. Ultimately “the Lower Self is swallowed up” – that is to say it becomes one with the Higher Self, whilst the “brutish nature is judged in Hell and consumed”.
This reveals to us the true role of Hell. It is not there to punish wrongdoers, but rather to consume the “brutish nature” that they have accrued. The “brutish nature” is in effect the accumulated evil of its past wickednesses, but let us explain in a little more detail.
A spirit only finds itself in Hell because it has predominantly done evil deeds rather than good. As a result, once it has cast aside its Physical and Astral Bodies and starts to function in its Spirit Form alone that Form is composed largely of darkness, rather than of light. Hence it falls into the Realms of Darkness, which we on earth call Hell.
Still, however, there remains within it the Divine Spark, buried indeed, beneath many layers of sin, but itself as pure as ever. In Hell, as the sinner is gradually brought to repent of his sin, this form of spiritual darkness is consumed, leaving the Divine Spark, clothed only in whatever small amount of goodness it may have still left to itself. This, however, is enough to enabled him to rise up out of Hell, and eventually leave it behind.
All that is left of his spirit form is the little good that he has done, but this then becomes the nucleus around which his new spirit form of light can grow, and grow it does, for as we are told, “that which remains is nourished in the spirit planes”. Thus, purged of evil by its sufferings in Hell, and nourished once more by the Divine Life Force, the soul is enabled to advance once more and eventually it is reborn on earth.
Verses 4 & 5 then consider how the primitive spirit would have fallen into such a state, and the reason is quite clear. He has been “speeding away alone after passions and power.” In other words, instead of doing good deeds he has been “speeding away alone” or as we might say, separating himself from God and he has been doing this basically because he has been seeking to satisfy his earthly passions and/or to increase his own worldly power, which in many cases are virtually the same thing
Such actions are literally a turning away from God, and here they are described “contending against the life-force of the Father”. Quite literally, when the Lower Self leads the spirit astray in such a way, it is swimming against the spiritual life force which the Father constantly pours forth upon all Creation, for this Divine Grace is designed to draw all His children life back to Him. Such actions lead to “ruin on the crooked path” as has already been considered.
Having considered what happens to the spirit of a bad man in Hell, verse 6 indicates that even here on earth this sort of evil feelings and actions can seriously corrupt the soul.
Interestingly we are told that they “assume its shape” or form, just as we know happens on the Spirit Plane. There, of course it is obvious, but because on earth it still has a physical body and its spirit form cannot be seen by most of its fellow humans this is not immediately apparent.
We are also told that they “cover it like a garment keeping it away from Heaven and the Divine Life Force.” In other words, because we have free-will, even God Himself cannot reach us if we resolutely turn our backs on Him and His Grace.
In verse 7 we are told that “This outer garment of pride leads to a desire for dominion over others”. Clearly this is the most basic desire of pride – and when pride is occupying such a dominant place in our minds we will always seek to advance ourselves at the expense of others. Thus pride also spawns selfishness as well as many other serious vices.
In an earlier place we noted that in primitive souls, pride can sometimes be a help in acquiring the most basic lessons of the Human state, but we also said that in older souls pride can be a deadly fault, and clearly this is what is illustrated here. By the time that a soul has reached the point of being able to choose between God and the world, pride, in any form, will always lead it to turn away from God. This is what has happened to the soul in this case.
Yet even the Lower Self is not irrevocably set in the ways of the world – certainly it is not evil, and it is the duty of the guide to try to save as many souls as possible from the results of their own folly. At times his efforts may not bear fruit, yet at others he may convert a sinner from the evil of his ways, so that like “a firebrand plucked out of the burning”(Amos 4; 11) he may be saved from the fate that threatens him. This, however, is only possible if the guide is alert to signs that the sinner may be ready to respond to his help and acts upon them.
Verse 8 refers to one such sign; it is the “The desire for Grace” and this is often demonstrated only in a half-joking way. However we should always be on the look-out for some small indication that an apparently worldly soul may be nearly ready to begin thinking about God.
The reference to the “nibbling of a mouse” is an interesting idiom, carried through from the Hebrew, and can perhaps be compared with the way that today we sometimes describe an uneasy conscience as being Itchy, Uneasy, Prickling or Nagging. The nibbling of a mouse is something that is so quiet that it may almost pass unheard, yet if not heeded the mouse will eventually gnaw its way through the wall and in some circumstances, may destroy some important support structure and thus bring down the whole house. Thus it is with the desire for grace. If this desire in a sinner is constantly fed by those who care for his spiritual well-being, it will grow, and remember that “the Lord of Grace hears even the cry of a mouse”. Thus we can see that even the least desire for Grace allows at least some Grace to be sent, and that often produces a desire for more, so that, with a little help, even the worst the sinner can be saved if only he can be led to desire it.
God, however, is not limited to helping souls on earth. He is equally responsive “even to the scream of anguish from Hell”, and the mere fact that a soul in Hell is suffering, may well become the means of leading it to turn again to God.
The resulting process of repentance and recovery may take a long time, but the ultimate result, as we are told, in verse 10 is that “God’s goodness heals them all”.
God will not force us to do good things, for He has given us each Free Will, but whether we be in Hell or still on earth He will seek “Seek after those who repent, granting them the waters of life and goodness”, but note that He can only do so when we repent.
As long as we remain fixed in our opposition to God, He will not force us to do well but as soon as we begin to repent He is only too willing to help us to change. The result of such help is often dramatic, for giving to the sinner “the water of life and goodness” produces “children of God”.
This, of course can be taken metaphorically, but it is also significant that in the oldest parts of the Bible the phrase “Sons of God” is used to refer to Angels (Job 38; 7) and this passage indicates a knowledge that eventually the sinner will be transformed, not just into a Saint, but into one of the Angels of God.
One of the key differences between one who is pre-occupied with physical things and one who is more spiritual is that he lacks self-control. He allows the physical needs of his body and his bodily desires to dominate him, rather than subordinating them to the higher aspects of life. Therefore if we are to raise ourselves to the heights of the spirit we must learn to control the body so that it becomes our slave and not our master, for as a slave, it will serve us well, but as a master it becomes harsh and tyrannous, constantly demanding more and more effort to satisfy its every-increasing expectations.
In such circumstances, as we are told, the physical man “pursues evil till it becomes his abode”, for once having surrendered to the demands of the material world, its control over him steadily increases until it becomes almost unshakeable.
This is what Verse 13 means when it tells us that “He becomes fixed in evil as strongly as an oak tree is fixed in the ground”. Oaks are known for their strong roots and tough wood. Their branches may at times be damaged by major storms but it is only occasionally that the whole tree is uprooted, and even then it is usually only if the soil surrounding the roots has been softened or loosened beforehand. Alternatively the roots themselves may have been damaged in some way, so that they break off and though parts of the roots remain behind in the earth, the tree itself falls.
So it is with the man who is strongly rooted in physical desires – only a great storm that not only shakes his convictions but damages the physical circumstances surrounding him, is likely to separate him from those desires.
That does not mean however that he is satisfied by them – quite the contrary in fat, for “he has been distracted from his true purpose which is the pursuit of Righteousness.” We all realise that worldly pursuits do not bring true or lasting happiness, and that the pursuit of Righteousness can do so, but we may well ask what exactly this means?
Verse 15 gives us the answer; “Righteousness is the service of God: and it is His precious gift to mankind”. In other words it is the opportunity to comprehend God and to desire to serve Him by aiding his fellow mortals that distinguishes God’s relationship with mankind from His concern for lesser creatures. It is indeed a most precious gift, but it is one that is only given to His human children and among them only to those who have earned the right by being capable to receive it. For remember, the mere fact that we can understand and believe in God and recognise an opportunity to serve Him, is a state that has only been reached after many lives of struggle.
Therefore if we find ourselves with this opportunity, let us embrace it. God’s service is an ever-present duty, not merely a pious aspiration for the future and it is only when we cease following our own wishes and try to do what God wants that we can really achieve happiness. Once we realise this, and desire to serve Him, God will not fail to provide us with opportunities to do so. This is a key point, we either take the opportunity of working for Him when He offers it to us, or we reject it, and if we reject it once, it may be long before the offer is repeated. The exact nature of such an “offer of service” matters not. Undoubtedly it varied even in the times of Melchizedek, and certainly, today the service of God can take an enormous variety of forms.
However, whatever the form, the chance to serve God is a great gift that is not offered to all people, but only to those who have earned it. If such fail to accept the offer when it is given, that in effect is a direct turning-away from the “Path of Righteousness”. Physical Man may turn away, for God has given him Free Will, but if he does so to a major degree, it may be many lives before the opportunity of treading the Path is given to him again. However, if he “gathers it in and makes use of it” he may journey swiftly towards his goal. Not that the Physical Man will always turn from sinner to Saint in a single incarnation, but if he makes the most of each of the opportunities for service that are given to him, then more will come. And if he continues to make the most of these, the end of his journey will draw rapidly nearer.
This Physical man that we have been talking about is not just the physical body – it is the “Lower Self,” and although the Lower Self has a pre-occupation with the physical, the Lower Self is not limited to the physical Plane The demands of the physical world may still affect souls after death. On the Astral Plane, the materialist tends to try to recreate a physical world rather than adapting himself to life on that Plane. If he persists in this view then when the time comes for him to pass to the Spirit Plane, he will continue to do so thereon, dwelling among other non-believers in that division of Hell where materialists congregate
It is only when it has learned the lessons pertaining to the Law of Justice that the Lower Self can even begin to appreciate the Law of Love and it is only through its Higher Self that any Soul can come to work under that Higher Law
For even the worst sinner has done some good and although it may be utterly submerged in a far greater mass of evil, yet it cannot be destroyed, but remains clinging desperately to the Divine Spark and when that evil is stripped away in Hell, it remains ready to help the Spark begin again.
In Christian Literature, this Divine Life Force, is usually called Grace but this is rarely so in the Old Testament, although Proverbs 3; 34, “he giveth grace unto the lowly”, provides an exception.
For instance I have often been told “Father, if I were to come to Church the building would fall down”. Sometimes this means what it says, “I have no intention of ever coming to church”, but at other times it is begging to be contradicted, and even if one is unsure, one should always try to take up the challenge, for many people who have initially spoken like this, are indeed, in later life, “saved as a brand from the burning”.
How often does an apparently bad man conceal a terrible crime, perhaps a murder, for many years, but eventually his conscience “gets the better of him” and he tells someone about it. This may or may not result in his conviction, but it is done in an attempt to “ease his conscience”. Thus the “nibbling of a mouse” may eventually produce results, though often only after many years.