Twilight on the beach. And ebb tide. The afternoon crowd has melted away . . . swimmers, strollers, picnicking families, and running children . . . all departed. Solitude and the vastness of ocean and sky envelop the world in a unit of harmony.
The tide enacts its daily drama. Always I ponder this mystery. What is the voice that each day bids the sea sponge the land free of its litter of broken boards, odd shoes, and dingy paper drifts? The moon's attraction moves the tides, we know. But what direction moves the moon? And all the heavenly bodies that extend, universe beyond universe, into the farness? What is the Prescience, indeed, that controls the cosmos? How often we have asked ourselves the imponderable question -- the awesome origin of creation.
The stillness is immense. Nothing stirs. Then upon the heart fall the words: "In the beginning God . . ."
It is a stark statement, this opening phrase of Genesis, declaring God the First Cause. Yet a growing number of philosophers and scientists are coming to its acceptance (the unscriptural ones among them perhaps preferring such terms as Intelligence, the Absolute, or other abstract designation).
For the truth is we are confronted with the fact that, although laboratories have produced almost magic formulas to improve the conditions of human existence from its dawning until death, the secret of life itself continues to evade the most intensive research. It would seem that the cosmic essence pulsating through all that has being is not translatable into terms of scientific precision. Again a Biblical text asserts itself: "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:3).
Scientists agree today that the universe is one in basic substance, that every form of matter occupying space is but a varying arrangement of elements energized by the originating impulse. Again we ask, what is this force? It is obvious that all existence is related by reason of its origin. Individuality obtains in myriad aspects in every kingdom, in mineral, flora, and fauna. Yet underneath this diversity lies the deeper reality of one chain throughout the range of creation. Individual identity is as a drop of water in the ocean of the Whole.
"All earth's creatures are of one parentage," writes I. M. Oderberg. "The same Life-force that erupted through the early volcanoes and condensed into the material world produced us all." (1) We know, then, we are kin to the amoeba and the skylark, the weed and the giant sequoia, to clod, lion, rainbow, and star. We are one, truly, with all being.
In the deepening evening light, I reflect on this unity of the cosmos, a majestic universe created of one substance, by one mysterious Life-force, and governed by one unerring Directive.
Sea and sky are blending into dim obscurity. Space evaporates in immensity, and time becomes one with the Infinite. . . . I realize newly the single identity of eternity and the present moment. There is no separable Now. It is part of endless duration as a half hour is part of a day. Those who feel life to be ever-enduring know themselves to be always in eternity, whether in incarnation or out of it. We exist in eternity. Our course lies through it in deathless continuity.
There are seeming breaks when we step off its never-ending highway to enter into spans of life, for life is the period of training necessary to our further progress in evolution. But these interruptions are only temporary stations along our pilgrimage upon the Way. The pauses are many, for there are many lives to be lived, numberless successions of them possibly, with their disciplines and refining experiences, before we attain the qualities to initiate us into the ultimate realization of the whole.
The nature of the lives we shall be called to enter, or those from which we have come, is not revealed. As we look about us on our planet, we note the multitude of diverse realms, separate, except for the interdependence that links all creation. The ocean is such an order, much larger than ours. The birds' medium is removed from that of others, as is the dominion of things that burrow the soil. Untold numbers of these domains exist within our immediate knowledge. What legions of them the universe must be housing in its immensity! And in this profusion and complexity, which ones among them will become our worlds?
Man possesses a reasoning consciousness beyond that of his lesser creature brethren. Accordingly, we do not expect to find ourselves reduced in evolutionary stature in any future estate. If we have failed to take advantage of opportunities afforded in one life, or have offended against its natural laws, we shall inevitably encounter less favorable conditions in the following existence. Our return may be to similar or to varying circumstances, again in human life. But however placed, we shall not be in an inferior milieu. For the great plan of evolution is not backwards, but forwards.
As the cycles proceed, we shall undoubtedly find worlds so differing from the one we now occupy, that it is impossible to conceive their appearance, structure, or composition, or even the likeness we ourselves shall assume in them. Perhaps on planets and stars, identities invisible to our astronauts may be maintaining systems under conditions our human eyes and senses fail to perceive. And could it be that even in the atmosphere, here, at this moment, tenuous presences are following in their own orbit a program peculiar to their kind, although we remain as unaware of them as they are of us and our region?
This is not too fantastic a supposition, is it? I cannot defend it from a scholarly advantage, for I am only an amateur student of the universe. But, if true, we must believe that all these manifestations, whatsoever their form or aspect, and in whatsoever area, are units of the Creator's family, and are therefore vitally of the Creator's concern, as are we in our familiar world.
No dismay attaches to the thought of past lives. Why, then, should we fear the ones to come? As we observe the colossal plan of the cosmos, and the guidance of the beneficent Mind that controls the luminaries on high, yet bends to accord the smallest insect its place in the balance of the universe (as scientists tell us), should we not be persuaded that the same Mind attends us in every phase of our sojourn on the eternal Way?
The stars have risen, for I have tarried long. They move in ordered procession across the heavens, chanting the celestial music of the spheres to creation's unfathomed farnesses. In the beatific light that shines upon earth, I turn homeward, confident, serene.
1. Sunrise, December 1968. (return to text)