To understand the underlying concepts in Gaelic's opening words on this subject, it is necessary to define briefly what he will later take up at length.
The Universal Consciousness, in the finite, is aware of itself, in its various aspects, through its creations. These are its awareness-mechanisms, its senses, so to speak. As it evolves these mechanisms, it becomes, through them, more and more aware of itself.
Each created thing, in the finite, is the manifestation or embodiment of a certain quality of consciousness peculiar to itself. The quality of treeness, evolved and differentiated in the Universal Consciousness, manifests objectively as the tree. The quality of dogness makes the dog and so on. Anything in nature is merely, in last analysis, as assemblage of protons, electrons and neutrons. The thing that assembled them in any particular form is the Idea of that form, or, as Gaelic terms it, the particular quality of consciousness, That is what Gaelic means in his use of the word 'quality.'
If that is clearly understood, we can proceed.
"Everything that is is life," he began abruptly. "From the moment that it emerges by juxtaposition from the theoretical 'void' in which dwell your mathematical 'points.' It is the manifestation of intention. That intention is naturally at first of almost inconceivable simplicity. Nevertheless, it is intention. And it is life. Then what you call external manifestation of that life is the material embodiment of the intention. The direction, or what Joan called the quality of the intention determines the form of life. What you know already, but must remind yourselves of, is that everything you see, touch or measure or can become cognizant of by any imaginable means is always the external manifestation, through life, of intention. There are no dead things.
"You have been told that rocks have life. It is literally true. And it must be literally true if what I have just said is so. Now let us remember for a moment that just for our present purposes we will consider, Joan's 'quality of consciousness' and 'intention' as much the same. The lower forms of animal life, as an example - insects or reptiles or fishes - touch individual existence as dust motes touch individual existence, eddying in and out of a sun ray. They flash for a greater or lesser period, and are obscured. They have gained nothing as motes during their brief life of illumination; they lose nothing as motes when they slip out into the shadow. But they have added, perhaps, some little bit of beauty in the eye of the one who has beheld; and so their very evanescence has fulfilled a purpose. In almost similar fashion the billions of ants and bees and humming life that swarms everywhere slips into and out of individual embodiment, adding, as Joan's philosophy has told you, not only to its own quality, enlarging its own intention, so to speak, but the tiny bit of experience it gains as an individual; but contributing to the experience and memory of those things and beings with which its little circumscribed, individual life may bring it in contact.
"Now at a certain point in the expression of this ant-intention, as one might say, there happen small, individual instances in which perhaps some one ant, in the tiniest, feeblest - one might almost say negligible - fashion, steps out, as it were, of the ant routine. He does this because his quality is exuberant with the gifts that all his kind for perhaps ages past have brought to it from their brief incursions into personality.
"Now that exuberance, that superfluity of quality," he went on, "reaching on tiptoes to its highest point, just touches the thing above that ant-quality; and from that touch, like electricity, a spark springs into existence, and another quality is born. And from that quality in turn come those brief flashes into material personality - each bringing his little gift of function fulfilled - until it, too, fills to the overflowing point. And so on up.
"Does that give you a little glimpse into Evolution?
"Very well. At a point in the upward progress there comes a time when the individual, leaving the sun ray, carries with him a little self-contained glow of his own. The glow is very faint and very simple. It does not represent a constituted individual, such as existed when the thing was what you call 'alive'; it may represent only one or two or three characteristics out of perhaps a hundred that made up the complete carnate thing - but those three, glowing in the darkness, call to themselves magnetically all the complimentary things they need. And when, in the quality of that particular thing, this little persistent glow has thus made itself a completed whole, it is born again into the world of personality - not as the same individual, exactly, but carrying within itself its own germ of immortality.
"So in that sense we may say individual immortality begins pretty far down in the scale.
"But you can see that the question of personal immortality, as distinguished from individual, is not quite answered. Nor can it be answered by saying it begins with, say, horses or dogs or canary birds or anything. Why? For the very simple reason that it is individual."
"We have at this point a glimpse of the small beginnings of an individual immortality - or perhaps continuity is better. That is, continuity of a separate thing. It is not necessarily personal. Certain incomplete but individual characteristics of that separate thing or being pass over into its Idea or Intention or Quality of the universal consciousness that makes it what it is. The particular separate things do not entirely dissolve back. They persist; and they attract to themselves all the other bits necessary to produce another complete being. These characteristics, then, have persisted in continuity.
"But there comes a time when these characteristics gain such strength and number that they go on as personal.
"You might say," said he, "that a soul is born."
"When and why does this happen?
"A soul is born when of his own volition the individual looks with love, not only outside of, but above him-self," we are told.
In that simple statement there are three elements; the free will element; the affectional element; the worshipful element. All three are necessary. When all three are present, continuity of a personal entity of some sort, for some duration, is predicated.
That implies that at least the embryonic soul has sometimes inception in animals lower than the human. This implication was not dodged.
"A wild animal's relationships," explained our Invisible, "in ties of affection or affectional interest, are primarily with his own species, and remotely - secondarily - with a few individuals of other species - sometimes. The wild dog's relationships are of that type. But in the case of the domesticated dog, he has interchange, not merely of physical needs and the subtle dependencies attendant on physical needs, but little by little, from his juxtaposition with man, he enters into such realities as loyalty, unselfish love, and at times even into the highest sacrifice.
"There is a point, in degree, when the development of the spiritual realities so strengthen the dog's entity that he has that included spiritual cohesion that will endure. I shall not attempt even to indicate the precise point. Not all, nor indeed many, domestic dogs acquire from their human contacts more than an accelerated opportunity for the development of gifts for their quality. Only in the case of a few does the process go so far as to fix the possibility of an enduring thing. At times you almost recognize this fact - when you say that a certain dog is 'almost human.'
"Now it is a fact, or a law, that while an individual dog, and a fairly complete individual dog, can be born again materially as a dog, with the addition of his lacking characteristics drawn from his quality, a 'personal dog' will not be born again as a dog.
"A new soul must be born from the quality above its own."
This was not entirely clear in all its implications, though the main point was plain enough.
"What," asked our Invisible, "has any entity to look up to with this magic relationship, which has the power to confer this great gift? On the material plane man alone can stand in this relationship.
"I am not quite sure of that. There may be exceptions to what seems to me a rule. But that is the case in anyway a vast majority of cases.
"I think the reason is because man himself most consistently looks upwards and receives from above. Haven't you noticed how universal and how strong is mankind's instinct for making pets, or domesticating? On the surface it seems like a play-instinct - a frill - something not serious - aside from serious life. As a matter of fact, it is extremely deep-seated; and lacking more promising material men have been known to expend infinite pains in the taming of spiders or crickets or other such things. It is the calling-out instinct; through it they evoke the very thing they bestow. Its base is the same base that you will find when you dig deep enough into any aspect of any subject anybody anywhere can propound - from communication to creation - SYMPATHY. If you dig deep enough you strike rock every time.
"Now you have thought that when a soul was born, free will was born; that they were contemporaneous, so to speak. That is not quite so. You cannot doubt that when an ant comes head on to a pebble he has the choice and the privilege of turning to right or left. That is certainly free will. But the more simple, the lower down the scale the organism is, the more circumscribed is the uncrossable circumference within which his free will works. Growth is the expansion of that circle. That is all. And the moment of the soul's birth so expands that circle that includes a knowledge and a choice of right and wrong, good and evil; together with a perception - at first very faint, and at best dim and wavering - of the difference between going in harmony and the dour despairful struggle against the rush of life. That is the real free will. And that is the gift that at the birth of the soul the Fairy Godmother bestows - as a weapon by which its progress may be won, or a black curse by which its very existence may be destroyed.
"Heretofore the ordering of the climb has been in the hands of nature. Hence forward it must be man's own.
"The soul is a feeble thing at first; it must be fostered and cherished - or it might expire. The abundance of its own quality swaddles it about, guarding and warding it until it has gained its strength to grasp. Then, justly, it demands that the soul, in turn, by its efforts, gain its own abundance, that it may return to its quality manifold what it has received; in order that those souls yet unborn, or feebly struggling in the first stirrings of life, may in their turn have abundance from which to draw. And if he fail, he might be destroyed utterly. And he would be destroyed utterly were it not for others, both in his own quality and in ours, to make up his deficiencies."