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The Consciousness of the Atom - The Field of Evolution
The third line of thought we might call the Idealistic. It posits an evolutionary process within all manifestation and identifies life with the cosmic process. It is the exact opposite of materialism, and brings the supernatural deity, predicated by the religionist, into the position of a great Entity or Life, Who is evolving through, and by means of, the universe, just as man is evolving consciousness through the medium of an objective physical body.

In these three standpoints - the frankly materialistic, the purely supernatural, and the idealistic - you have the three main lines of thought which have been put forward as explanatory of the cosmic process; all of them are partial truths, yet none of them is complete without the others; all of them, when followed alone, lead into byways and into darkness, and leave the central mystery still unsolved. When synthesized, when brought together and blended, and when unified, they embody, perhaps (I offer this simply as a suggestion) just as much of the evolutionary truth [16] as it is possible for the human mind to grasp at the present stage of evolution.

We are dealing with large problems, and tampering, perhaps, with high and lofty things; we are trespassing into regions which are the recognized domain of metaphysics; and we are endeavoring to sum up in a few brief talks what all the libraries of the world are embodying; we are therefore attempting the impossible. All that we can do is to take up briefly and cursorily first one aspect of the truth and then another. All we can possibly accomplish is an outline of the basic lines of evolution, a study of their relationship to each other and to ourselves as conscious entities, and then an endeavor to blend and synthesize the little we can know until some general idea of the process as a whole becomes clearer.

We have to remember in connection with every statement of truth that each is made from a particular point of view. Until, we have further developed our mental processes, and until we are able to think in abstract terms as well as in concrete, it will not be possible for us fully to answer the question, What is the truth? nor to express any aspect of that truth in a perfectly unbiased way. Some people have a wider horizon than others, and some can see the unity underlying the different aspects. Others are prone to think that their outlook and interpretation is the only one. [17] I hope in these talks to broaden somewhat our point of view. I hope we shall come to the realization that the man who is only interested in the scientific aspect, and who confines himself to the study of those manifestations which are purely material, is just as much occupied with the study of the divine as is his frankly religious brother who only concerns himself with the spiritual side; and that the philosopher is, after all, occupied in emphasizing for us the very necessary aspect of the intelligence which links the matter aspect and the spiritual, and blends them into one coherent whole. Perhaps by the union of these three lines of science, religion, and philosophy we may get a working knowledge of the truth as it is, remembering at the same time that "truth lies within ourselves." No one man's expression of the truth is the whole expression, and the sole purpose of thought is to enable us to build constructively for ourselves, and to work in mental matter.

I should like to outline my plan this evening, to lay the groundwork for our future talks, and to touch upon the main lines of evolution. The line that is most apparent is necessarily that which deals with the evolution of substance, with the study of the atom, and the nature of atomic matter. Next week we will touch upon that. Science has much to tell us about the evolution of the atom, [18] and has wandered a long way during the past fifty years from the standpoint of the last century. Then the atom was regarded as an indivisible unit of substance; now it is looked upon as a center of energy, or electric force. From the evolution of substance we are led very naturally to the evolution of forms, or of congeries of atoms, and there will then open up to us the interesting consideration of forms other than the purely material, - forms existing in subtler substance, such as forms of thought, and the racial forms, and the forms of organizations. In this dual study, one of the aspects of deity will be emphasized, should you choose to use the term "deity," or one of the manifestations of nature, should you prefer that less sectarian expression.

We shall then be led to the consideration of the evolution of intelligence, or of the factor of mind which is working out as ordered purpose in all that we see around us. This will reveal to us a world which is not blindly going on its way, but which has back of it some plan, some coordinated scheme, some organized concept which is working itself out by means of the material form. One reason why things appear to us so difficult of comprehension is involved in the fact that we are in the midst of a transition period, and the plan is as yet imperfect; we are too close to the machinery, being ourselves an integral part of the whole. [19] We see a little bit of it here, and another little bit there, but the whole grandeur of the idea is not apparent to us. We may have a vision, we may have a high moment of revelation, but when we contact the reality on every side, we question the possibility of the ideal materializing, for the intelligent relationship between the form and that which utilizes it seems so far from adjustment.

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