STUDY OF INFINITY.
HOW MEN HAVE ATTEMPTED TO GAIN KNOWLEDGE OF THE INFINITE.
Fallacy of Special Revelation.
All Sorts of Gods—Grotesque Ideas of the Deity—Gods Made to Order—Truth has a Constant Warfare—Hell Fire Cooling Off—The True Book of the Infinite—Pages of Living Light—The Grand Divine Revelation—The Right Book to Study—The Rock of Wisdom.
Upward through the ages from time immemorial men have sought to know of the mysterious being who has been called by the name of God, Allah, Ra, Ammon, Osiris, Tao, Juggernaut, Odin, Helios and a host of other names that I cannot recall. There is a law that seems well-nigh universal, that when a demand exists in the minds of men for anything, some one or something will arrive to fill the want. The article furnished to satisfy the demand is generally the best that can be furnished at the stage of development to which the world or the nation has arrived at the time. To draw a material analogy, take window-panes. Light was needed in dwellings in former times as much as it is now; but the best articles that were available were the semi-opaque skins of certain animals or the thin membraneous portion of certain internal organs of those animals. Oiled paper was used and oiled silk, with more or less success, up to the time when glass came into use and furnished just the article needed. One having close texture, hard surface and other good qualities, combined with the useful property of being nearly transparent. The man would be thought crazy now who would fit up his windows with the best article procurable by kings and emperors a few hundred years ago.
It has been exactly the same with the demand for knowledge of the Creator. It must be satisfied, and, therefore, certain persons in all ages and in all countries have come to the front and invented and furnished the best knowledge procurable at the time. I say “invented,” because everything goes to prove that the Gods of all nations have been invented either by accident or design, just as window-glass and its forerunners were invented. Some, and in fact nearly all, conceptions of the Deity have been a steady growth by successive additions and inventions, just as the modern self-binding reaper has been developed from the humble “Cradle” or still lower “sickle” of our grandfather’s days.
Whereas men have, as a rule, been ready to accept the more enlightened improvements of material things, there has always been a strange tendency of mankind to refuse the improvements upon anything that interested parties have labeled “holy” or “sacred.” These trade-marks have always been a better protection to creeds and inventions of men than the word “patented” is upon a machine.
Presuming upon this peculiar phrase of human character, the most grotesque, unreasonable, unproveable and incomprehensible Gods have been foisted upon the credulity of men. Wooden gods; duck-headed gods; three-headed gods; one-eyed gods; angry gods; jealous gods; murderous gods; war-like gods; peaceful gods; double gods; triple gods and a host of others which are far too numerous to mention.
Each nation has seemed to endeavor to outdo all others, by incorporating into their conception of the Deity all, or nearly all, the grotesque ideas of preceding religions, and then adding to the sum total any particular quality that they could originate with credit to their conception, or with a view to making their God more acceptable to the people. A god once set up in business, the next thing needed was a full and accurate account of how he made this world and the heavens and “all the parts of them.” Here was a good chance for monks, priests, writers and what not, to indulge their fancy to the utmost, and we have had the most foolish, utterly false and incredible statements promulgated as gospel truth that ever could emanate from the brains of men perfectly ignorant of nature and the underlying laws of the universe.
Every scientific truth that has been discovered by the patient and unselfish delvers into the secrets of nature, has had to fight its way step by step against the swift current of public opinion and belief engendered by the ignorant teachings of former ages. The very men who would not think of using the tools or inventions of their grandfathers’ days, are contented to accept the god, heaven, purgatory, hell and devils of two thousand years ago.
It is very true, though, that the preachers and teachers of this rubbish do their utmost to improve upon these crude notions and conceptions of former ages, but they are so bound down by their creeds, holy books and opinions of those formerly in authority, that the work goes on but slowly. Still they are evoluting more rapidly now than at any other period of the world’s history. Within my recollection the church doctrines have changed wonderfully. I have heard ministers of the gospel stand up in the pulpit and preach the most lurid hell-fire-and-brimstone sermons imaginable, winding up with a glowing picture of your friends and relations who had “sinned away the day of grace,” roasting in that immeasurable gulf of fire, in view of the “redeemed ones” looking over the battlements of heaven. The preacher who would dare preach such doctrines now would either find his church deserted, or he would get a polite hint that he was too much of a way-back to suit the tastes of that congregation. But it is all in their creeds yet.
They ignore it, but it is there.
The same old stories of the creation are in the bible, but they smooth them over and try to explain them away.
Now, my friends, as I have at some length exhibited the fallacies of the past regarding this great subject, it is only right that I should tell you where to look and what book to study in order to gain correct knowledge of the infinite God whom most men concede the existence of.
I consider it useless to advise you to place confidence in any so-called “Divine revelation,” said to have been given to any man or set of men in past times, for the reason that each and every revelation purporting to have come direct from the Almighty hand, from our earliest records up to that of Brigham Young, have contained such gross errors regarding well known scientific facts, as to forever place them outside the pale of belief of thinking and intelligent persons.
The question now arises: How has God revealed himself to us, and how can we find Him and know of Him?
Friends, He has written a book, a grand and beautiful book. It is bound in the blue of ethereal space, and is illuminated with hundreds of millions of sparkling suns that trace in letters of living light the story of creation. Some chapters of this wondrous book are made up of thousands of rocky leaves, where we may read the history of how this old earth was made and the history of nations of denizens that have succeeded each other on its surface. The illustrations in this geological chapter are the most trustworthy pictures we could possess, being the actual bodies of these ancient beings preserved and incased in living rock.
Some chapters must be read with the aid of the microscope, others with the telescope and spectroscope; but read as we may and study as we may, we find an endless and infinite fund of knowledge, fresh to our hands, shining on every page with glittering lines of fact and truth. We need never fear that we will exhaust this book; it is infinite.
We may not always translate the mystic pages of this wonderful book correctly, from lack of knowledge and understanding of its language and hidden meaning.
But the book is not in fault. On re-reading it, we see beauty, order and harmony where we failed to see them before, and we can correct our former errors. Therefore, I charge you, brethren, as true and worthy mystics, to study well this great and grand book of real Divine Revelation. Pry into its hidden mysteries, its inmost secrets.
Penetrate behind the veil that hides the temple of the Unknown from the eyes of the profane. Possess yourself of the golden key that unlocks the Mystic Temple of Light.
Persevere in this; you will never regret it, and you will have the supreme satisfaction of knowing that you have not founded your faith upon the treacherous quicksands of man-made theories, but have builded it upon the solid rock of Divine and Infinite Wisdom.
(This lecture is found in Part I, Lecture XIII in Olney H. Richmond’s second book, Temple Lectures of the Order of the Magi, also known as Religion of the Stars.)