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The Four Laws of Spiritual Growth

by Edward Parkinson

The four laws of spiritual growth (love, light, growth, and justice) are laws in two senses: (1) they are injunctions which we are commanded to obey and (2) they are, like the Law of Gravity or the Second Law of Thermodynamics, descriptions of constant, ineluctable processes in the universe. All four are closely interrelated.

Let us consider each of the four in turn.

(1) Love: This, Our Lord says, is "the great commandment....thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets"(Matthew:22:36--40). Our Lord ranks love of God higher than love of neighbor, but St. John suggests that, at our stage of development, love of neighbor is what we ought most to be working on: "If any man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother, whom he seeth, how can he love God, whom he seeth not?"(1 John:4:20). In a similar vein, St. Paul says, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing"(1Corinthians:13:1--2). The most serious sins are sins against the Law of Love, and these sins are the most productive of bad karma. Those who think otherwise, Our Lord says, "are blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel"(Matthew:23:24).

But love also acts as an ultimately irresisible force in the universe. The same force that relentlessly pursued Francis Thompson and that he wrote about in "The Hound of Heaven" relentlessly pursues us all. Our selfishness is constantly challenged by a strong urge to love. This is a law which operates in the universe all the time. The First Outpouring--the Holy Spirit moving through Virgin Matter--has vitalized the universe and aggregated the primitive atoms of which everything is composed. The Second Outpouring--the Son descending to the depths of the vitalized Virgin Matter and then re-ascending--has generated the various beings of increasing complexity, including ourselves, with which the universe abounds. It has been attracted in love and "caught" by the Third Outpouring--the descent of God the Father--and this "catching" has led to our individuation, as the animal souls we previously had have become ensouled by the First Outpouring and have become monads. The mutual love between Father and Son, however, continues throughout the universe--and in the human kingdom in a special way, ever impelling us upward to perfect union with the Father.

(2) Growth: This upward movement on the part of the Son in all creation and the attracting force of the Father above is the basis of the Law of Growth. It too is a commandment for creatures who have attained individuation. To fail to grow not only in love but in knowledge and power is to thwart this powerful force and in so doing create distortions which must be corrected at our expense by the stern Law of Karma. The Jewish community may have created extremely negative group karma by opposing the "New Way" of Jesus, an evolutionary leap rooted in first-century Palestinian Judaism. First-century Palestinian Judaism was destined to transcend itself as the caterpillar becomes the butterfly, reaching out from the Jews to embrace the whole world. Opposition to this growth pattern may have generated karma which accounts for much of the suffering those people have endured for two millennia.

But the Law of Growth, like the Law of Love, is not only a commandment but an impersonal force which operates inexorably. It led from the earliest one-celled life forms to the complex animals capable of individualization as humans. It is rooted in the Son's inexorable ascent to the Father, so evolutionary progress in the long run cannot be thwarted.

While the most serious sins are sins against the Law of Love, many sins are not against the Law of Love primarily but against the Law of Growth. Bishop Leadbeater defines sin as "anything that is against the divine Will--that is, against the current of evolution." Bishop Leadbeater then makes clear that not all such counter-evolutionary actions spring exclusively or even primarily from lack of love: "Usually what is called sin arises from one of two things: either a man is ignorant and makes mistakes, or he is careless and selfish and not sufficiently attentive to the consequences of his acts. If a man really understood fully what he was doing when he sinned, he would not do it....The way to banish evil is to increase wisdom, as the Lord Buddha preached in India two thousand five hundred years ago"(78--79). Bishop Leadbeater admits that deliberate action against the Law of Love occurs in some cases, and this is certainly true. But those misguided but well-intentioned physicians who bled George Washington to death to cure a sore throat and misguided fundamentalist parents who abuse their children in the name of discipline are sinning through ignorance--but sinning nonetheless, as they are acting in ways which retard spiritual evolution. Such people sin against the Law of Growth when they hang onto their erroneous ideas in the face of challenge because of inertia. Failure to grow when the opportunity arises generates much bad karma.

(3) Light: According to the Law of Light, the Divine Life inherent in all the universe becomes progressively more manifest as the Son inexorably proceeds back to the Father; when the Omega point is reached, there will be no darkness of unrealized potentiality: in the New Jerusalem all will be Light: " And the city hath no need of the sun, nor of the moon, to shine in it. For the glory of God hath enlightened it, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof. And the nations shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates thereof shall not be shut by day: for there shall be no night there"(Revelation:1:23--26).It is easy to see that this Law is closely related to the Law of Growth and the Law of Love--indeed, it seems to be the same Law in another form, for the progressive manifestation of the Light Within is growth in love.

The Law of Light is also a commandment closely related to the Law of Love. For we are required to see this Light in ourselves, in all other human beings, and in the rest of creation. Calvinists sin against this Law of Light when they hold that certain people are predestined to eternal damnation. People who condone cruelty to animals also sin against the Law of Light. Religious fundamentalists often misunderstand the dominion over the non-human world given in Genesis:1:28. It is not a license to abuse and destroy, but rather a loving dominion of responsibility and service. It cannot be anything else because "...God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good"(Genesis:1:31). This means that they are manifestations of God, for all goodness is Divine Goodness. "Why callest thou me good?" says Jesus. "There is none good but one, that is, God"(Matthew:19:17). Jesus ben Sirach had said two centuries before," All the works of the Lord are good, and he will furnish evry work in due time. It is not to be said: 'This is worse than that: for all shall be well approved in their time'"(Ecclesiasticus:39:30--40). Those who fail to see the Divine Light in any part of the universe sin against the Law of Light; when this failure leads to cruelty toward sentient beings, they sin against the Law of Love and the Law of Justice. Humans are realizing this more today because of the Law of Growth. Those who fail to embrace this evolutionary expansion of consciousness--even if such obscurantists be inside the Vatican--sin against the Law of Growth. All such sinners shall be chastised and corrected under the Law of Karma, which is an aspect of the Law of Justice.

(4) Justice: The Law of Justice is a commandment: it requires that we not only act lovingly but distribute our love properly. We cannot love ourselves or some others in a disordered way, countenancing the unjust injury of others.

But the Law of Justice is also an inexorable force in the universe which corrects all imbalances which militate against spiritual evolution. It is under this form the Law of Karma. It punishes and rewards all in accordance with their acting or failing to act lovingly and justly with recognition of the universality of the Divine Light and in conformity with the evolutionary pressures of the Law of Growth. "Say not: I have sinned, and what hath befallen me? for the Lord bides His time"(Ecclesiasticus:5:5). "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap"Galatians:6:7).

Is brotherhood the most important aspect of these laws? It would seem so, given the primacy of the Law of Love; but such brotherhood must be inclusive of all humans and all non-human creation--otherwise it violates the Law of Light. Some terrorists and others are devoted to their cohorts in depredation and refer to them as brothers. Some communities are formed to separate some men from others. These violate the Law of Love and the Law of Light and the Law of Justice. The constant pressure of evolution inclines us to evermore expand our horizons, and, when we resist this pressure to cling to outmoded "brotherhood" in segregated communities, we sin against the Law of Growth. "The compassion of man is toward his neighbor: but the mercy of God is upon all flesh"(Ecclesiasticus:18:12). Let us accept the call to become less like man (the old Adam) and more like God, for Jesus says, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect"(Matthew:5:48).

Work Cited
Leadbeater, C.W. The Science of the Sacraments. London: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1929.