The three life-conceptions are these: The first—the personal, or animal; second—the social, or the pagan; and third—the universal, or the divine.
1) According to the first life-conception, man’s life is contained in nothing but his personality; the aim of his life is the gratification of the will of this personality.
The savage recognizes life only in himself, in his personal desires. The good of his life is centered in himself alone. The highest good for him is the greatest gratification of his lust. The prime mover of his life is his personal enjoyment. His religion consists in appeasing the divinity in his favor. And in the worship of imaginary personalities of gods, who live only for personal ends.
2) According to the second life-conception, man’s life is not contained in his personality alone, but in the aggregate and sequence of personalities,--in the tribe, the family, the race, the state; the aim of life consists in the gratification of the will of this aggregate of personalities.
A pagan, a social man, no longer recognizes life in himself alone, but in the aggregate of personalities,--in the tribe, the family, the race, the state,--and sacrifices his personal good for these aggregates. The prime mover of his life is glory. His religion consists in the glorification of the heads of unions—of eponyms, ancestors, kings, and in the worship of gods, the exclusive protectors of his family, his race, his nation, his state.
3) According to the third life-conception, man’s life is contained neither in his personality, nor in the aggregate and sequence of personalities, but in the beginning and source of life, in God.
The man with the divine life-conception no longer recognizes life to consist in his personality, or in the aggregate of personalities (in the family, the race, the people, the country, or the state), but in the source of the everlasting, immortal life, in God; and to do God’s will he sacrifices his personal and domestic and social good. The prime mover of his religion is love. And his religion is the worship in deed and in truth of the beginning of everything, of God.
These three life-conceptions serve as the foundation of all past and present religions.
The whole historical life of humanity is nothing but a gradual transition from the personal, the animal life-conception, to the social, and from the social to the divine.
The history of the ancient nations, which lasted for thousands of years and which came to a conclusion with the history of Rome, is the history of the substitution of social and the political life-conception for the animal, the personal.
The whole history since the time of imperial Rome and the appearance of Christianity has been the history of the substitution of the divine life-conception for the political, and we are passing through it even now.
Christ’s teaching differs from pervious teaching in that it guides men, not by external rules, but by the internal consciousness of the possibility of attaining divine perfection. That is the goal, to evolve into divine perfection. And in man’s soul there are not moderated rules of justice and of philanthropy, but the ideal of the complete, infinite, divine perfection. Only the striving after this perfection deflects the direction of man’s life from the animal condition towards the divine, to the extent to which this is possible in this life.
Over and over Jesus stressed (as did the Buddha) that the external world means nothing, that to follow Him means to focus inward, and not give a thought for the external world.
Jesus said, “Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls or the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of your by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow/ they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink, or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (Matt. Vi. 25-34)
Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is there will your heart be also (Luke xii. 33-34).
Go and sell that thou hast, and follow me, and who hath not forsaken father or mother, or children, or brethren, or fields, or house, cannot be my disciple.
Turn away from thyself, take thy cross for every day, and come after me. My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to do His work. Not my will be done, but Thine; not what I want, but what Thou wantest, and not as I want, but as Thou wantest. The life is in this, not to do one’s will but the will of God.