This is clear and plain to anyone who is willing to give up his belief in the reality and importance of natural consciousness.
All of the personal man, his limitations, his relations -- all must give way to the Universal, the Christ. The privilege is ours to give up or forsake everything -- father, mother, wife, children, houses, lands -- for Christ's sake, and so enter into the consciousness of the Absolute. By doing this we come up into the realization of eternal life and receive a hundredfold more than was ever forsaken. If we refuse or neglect to make this "sacrifice" and prefer to live in the narrow, personal self, and cling to the old family relations, there is nothing for us but to meet the result of our choice and give them all up by death. It is just a question of giving up a little for the all and gaining eternal life. So if reembodiment frees one from the old personal relationships, it is not such a dreadful thing after all. But it cannot give anything more than new personal relations. Rising out of these into the universal is a work every one must do willingly for himself. Death and reembodiment do not give redemption. Reincarnation only serves as a further opportunity to lay hold of redemption.
Paul, writing to the Romans, said "The whole earth groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now, waiting fo the redemption of the body." He discerned with remarkable clearness that the body was to be saved from death, the grave, and corruption by the transforming power of the Christ Mind dwelling on the body. The pure, incorruptible Substance of Spirit built into the organism through true, pure, spiritual thought and word, makes the body incorruptible and eternal. As the mind changes from error to Truth, corresponding changes take place in the body, and the ultimate of these changes is perfection and wholeness in every part. Therefore those who are trying to lay hold of eternal life have ground for their faith in the promise that they shall be saved from the grave.
Knowing that spirit, soul, and body are all necessary to man and that he cannot truly be said to live except in their conscious union and expression, the error of believing that death is the open door to a "higher life", the "gateway to heaven," is easily seen. There is no progress in death. Death is negation. The demonstration of eternal life can be made only in life—soul and body together working out the problem and together being lifted up.
The idea of progress in death has its origin in the mortal mind, which reasons from its own limitations instead of from absolute Truth. It desires to preserve eternally the personal consciousness and all personal relations. Man, therefore, makes and peoples a heaven, or spirit world, where all the old family relations are as he knows them in his present life. He clings to this idea with a tenacity worthy of a better object, and it is usually only after hard experience that he is willing to drop the personal and to say, "He that doeth will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my father and mother and brother and sister" (Matt. 12:50). Eternal life cannot be demonstrated in personal consciousness. The great family of Jesus Christ, the redeemed Adam race, are all one, and the little selfish relationships of the Adam man have no place in the New Order.
Another illogical belief about the destiny of man is that the patriarchs and the prophets, and all others who have lived, have been lying in their graves, some of them for thousands of years, having no place in the onward movement of the race. It is far mare logical to believe that the race is a unity and that all its members grow and develop together as well as individually. Thus we find it only reasonable to think of every man and woman as coming on the stage repeatedly, keeping up his connection with the race and its experiences. A definite instance of this is written in the Scriptures concerning Elijah's appearance and work as John the Baptist. "And the disciples asked him, saying, 'Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must first come?' He answering, said, 'Elijah indeed comes, and will restore all things. But I say to you, that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him whatever they wished.' Then the disciples understood that he spoke to them concerning John" (Matt. 17:10-14; Emphatic Diaglott).
There is no power in mortal consciousness to lift itself out of ignorance and sin, so just the mere matter of repeated births has not taken the race forward. It is the descent of the Spirit from time to time, as the people have been able to receive it, that has made all progress. In the fullness of time, as men's growth made it possible, new truths have been discerned and new dispensations have come. When the time was ripe, Jesus came and brought the good news of salvation from death. But is words had to work in the race consciousness for two thousand years before anyone was sufficiently awakened and quickened to believe in complete redemption and to strive to lay hold of it. The promise is that the leaven of the Word will finally leaven the whole of the human family, and all will come into the light of life.
From the standpoint of the universal, it is plain that reembodiment serves a purpose in affording opportunities for spiritual development. All that is gained in spiritual growth in one life experience becomes part of the man's real identity, and, if he is faithful, he will finally gather such a store of spiritual power and wisdom that he can demonstrate salvation of his body through him who is "able to save to the uttermost." But we would repeat, reincarnation is only an opportunity.
If generation and reincarnation are not the means of restoring those who have died to their place in the race, what is the means that measures up to the Divine Law? Resurrection. The Scriptures make very plain that all men are already "dead in trespasses and sins." Whether they still walk the earth, or have ceased to breathe, and have been buried from sight, all are in a dead state, and all must be raised from the grave of ignorance and sin. "The hour is coming and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God and they that hear shall live. Marvel at this, for the hour is coming in which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice and come forth."
"The hour now is." Right now the resurrection work is going on and men and women are awakening to a new consciousness of life, of understanding, and of bodily perfection. This resurrection work must extend to every member of the Adam race, whether he is what we call alive or whether he is, as Jesus said of the dead, sleeps. All must be awakened and be unified in soul and body.
So many of the present day ideas of the resurrection have come down from past centuries of ignorance and have been accepted without question because they seem to be supported by a literal interpretation of certain Bible texts. But in these, as in all Scripture, we should go back of the letter and see the spiritual meaning of the parables and the symbols used to teach the truth about the raising of the dead, and we find going on in ourselves the very awakening and resurrection that we once supposed would come in a single day to the bodies of buried people. When this raising up, redeeming process has gone far enough in us, we shall probably be the means of awakening and raising the buried ones, thus fulfilling the mission that was given us, "Raise the dead." Such a mighty and far-reaching work would be included in the promise "Greater work than these shall ye do."
"The dead in Christ shall rise first." This is reasonable. Jesus said that many would strive to demonstrate eternal life and would not be able. But, by their efforts to lay hold of life, they built up a spiritual consciousness that will be more easily reached by the spoken, resurrecting Word. They will come forth to "the resurrection of life"; that is, they will be raised in the consciousness of life that hey had attained, and go on growing into the full realization, making the complete demonstration, so that they shall not die a second death.
Mention is also made in John's Gospel (King James Version) of "the resurrection of damnation." Damnation is condemnation. Paul makes it very clear that, by Adam's transgression, condemnation came on all his race. Death, having no power to help anyone, the condition of the Adam man is not bettered by dying. Therefore, when they are raised they "come forth unto the resurrection of damnation," or judgment. Everyone begins where he left off. But though one may have died in condemnation and been raised in that state, he has opportunity, when raised, to come up into Jesus Christ (in whom is no condemnation), identify himself with the Jesus Christ race, and demonstrate through Him the deathless life. So is proved the divine justice of including all in sin in Adam, that all may be delivered in one, even Jesus Christ.
In some of Paul's statements about the resurrection he seemingly contradicts Jesus, but we must remember that there are steps and phases to his great process, and when we understand them we shall see that men will be raised to their place in the Adam race (the resurrection unto condemnation), then raised out of Adam into Christ. Everyone who would demonstrate that he is risen with Christ must first lay hold of life by faith, and affirm without wavering that he is raised up out of sin and condemnation and death into life eternal. Then the Word of life carries on day by day, the resurrecting, redemptive work in the mind and in the body "I die daily," I am raised daily. Every day some old limitations or error that produces corruption looses its hold and passes away, and the unperishable, incorruptible substance of Truth becomes a little more firmly established in consciousness. In this way the body is transformed and raised up in honor, incorruptible, immortal.
However some of the details of this great restitution work must of necessity be, at his time mere speculation. It is not profitable to allow our minds to dwell upon mortal questionings about how th work of the Spirit is to be done in and through us. It is our place ot hold ourselves in a positive life thought, realizing always the omnipresence and perfection of life in God, and thus bringing it more and more into manifestation in ourselves and in others. When we realize how much our faithfulness means to the race, we shall rejoice in being true to the great truths that will bring to pass the time when death and the grave shall be no more. "And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain for the former things are passed away."
That you do not remember your past lives proves nothing. Neither do you remember the day on which you were born, but you do not on that account question the fact of your birth. Comparatively little of your present life is remembered. But that does not alter the fact that you have lived. Memory, to the natural man, is a matter of phonographic brain records. The memories of experiences in past lives are not recorded in the new brain structure of the infant and he does not therefore remember his past. But in the Book of Life, the great Cosmic Mind of the universe, all identity is held, and as the individual becomes quickened and raised out of personal consciousness into the universal, he will be able to bridge over the breaks in personal experience. He will "come to himself." Realizing his spiritual identity as the Son of God, he will not entangle himself with either present or past personality but will claim and demonstrate his Divine Sonship. He will no longer limit himself to a brief span of life, beginning with birth and ending with death, but will live in the consciousness of eternal life, which has neither end nor beginning.
Some have thought that they could demonstrate eternal life by believing in the never-ending life, while holding to the idea of life beginning. But nothing is eternal that has a beginning. So, if we would live forever, we must give up every limitation of mortal ignorance and say with Jesus, "Before Abraham was I am." "Glorify thou me with the glory which I had with thee before the world was."
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