Life in the world of matter is an unavoidable phase in the progress of the individual, inasmuch as it provides the field for action. Action is the expression and therefore the focusing of the mental and emotional impressions (sanskaras) which impel the individual. As the individual acts, other motivating forces incompatible with that momentary effort are withheld.
Action is the paramount means through which the individual exercises discrimination in choice and adjustment between the many claims exerted upon his consciousness. Action also links a large number of individuals together through the innumerable karmic ties which have arisen out of past service and bondage. The material world offers the necessary environment for this interchange and interdependence.
On one hand these karmic ties trap the mind in a complex web. On the other hand they facilitate collective life with all its opportunities for exercise of love, sacrifice, service and mutual help. Through the negative lessons of hate and malice, as well as the positive lessons of love and service, the individual finds himself compelled to participate in collective effort. The mind's seeming isolation is continually invaded by the life-streams of other minds, ultimately enabling the individual to abandon entirely the illusion he had entertained of being separate. Thus he gradually comes to realize the unity of all life.
In spite of the suffering entailed, experience in the material world of action is thus not without compensating value. It constitutes a necessary phase in purifying the consciousness of the mind from all illusion in order that it may be transmuted into the consciousness of the soul.
One sees then that the material and spiritual worlds of lower and higher illusion play an irreplaceable role in the divine game, which has as its goal that man shall become consciously aware of his own divinity. The positive values derived from the divine sport in illusion cannot be harvested without simultaneous collection of the residual by-products of the coming-to-consciousness, termed "impressions" or "sanskaras".
A newly constructed building is not considered to be really completed until the debris of construction has been cleared away. Similarly the fully developed individual consciousness is not available for union with the Divine until these residual products have been cleaned away and there is left only the completely untrammeled, unitary nature of the individualized soul, now fully conscious of self. As discussed earlier, in the processes of both sleep and death the individual returns unconsciously and briefly to the beyond-beyond state of God. In it the soul achieves refreshment before it returns first to the subconscious state of ordinary dreams or the intense subconscious state of heaven or hell, and then to the ordinary conscious state of wakefulness or reincarnate life.
The individual cannot remain in the beyond-beyond state of God for long for very important reasons. The goal is to achieve the full awareness of consciousness, which is fully achieved when all of the residual impressions have been dispelled.
Full consciousness is achieved in the first human form, but remains captured, so to speak, by the residual impressions, which continue to exist regardless of the waking or sleep state of the individual mind. It is as if they continued to stand as the unpaid balance of the price of consciousness. It is due to the standing impressions or sanskaras that individual consciousness must return again and again from oblivion to square its account with illusion, in illusion.
However consciousness must eventually disengage itself from enmeshment in the material realm of action, for in the long run all activities of the worldly man are like the movements of someone on the surface of the ocean. He develops some knowledge of the ocean of life through those activities, but only as much as is obtainable through exploration on the surface of the ocean. The time inevitably comes when he wearies of surface-wanderings and makes up his mind to plunge into the depths of the ocean of life.
Thereupon he becomes deeply concerned with the riddles of "whither" and "whence", and this fact constitutes his spiritual birth, by which he is eventually ushered onto the path.
LISTEN, HUMANITY, pp. 153-155, ed Don E. Stevens
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