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Thoughts of the Spiritual



"Jesus said unto them—Verily, verily I say unto you—
 Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man,
 and drink His blood, ye have not life in you.
 Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath life aeonial,
 and I will advance him at the last day."—John 6: 53, 54.

This utterance of our Saviour Christ, although it presents no difficulty to those who have grasped the truth concerning the communication to us of powers and influences from the World of Spirit, presents many difficulties to those who have not grasped that truth. The Jews to whom the words were spoken, interpreted them in a material sense, and said—"How can this man give us His flesh to eat?"

Many of the truth-seekers who had hitherto been looking to Jesus as an Expounder of truth, lost their newly-acquired confidence in Him, and exclaimed—"This is an hard saying; who can hear it?"

So perplexing and so apparently irrational was the Master's utterance to minds not spiritually attuned, that even some of His disciples " went back, and walked no more with Him." And yet had men but kept their ears open, and listened to what He said in another part of the same discourse, the difficulties would have disappeared. These words of the Saviour have not been understood in later times. Men have wrangled and squabbled over them all down the centuries. Those who thought they meant one thing, have banned and excommunicated, persecuted and hounded to death, those who thought otherwise.

"The Christ taught Transubstantiation"—says the Romanist.

"No such thing!" rejoins the Lutheran—"the truth lies in Consubstantiation."

"Both of you are wrong," interposes the Anglican,—"The doctrine of the 'Real Presence' is what He meant."

And all the while, the great Christian world has failed to realize a grand Spiritual fact, because it has been mystified and bewildered by the controversies of the Schools. May it be that we, who are living in the light of a renewed revelation of Spiritual realities as vouchsafed to this age, may, perhaps, be better able, than were some in the past, to grasp the import of the Master's words?

He was speaking about His Impartation to men of the higher spirit-life. Shall we consider the subject under two aspects? viz.—The character of that life; and Christ's impartation of it to us.

I. The character of higher spirit-life.

That which differentiates the old idea of spirit-life, or experience, from the idea that is now gaining acceptance, is, that variety, rather than uniformity, characterizes it. The old-fashioned notion was that human souls must be grouped in one of two classes, and that, after death, they would find themselves in one of two places, or conditions. Men and women, it was supposed, are either good or bad, and after this life, proceed straightway to heaven or hell. It was imagined that the life and experience of every good person who went to heaven would be exactly that of all the other good ones who go there; while the life and experience of every bad person who was consigned to hell, would be the counterpart of the lot of all the lost ones. It never seemed to strike the supporters of this doctrine that it is impossible to draw a dividing line between those whom we label "good" and "bad"; that between these two classes lie an infinite number of characters who are neither good enough for heaven, nor bad enough for hell.

That old idea alluded to is fast losing currency, and we are beginning to realize that there are as many phases, degrees and varieties of life Spiritual as there are of life physical.

There is physical life in the protoplasm and the protophyte, but it is lower in degree than the life in the fish and the flowering plant. Again, there is physical life in the highly-organized animal and man, but it is in more developed form than the life of those physical organisms that range between man and the fishes and the plants.

There is the correspondence to this on the Spiritual plane. We believe, in regard to human souls, that there are many degrees of spirit-life. There are souls, incarnate and discarnate, whose life is analogous to the life in the protoplasm or the protophyte. It is of a low order; it possesses potentialities; but it is unevolved.

They are the ones whose horizon of thought and desire, in this world, is bounded by the Physical; the ones who, when they pass into the SpiritWorld, find themselves in a condition of spiritual non-development, because in the earth-life the spiritual side of them had not been cultivated. They are in non-adjustment with their environment there.

Again, there are men and women, both here and Beyond, whose spirit-life has reached a certain stage of advancement; whose spirit-powers, although not fully energizing, are exhibiting the signs of expanding life. A mysterious, quickening touch from the Divine has been received; they have been "born born from a source above" (from a source above), as Jesus expressed it to Nicodemus; and that touch is the precursor of higher spirit-life.

Further, there are many in earth-life and on the Other Side, whose spirit-life has reached the point of high development; whose interior senses have been opened; to whom God and spiritual things are intense realities; who "live and move and have their being" on the highest plane of experience.

So then, it is possible for human souls to possess spirit-life in an infinite number of degrees; from the life which characterizes the unevolved spirit, to that which constitutes the condition of an advanced and developed spirit. The spirit-life of a poor, unlettered savage who passes Beyond the Veil, after an earthly experience not much higher than that of the animal, is a life which is infinitely removed from the spirit-life of a St. John or a St. Paul; but still in both cases there is life; in the one case, latent and unevolved; in the other, developed and perfected. Now, in the words of the Saviour which we are considering, He refers to the impartation from Himself of a particular kind of life. "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have not life in you." He must have referred to spirit-life of some sort, and not to physical life; otherwise it would not be true of millions who have not as yet received the imparted life of Jesus, that they "have not life" in them. Men and women are physically living, between whom and the Christ no spiritual contact has been established.

"Ye have not life in you," He said. Did He imply that there was no spirit-life of any kind or degree in a human soul apart from this eating and drinking of Himself? Did He, e. g., mean that those souls of men, who had lived on earth before any knowledge of Him and of His relationship to the human race had been vouchsafed, had no spirit-life in them; although many of them had been groping in the dark for God, and intensely longing for spiritual things? We cannot believe He meant this. He, the "Son of Man," knew that in every human spirit there were existing spiritual powers and forces which might, when evolved and perfected, answer to that spirit-life that throbbed in himself. Every human soul, He knew, was "the offspring" of the One great Spirit whom He called "Father." In every soul are latent potentialities; for every soul are infinite possibilities. His mission, His power, was not to infix into man's constitution a set of spiritual capacities which had not been created before; not to remodel a physical being into a spiritual being; but to take the spirit-life that had already been implanted in the soul (because the spirit is an effluence from God), and to give it that further quickening and moving touch from His own developed and Divine spiritual Being, that should cause that spirit-life to grow, expand and mature into fuller and grander energy. In other words, the Lord Jesus recognized that there is latent spirit-life in every human soul: His work was to evolve that life, and to constitute it a developed life. Thus He said—"I came in order that they might hold life, and hold it in overflowing abundance" (overflowing abundance) (John I0: I0).

The life of which our Lord was speaking, viz., that which accrues from the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood, is this developed life of the spirit. He calls it the "aeonial" life. "He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath life aeonial." As the Son of God, that spirit-life, in its fullest development, resides in Him. As the Son of Man, He is in vital relationship with a race of beings which has been so Divinely constituted as to be able to develop, through Him, this fullest spirit-life. "I am that Life," said Jesus. "Come unto Me; you must draw your highest possibilities of spiritual being from Me. Ye shall be perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Would you adjust yourself to that Eternal Law which is working in every department of God's mighty universe—the law of Evolution—the law that from low types of life higher types are brought forth? I," says the Christ, "am the Power by which potentialities may become actualities. I am that quickening, onward-moving Influence that shall enable you to reach the goal of your spirit-being. You can only fully live when you are in adjustment with your environment. You are a spirit, like the God who made you. Your environment is spiritual. Would you answer to the purpose of your being? 'He that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me.' "

We noted just now that our Lord described this developed form of spirit-life as the "aeonial" life. What are we to understand by the adjective?

The word aionios (aionios) is a derivative from the Greek word aion (aion). An aion (or aeon) denotes an age, or a dispensation; and aionios (aeonial) is that which pertains to, or characterizes an aeon.

Now, St. Paul, in that wonderful Epistle to the Ephesians (the faulty translation of which has caused so many to miss great truths expressed therein), speaks of a great saving purpose of God which is to be worked out in a succession of aeons, or ages. In Ephesians 3:11 he calls it the "Purpose of the aeons." That is to say, that God, instead of saving souls only during a little period fixed for Him by some of the theologians, will go on doing so during vast epochs of duration, until His saving Purpose shall have been absolutely accomplished. Projecting his Divinely-illuminated mind into the far future, the Apostle foresees a time when a glorious, consummating aeon shall dawn; when "the restitution of all things" shall be effected, and God shall be "all in all" (all things in all beings—all things in all beings).

All the other aeons through which the saving Purpose of God worked will have passed—the earth-aeon, the duration of human life on the terrestrial plane; the aeons of judgment, disciplining, spiritual death and so on—all will have passed away with "the former things," and the great crowning aeon will have come. St. Paul describes that aeon as "The Aeon of the aeons " (Eph. 3:2I).

That will be the aeon from which a special glory will accrue to God. It will mark the complete achievement of God's "Purpose of the aeons"; it will celebrate the final abolition of evil; the silencing of the last discordant and jarring notes in a Universe of Order, and will usher in that "one far-off Divine Event, to which the whole creation moves."

The life of that Consummating Aeon will be a glorious life—glorious, because a life imparted to every soul by the glorious "Saviour of all men"; a life whose characteristic will be the development of every spiritual faculty and power, and the concordant throb of the spirit and mind of man with the Spirit and Mind of the All-Father.

It was to the spirit-life as thus developed—as it must be before the life of "the Aeon" can be lived— that Jesus referred, when He said—"Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath life aeonial, and I will advance him at the last day." That "advance" from life-aeonial means to the human spirit that final anastasis—that greatest of all goings forward,—the soul's coronation with immortality.

One other point in respect to the spirit-life and power imparted by Jesus demands our notice. He said—"Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath life-aeonial." The verb is in the present. The passage might be rendered correctly—"Is now holding, or possessing, life-aeonial."

That suggests two great truths, (a) Life aeonial is a condition, a disposition, an adjustment of our spirit, rather than a place, (b) It is a principle which can be energizing in a person now. Our soul may now be containing that very life which will characterize the life of God's great "Aeon of the aeons."

In other words, you and I may draw, at the present time, from the Great Spirit-life Imparter, that which will constitute our life of the aeon.

The essential character of the life will be exactly the same. It is a Christ-life, and He and the spirit-life that streams from Him are "the same, yesterday and to-day, and all through the aeons" (Heb. 12: 8). Under more favorable circumstances, with different surroundings, and with the removal of physical impediments, that aeonial life, imparted by Jesus, will, in the Hereafter, be able to better manifest itself than it can now.

The quickened infant spirit is alive and energizing in the womb of the physical. When it emerges from that womb to a sphere of fuller experience and greater possibilities, it carries the same life with it. Christ's imparted gift of aeonial life to us makes us able to realize our relationship with God, and to live in communion with Him now. Our life in the Aeon will only mean that the sense of relationship and the fact of communion will have then become intenser realities to us.

The aeonial life imparted to the spirit on earth will but put forth its best developments in that aeon-time of the future. The Christ in us now, "the hope of glory," will be the Christ in us then. The life imparted by Him of old, will be but the same life magnificently expanded and perfected. The stream of living water, so full and majestic as it merges into the Ocean of Eternity, will be the same stream that flowed for a while through the narrower channels of Time. These thoughts naturally lead us to the second point of our subject.

II. Christ's impartation of this higher spirit-life.

In what sense do we draw from the Divine Son of Man this aeonial-life principle into our spirit? There are thousands of sincere Christians, who would find it very difficult to define their idea of how a spirit-power is imparted by Christ and received by us. Many make the mistake of confounding the faith in themselves with the life-power that flows from the Saviour. A man supposes that because he accepts certain authorized doctrines concerning our Lord, he has faith; and because he has faith, there has been imparted to him a spirit-life from the Master. But this by no means follows. One may intellectually, or non-intellectually, subscribe to any number of doctrines, and still not be in touch with Jesus in such a way as to make his mind and spirit receptive of the spiritual impartations of Him.

If that be the case, all that such an one believes does not amount to faith. Faith is the adjustment of one's mind and spirit in regard to a Person, in contradistinction to any mere acceptance of statements made concerning that Person. "Faith" denotes trust in, reliance upon; and it presupposes an object in respect to whom there is a certain disposition of the mind and will. It is very noteworthy that our Lord always focused the thoughts of His hearers on His own Personality. Men's failure in obtaining aeonial life, He asserted, did not result from their non-acceptance of doctrines, but from their non-contact with Him. "Ye do not will to come unto Me, that ye might hold life," He said.

The first Article of the Apostles' Creed also emphasizes the importance of distinguishing between the mere holding of certain ideas about God, and the functioning of our spirit, through the mind and will, toward Him.

The clause should be—"I believe into God"; i.e., my faith not only establishes a set of notions in my mind concerning God, but projects my spirit into Him in such a way that I trust in, and rely upon Him.

Then again, even in the case of those who really believe into Christ, there is a disposition sometimes to look more to the faith than to the Personal Christ, for the soul-life that is desired.

Faith is sometimes (unconsciously, no doubt), set up in the stead of Jesus. A person supposes that his spirit-life will grow because of his faith, rather than because of a direct power communicated from the Person of the Saviour. "He shall live by Me" said Jesus; (He shall live by Me) the preposition is followed by an accusative, and not by a genitive; i.e., "He shall live by Me, not merely as an instrumental means through whom, as a channel, life is conveyed to him; but by Me as the Fountain-head, the Source, of his communicated life-power."

If the context of this particular passage be looked at John 6: 57), it will be seen what a tremendous truth our Lord was teaching. Speaking of the necessity of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, He said—"In like manner as the Living Father hath sent Me, and I live because of the Father; so he that eateth Me, even that one shall live because of Me."

No words than these could more plainly declare that the aeonial spirit-life which can exist in a human soul is a power drawn directly from the Person of the Christ.

What are we to understand, then, by the Master's words—"Eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood "? We are aware, of course, that hundreds of thousands of earnest Christians regard this utterance of Christ as applying only to the Holy Communion. " Christ," say they, "took bread, and said—'Take, eat; this is My body,' and took the Cup, and said, 'Drink ye all of this; for this is My blood.' From that (say they) it is perfectly plain that the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood to which He previously referred, was an eating and drinking connected with this Sacrament ordained by Him." We fully admit that in the act of Holy Communion there can be that which the Master described as an eating of Him and a drinking of His blood; but we do not think that the eating and drinking of the Consecrated Elements, with whatsoever amount of faith and devotion, constitute the eating and drinking to which He was referring.

The physical acts of eating and drinking are representative of a spiritual reception, and absorption and assimilation; but they do not constitute in themselves that which they represent. It is admitted by our Church of England that a person may receive the Consecrated Elements without partaking of the Body and Blood of our Lord; and it is also admitted in a rubric at the end of the service for "The Communion of the Sick," that one may "eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ profitably to his soul's health, although he do not receive the Sacrament with his mouth."

So then, the eating and drinking of which Jesus spoke, while it may accompany the physical eating and drinking which He appointed in Holy Communion, is quite distinct from the latter. Holy Communion is a representation of that other eating and drinking, and a means whereby it may be done; but it is not to be confounded with it. The one is a physical reception and absorption; the other is a spiritual reception and absorption. Christ Himself said that these words spoken by Him "are spirit, and are life''; and thereby He gave us the clue to His meaning. The eating and drinking are acts of the spirit, and not of the flesh which "profiteth nothing." "The spirit," said He, "is that which is life-making" (life-making) (John 6: 63). What did our Lord mean by the term—"His flesh," and "His blood"?

Well, He certainly did not mean the Flesh and Blood which composed His physical Body, present in that synagogue of Capernaum, where He was giving the discourse we are considering. Directly He perceived that His words were not understood, and that a materialistic construction had been placed upon them. He made a statement which negatived the idea that He was speaking of physical flesh and blood. "Doth this offend you? What if ye should behold the Son of Man ascending where He was before!" As if He had said—"My departure from you and ascension to higher life, will be the proof to you that I am thinking of no eating of physical flesh and drinking of physical blood. I shall carry no physical body with Me into My risen-life— 'Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.' I have told you that there can be no impartation of aeonial life apart from the eating of My flesh and the drinking of My blood. The eating and drinking of these temporary Constituents of My Being will be impossible to you, when in risen-life the physical will have been transmuted into the spiritual. Can you not understand that I am trying, in earthly language, to convey to your mind a great spiritual fact? Can you not grasp that fact, when I tell you that it centres itself in Me, in a Living Personality, who will shortly be a non-physical Jesus?"

Our Lord Himself defined what He meant by His "Flesh." He meant Himself, His Person. That is quite clear, because when He reiterated His statement about the eating, He substituted for the word "flesh" the word "Me"—"He that eateth Me." That Christ, in His essential being, was not physical but spiritual. The Christ Himself was a Spirit, as we, in our essential being, are spirits. True, He wore for a while the garb of the physical, as we are wearing it; but both when tabernacled in a physical Body and out of it, the Christ was a Spirit. To eat Him, therefore, meant an eating of the spiritual.

We get, then, to this point. Our Saviour Christ taught that there must be an eating of His spiritual Self. We advance another stage. What did He mean by drinking His blood?

Very little difficulty presents itself in regard to the word "blood"; because throughout the Bible, and in accordance with Jewish usage, the word " blood" is the equivalent of "life"—e.g., "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat" (Gen. 9:4).

Christians who do not take this fact into consideration, and treat Eastern figures of speech as if they were Western literalities, fall into all sorts of crude notions concerning Gospel truth. "The blood of Jesus Christ," they say, "cleanses from all sin and saves souls." Quite so. That is a glorious fact. But ask them what they understand by "the Blood," and they will answer— "That physical Blood which was drawn by brutal hands from the scourged and crucified Jesus." They suppose that in some mysterious way this physical Blood effects a spiritual cleansing and perfecting. We, on the other hand, say—"No; like the Jews of old, you are regarding great truths, set forth in Eastern hyperbole, in too literal and materialistic a fashion. The 'blood' is the ' life.' The souls of sinners are cleansed and saved into perfection and immortality, not by any blood shed from a physical Body which was used for a while by the Spirit-Son of God; but by an imparted life that streams from His glorious, ascended, spiritual Self."

We gather then, that when our Lord spoke of a drinking of His blood, He meant a drinking of a great life-power and influence that streams from Himself.

It remains for us to consider what was meant by the Master in those terms—"eating" and "drinking."

If, as we have seen, the words "flesh and blood" must not be interpreted in a physical sense, then, manifestly, the words "eating and drinking" must also not be so treated. If, by Christ's statement—"The words that I speak unto you are spirit and are life"—He imported a spiritual significance into the former words. He did the same thing in regard to the latter.

In respect to the spirit of man, there is that which corresponds to the act of physical eating and drinking. What is it the physical part of us does when we eat and drink? We receive, we absorb, we assimilate, that which is imparted. We incorporate it with our physical organization, and it becomes a living part of that organization.

That was the idea, we think, that Jesus had in His mind when He spoke about eating His spiritual Self and drinking in the life that flows from that Self. He was but expressing, in homely language, a mighty spiritual fact. He was but telling men, through the medium of analogy, that a great spiritual life-power, resident in Him, and imparted by Him, must be received, absorbed, and assimilated by the spirit of man, and must be so incorporated with his spiritual constitution as to become a living part of it—the cause of the aeonial life in the soul. In the light of this truth, how luminous become His words—"Abide in Me, and I in you," "Because I live, ye shall live also." "Ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you."

There remains one other point in connection with this subject, which we shall do well to remember. It arises out of the word "except." "Except," says Jesus, "ye eat and drink with your spirit this life-making Influence and Power that streams from My risen Manhood, ye have not aeonial life in you." No human soul will ever reach the goal of its destiny apart from Jesus, "the Life," the "Advancement," the perfecting Power of its being. Only by the Son of Man, by a spirit-life imparted by Him, can God's great saving "Purpose of the aeons" be accomplished, and the sons of men be made, in moral and spiritual likeness, the sons of God.

Is there aught that we must do, in order that our spirit may eat and drink of the Spiritual Jesus? Yes—there must be the disposing of the spirit to receive the imparted life-power from Him. With the percipient faculties of our spirit-self we shall see the Christ Behind the Veil; our thoughts will focus themselves on Him; our heart will want Him; our spirit will struggle to get into touch with Him; and through the telephone of Prayer the cry will be constantly reaching Him—"Mighty Lord of Life! impart Thine own inherent Power to me."

And the answer that will, assuredly, come to such a receptive soul will be—the giving of that water of higher spirit-life that shall be "a well of water springing up toward life aeonial."

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Other Books by Rev. Chambers:

"Man and the Spiritual World" (1903 UK Edition)
"Problems of the Spiritual" (1907 UK Edition)

Rev. Arthur Chambers Returns From "Death" To Speak Through The Zodiac Circle
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