During the period of struggle, questions as to the purpose of life and man’s own being had formulated themselves, but when the answers come they do not answer the questions but rather obliterate them in the experience of the reality itself.
Thus, with regard to the mystery of man’s own being, the answer is not an intellectual exposition of the constitution of man, but rather an awareness of his own inner Self and as a result, the discovery of the world of that Self. When, in that world, we consider the problem of the duality which we all experience in daily life, of a higher Self on the one hand and a lower self on the other, we find a wonderful truth.
Man is essentially divine; as a son of God he partakes of the nature of his Father and shares His Godhead. Man’s own and true home is therefore the world of the Divine; there we live and move and have our own being ‘from eternity to eternity’. In his own world the Ego of man has his own activities and lives a life of joy and splendour beyond all earthly conception. There is, however, one lesson or experience which he cannot learn in his own world, but for which he has to put forth his consciousness into the worlds of outer manifestation where there is manifoldness and the antithesis of “I” and “not I”.
It is there alone that, through the medium of bodies composed of the matter of these outer worlds, the Ego can gain self-consciousness, that is to say, consciousness of himself as a separate individual. The divine world which is the true home of the Ego is a world in which there is not that distinction between Self and not-Self, but in which every part shares of the universal consciousness of the whole. That is why in this world the particular self-realisation which is necessary to the Ego cannot be gained. It is only the three-fold universe of outer manifestation, the physical world, that we find the duality of subject and object necessary for the gaining of self-consciousness.
Thus it is truly for the gaining of knowledge that the Ego puts himself forth into these outer worlds and assumes bodies of the matter of these worlds. It is this going forth of the soul into the worlds of darkness which we find symbolically described in the story of Genesis. Primitive Paradise is not a state which can last, however great its beauty and harmony. The soul must eat of the tree of good and evil, the tree of knowledge, even though at the cost of Paradise.
Having thus become conscious of the desire to know the worlds of matter, the soul is clothed in “coats of skin,” the bodies of matter, and henceforth has to live under the conditions of material existence, “labouring and bringing forth in pain.” The end of this long exile is the redemption or regeneration, which takes place when the soul regains knowledge of her own divinity, and Christ is born in the heart of man. Then Paradise is regained, but now in full self-consciousness, the Ego in his own divine world possessing the fruits yielded by the soul’s descent into the worlds of matter.
J.J van der Leeuw, God’s in Exile