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The Consciousness of the Atom - The Evolution of Man, the Thinker
Just as in the evolution of substance three stages could be seen, - that of atomic energy, of group coherence, and of eventual synthesis, - so in the evolution of man will the same appear. You will have, in the early stages of human evolution, that which we might call the atomic stage, in which man comes to a gradual recognition that he is a [88] self-conscious unit, with an individuality all his own. Anyone who has brought up children knows that stage well. It can be seen in that constant utterance of "my, my, my," the stage of appropriation for himself, with no thought of any other self. Children are naturally, advisedly, and wisely selfish. It is the stage of the gradual recognition of separate existence, and of the utilization ever more potently by the human atom of its own internal atomic force. The infant human being rebels against the enforced guardianship of those who seek to protect it, and considers itself sufficient unto itself. This can be seen in the individual and the race.

Then, as life goes on, the man passes out of the atomic stage to a higher and a better one, when he becomes cognizant of his group relationships, when he becomes aware that he has group responsibilities, and that he has functions to work out with other separate atoms. The group consciousness begins to make itself felt. Thus the human atom finds its place within the group, the larger unit to which it belongs, and the love aspect begins to show itself. The man has passed out of the atomic stage into that of group coherence.

Later comes the stage when the man begins to realize that he has not only responsibilities to the group, but that there is something greater still. [89]

He realizes that he is a part of a great universal life which underlies all groups, that he is not just a universal atom, that he is not just part of a group, but that, after merging his identity with the group - although never losing it - the group itself has to be blended again with the consciousness of that great Identity Who is the synthesis of them all. Thus he arrives at the final stage of intelligent appreciation of divine unity.

This triple idea can be found summed up in the Bible in a rather interesting phrase, where Jehovah says to Moses, the representative man, "I am that I am." If you split this verse into its three parts you have what I have been seeking to bring out tonight: First, the atomic consciousness, I AM; then the group, I AM THAT; a consciousness that he is not just a separated individual, not only a self-centered unit, not only a self-conscious entity, but that he is something still greater. Man then reaches the recognition which will lead him to sacrifice his identity in the service of the group, and to merge his consciousness in that of the group. Of such a conscious union we know practically nothing as yet. This is succeeded by the still greater stage, when I AM THAT I AM will be for us not an impossible ideal, and a visionary concept, but a fundamental reality, when man in the aggregate will recognize himself as an expression of the universal life, [90] and the group consciousness itself will be merged in that of the Aggregate of all groups.

We suppose, and we hope, that we are passing rapidly out of the atomic stage, and that our sphere of influence and interest is not bounded by our atomic wall, but that we are becoming (to use a now familiar term) radioactive. When this is the case we shall not be circumscribed and limited within our own shell, and the narrow confines of our own individual life, but we shall begin to radiate, and to contact other atoms, thus reaching the second stage, the attractive.

What, therefore, is the goal ahead for each one of us? What is the goal for these different atoms with which we are concerning ourselves? We are told in some of the old Eastern Scriptures, that the goal for the atom of substance is self-consciousness. What is, therefore, the goal for the human atom, who is already self-conscious, who is already individualized, and guiding himself by means of his will? What lies ahead for man? Simply the expansion of his consciousness to include the consciousness of the great life, or being, in whose body he is himself a cell. Our physical body is, for instance, made up of innumerable lesser lives, or atoms, each one of them separated from its neighbor, each one of them distinguished by its own inherent activity, and [91] each one forming a sphere which holds within its periphery other lesser spheres or electrons.

We have seen that man is the positive charge, and holds his multiplicity of atoms, or lesser lives, energized and bound together into coherent forms. At death, when the spirit aspect withdraws itself, the form disintegrates, and is dissolved, and these little conscious lives, having fulfiled their function, dissipate. The consciousness of the atom within the body is a very different thing to the consciousness of a man, and this we can realize with very little thought. If we concede that man is a cell in a greater sphere, may it not be possible that there is a consciousness which is to the man what his consciousness is to the cell in his body? Is it not possible that we may have ahead of us the achievement of that consciousness in the same sense as the atom of substance may some day achieve the consciousness of a human being? May it not be that this is what Browning had in his mind when he said: "Mankind, made up of all the single men; in such a synthesis the story ends." Here he holds up before us a concept of a greater Man, who is the synthesis or sumtotal of all the lesser units. Perhaps that synthesis may be the great Life, or the planetary Entity Who lies back of our planetary manifestation, and Who is the sumtotal of the group consciousness. I suggest that just as self-consciousness is the goal for all [92] the subhuman forms of life, and as group consciousness, or the consciousness of the Heavenly Man, is the goal for the human being, so for him, also, there may be a goal, and for him the achievement may be the development of God consciousness. So for him comes the struggle to evolve the realization which is that of the solar Logos.

Thus can be seen the unity of consciousness from the most minute atom up to the Deity Himself. Thus opens up before us a wonderful picture, and a vista of possibility. Thus may the life of God be seen in its essential triple manifestation, working out in an ever-expanding consciousness; demonstrating in the atom of substance, and expanding through the medium of form, until it finds one point of culmination in man, then proceeding on its course till it demonstrates as the planetary consciousness, which is the sumtotal of all the states of consciousness upon our planet, the earth, until we arrive at the fundamental basic Life, Who holds all the planetary evolutions synthesized within His greater sphere, the solar system. Thus, in summing up, we have four states of intelligent activity, which we might term consciousness, self-consciousness, group consciousness, and God consciousness. These demonstrate through four types of atoms: first, the chemical atom and all atomic forms; secondly, the human atom; then, the planetary atom; and [93] finally, the all encompassing solar atom. Ensouling these atomic forms can be seen manifesting all subhuman types of life, from the life of the atom of substance to the informing life of the higher animals, then that life which we call human, that of man, the thinker; next, the Heavenly Man, and then the great Life of the solar system, Whom the Christian calls God, or the Logos.

Browning expresses this idea of the gradual expansion of the consciousness of a human being into something greater and vaster in the following words:

"When all the race is perfected alike
As man, that is; all tended to mankind,
And, man produced, all has its end thus far;
But in completed man begins anew
A tendency to God. Prognostics told
Man's near approach; so in man's self arise
August anticipations, symbols, types
Of a dim splendor ever on before
In that eternal circle life pursues.
For men begin to pass their nature's bound,
And find new hopes and cares which fast supplant
Their proper joys and griefs; they grow too great
For narrow creeds of right and wrong, which fade
Before the unmeasured thirst for good: while peace
Rises within them ever more and more. [94]
Such men are even now upon the earth
Serene amid the half-formed creatures round
Who should be saved by them and joined with them." [97]

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