"Substance" means: "that which underlies all outward manifestations; the essence; the essential reality; the thing in itself", etc. "Substantial" means: "Actually existing; being the essential element; being real", etc. "Reality" means: "the state of being real; true, enduring; valid; fixed; permanent; actual", etc.
Under and behind all outward appearances or manifestations, there must always be a Substantial reality. This is the Law. Man considering the Universe, of which he is a unit, sees nothing but change in matter, forces, and mental states. He sees that nothing really IS, but that everything is BECOMING and CHANGING. Nothing stands still everything is being born, growing, dying. The very instant a thing reaches its height, it begins to decline; the law of rhythm is in constant operation; there is no enduring quality, fixity, or substantiality in anything; nothing is permanent but Change. He sees all things evolving from other things, and resolving into other things: a constant action and reaction; inflow and outflow; building up and tearing down; creation and destruction; birth, growth and death. Nothing endures but Change. And if he be a thinking man, he realises that all of these changing things must be but outward appearances or manifestations of some Underlying Power, some Substantial Reality.
All thinkers, in all lands and in all times, have assumed the necessity for postulating the existence of this Substantial Reality. All philosophies worthy of the name have been based upon this thought. Men have given to this Substantial Reality many names. Some have called it by the term of Deity (under many titles); others have called it "The Infinite and Eternal Energy"; others have tried to call it "Matter": but all have acknowledged its existence. It is self-evident; it needs no argument.
In these lessons we have followed the example of some of the world's greatest thinkers, both ancient and modern the Hermetic Masters and have called this Underlying Power, this Substantial Reality, by the Hermetic name of "THE ALL", which term we consider the most comprehensive of the many terms applied by Man to THAT which transcends names and terms.
We accept and teach the view of the great Hermetic thinkers of all times, as well as of those illumined souls who have reached the higher planes of being, both of whom assert that the inner nature of THE ALL is UNKNOWABLE. This must be so, for naught but THE ALL itself can comprehend its own nature and being.
The Hermetists believe and teach that THE ALL, "in itself", is and must ever be UNKNOWABLE. They regard all the theories, guesses and speculations of the theologians and metaphysicians regarding the inner nature of THE ALL as but the childish efforts of mortal minds to grasp the secret of the Infinite. Such efforts have always failed and will always fail, from the very nature of the task. One pursuing such inquiries travels around and around in the labyrinth of thought until he is lost to all sane reasoning, action, or conduct, and is utterly unfitted for the work of life. He is like the squirrel which frantically runs around and around the circling treadmill wheel of his cage, travelling constantly and yet reaching nowhere, ever a prisoner and remaining just where he started.
And still more presumptuous are those who attempt to ascribe to THE ALL the personality, qualities, properties, characteristics and attributes of themselves, ascribing to THE ALL the human emotions, feelings and characteristics, even down to the pettiest qualities of mankind such as jealousy, susceptibility to flattery and praise, desire for offerings and worship, and all the other survivals from the days of the childhood of the race. Such ideas are not worthy of grown men and women, and are rapidly being discarded.
(At this point it may be proper to state that we make a distinction between Religion and Theology between Philosophy and Metaphysics. Religion, to us, means that intuitional realisation of the existence of THE ALL, and one's relationship to it. Theology, on the other hand, means the attempts of men to ascribe personality, qualities, and characteristics to it; their theories regarding its affairs, will, desires, plans, and designs; and their assumption of the office of "middle-men" between THE ALL and the rest of the people. Philosophy, to us, means the inquiry after knowledge of things knowable and thinkable; while Metaphysics means the attempt to carry the enquiry over and beyond the boundaries into regions unknowable and unthinkable, and with the same tendency as that of Theology. And consequently, both Religion and Philosophy mean to us things having roots in Reality, while Theology and Metaphysics seem like broken reeds, rooted in the quicksands of ignorance, and affording naught but the most insecure support for the mind or soul of Man. We do not insist upon our students accepting these definitions we mention them merely to show our position. At any rate, you shall hear very little about Theology and Metaphysics in these lessons.)
But while the essential nature of THE ALL is Unknowable, there are certain truths connected with its existence which the human mind finds itself compelled to accept. And an examination of these reports forms a proper subject of inquiry, particularly as the reports agree with those of the Illumined on higher planes. And to this inquiry we now invite you.
"THAT which is the Fundamental Truth the Substantial Reality is beyond true naming, but the Wise Men call it THE ALL.
"In its Essence, THE ALL is UNKNOWABLE... But the report of Reason must be hospitably received and treated with respect" The Kybalion.
The human reason, whose reports we must accept so long as we think at all, informs us as follows regarding THE ALL, and that without attempting to remove the veil of the Unknowable:
THE ALL being Infinite, Absolute, eternal and Unchangeable, it must follow that anything finite, changeable, fleeting, and conditioned cannot be THE ALL. And as there is nothing outside of THE ALL, in Reality, then any and all such finite things must be as Nothing in Reality. Now do not become befogged or frightened: we are not trying to lead you into the Christian Science field under cover of Hermetic Philosophy. There is a Reconciliation of this apparently contradictory state of affairs. Be patient, we will reach it in time.
We see around us that which is called "Matter", which forms the physical foundation for all forms. Is THE ALL merely matter? Not at all! Matter cannot manifest Life or Mind, and as Life and Mind are manifested in the Universe, THE ALL cannot be Matter, for nothing rises higher than its own source nothing is ever manifested in an effect that is not in the cause and nothing is evolved as a consequent that is not involved as an antecedent. And then Modern Science informs us that there is really no such thing as Matter that what we call Matter is merely "interrupted energy or force", that is, energy or force at a low rate of vibration. As a recent writer has said "Matter has melted into Mystery". Even Material Science has abandoned the theory of Matter, and now rests on the basis of "Energy".
Then is THE ALL mere Energy or Force? Not Energy or Force as the materialists use the terms, for their energy and force are blind, mechanical things, devoid of Life or Mind. Life and Mind can never evolve from blind Energy or Force, for the reason given a moment ago: "Nothing can rise higher than its source nothing is evolved unless it is involved, and nothing manifests in the effect unless it is in the cause". And so THE ALL cannot be mere Energy or Force for, if it were, then there would be no such things as Life and Mind in existence, and we know better than that, for we are Alive and using Mind to consider this very question, and so are those who claim that Energy or Force is everything.
What is there then higher than Matter or Energy that we know to be existent in the Universe? LIFE AND MIND! Life and Mind in all their varying degrees of unfoldment! "Then" you ask, "Do you mean to tell us that THE ALL is LIFE and MIND?" Yes! and No! is our answer. If you mean Life and Mind as we poor petty mortals know them, we say No! THE ALL is not that!
"But what kind of Life and Mind do you mean?" you ask. The answer is "LIVING MIND, as far above that which we mortals know by those words as Life and Mind are higher than mechanical forces, or matter INFINITE LIVING MIND as compared to finite Life and Mind". We mean that which the illumined souls mean when they reverently pronounce the word "SPIRIT".
"THE ALL" is Infinite Living Mind the Illumined call it SPIRIT!