The Banquet

Studies in Alice XXIV, by Marc Edmund Jones

This lesson considers the last half of the ninth chapter and the three remaining chapters of Through the Looking-Glass and the twenty-fourth great principle of wisdom in the Philosophy of Concepts as revealed through the adventures of Alice is that all activity is utilitarian or that there is no wasted motion of any sort whatever in the universe and that nothing can happen to an individual that is not potentially of value to him equal to the value of anything else that happens to him. That a purpose is served in everything that has being or that there is a cosmic utilitarianism is no new belief in philosophy. It is a commonplace among occultists or in the New Thought field and is rather thoroughly if indefinitely understood in orthodox Christianity. Everything belongs to God's creation and for that reason there must be some use and justification for all there is if no more than to reveal how vile nature can be when separated too far from the divine source of being. But the difficulty with this generalized acceptance of a universal usefulness is that it is seldom made personal. The individual is quite likely to grasp the fact that a given thing must be of use somewhere in the eternal scheme but that it is of use to him if it is present in his affairs, and this without any exception whatever either in fact or degree is the difficult point of a higher metaphysics. Knowledge is not the result of a more facile contact with things nor is it dependent necessarily on any direct experience with them. Whether a factor in life is known or not has nothing directly to do with its influence on an individual. Thus an oncoming train will be just as destructive to an automobile caught on a crossing if a driver is unaware of its coming, and only an awareness of this potentiality is of value in order to permit an adjustment to annihilate the factor and change it. Knowledge and awareness are not synonymous, although the words are loosely used as interchangeable, and here the terms may be defined as mental or involving some image or concept in the case of knowledge and as sentient or involving mere sensory and supersensual contact in the case of awareness. Knowledge requires an alteration of purpose. Awareness may and may not have an effect on the being, but to come to know something always involves a change in attitude toward it.

Here is the principle of knowing. Normal life imposes all knowledge on the individual by the simple working of the natural law of affinities. When once an individual is aware of something then it immediately becomes a factor in his life and he is drawn into circumstances or at least it may seem that way in order that he will meet this given thing over and over until awareness becomes knowledge to the extent that the reiterated contact forces him to make the change or adjustment within himself. This conventionally is known as the psychology of habits man acquires only to learn to break, but in a cycle of acquiring and breaking he becomes a knower or a man rather than an animal that lives in sheer sensual bondage to outer stimulation.

The symbolism of this lesson is interesting therefore in connection with the point because when the food is brought to Alice to serve the ordinary procedure is entirely abrogated and to her surprise and wonder she is simply introduced to each dish before it is whisked away. The spiritual principles involved here may be summed up in the statement that it is not necessary to eat anything presented properly to the inner knowing of self. Superficially this is an excellent illustration of vicarious experience. The eating of anything always symbolizes a physical union of substance, and as man elevates the atoms of the lower kingdoms by his actual foods so he likewise elevates himself by the experience he assimilates or eats in the psychological sense. In Looking-Glass House a higher or conceptual means of growth is revealed. The introduction in polite society presupposes the endorsement of the one presented. The one accepting the introduction is supposed to escape or gain vicariously the long experience necessary in learning whether another person is worthy of admission to the charmed circle of self. Similarly all details of life may be presented, even to actual food, so that little or no literal eating is required. The only escape from the burden of eating everything in life or learning unnecessarily at first hand and by imposition from without is to accept gracefully the introductions of life that come to the one willing to know.

The achievement of imagination in the final three and a half chapters, or the twenty-fourth great scientific anticipation, is the revelation here of the working of consciousness or that which in the outer or scientific world is growing as the art of forecast or prediction. Applied first and most successfully to weather reports the careful measurement of tendencies and the comparison with cycles of other times or different sections is increasingly used in such departments of life as the fluctuating values of securities, crops, retail merchandising and a host of other fields. Wholly apart from the occult realm and those who have little but contempt for astrology and the like, there is a growing realization of the low-pressure areas in life and of the heralded psychological storms and upsets that inevitably must result. Statistics are exalted in present-day affairs to a near divine worship, blazing a trail for an eventual recognition of the absolute correlation presented in the various series of these lessons.

The symbolism of the silence greeting Alice on entrance to the banquet hall of conscious life in her queenship is the very fine picture of the fixation that always is founded in anticipation, or the psychological hush before the storm or new and at first stormy cycle of experience. Individual motion or action stills all other motion or action. It is what the layman recognizes as getting the jump on a situation. In this dramatic entrance of Alice is to be seen a manner in which anyone may dominate a set of circumstances by his revelation of potentiality. No one knew just what Alice would do since she had just become a queen and so all were silent. Life itself stands by in respect to the man who has unplumbed depths of self at his disposal whereas the shallow individual or the man who has reached his heights but for the moment is ruthlessly pushed aside and ignored.

The law of applied psychology, or the twenty-fourth big idea for the solution of personal problems, is brought out here in the technique of transformation. The employment of representative image or something external to picture inner reality is the basis of psychology of all ages and it reaches its most gruesome excellence in voodooism where injury to an effigy is mysteriously transmitted to an individual so represented. By acting on a principal almost any individual can produce striking results and this is the basis of all metaphysical healing as well as of much so-called black magic. The changing scene at the banquet is a fascinating picture of this transformation. Each guest drinks the health according to his own nature and then the utensils supplant the guests in activity. Alice is supported by the queens and squeezed until her feeling is represented by the upshooting of the candles and everything else at the banquet table. The reality that has submerged in an unreality is to be snuffed out on Alice's awakening. Meanwhile she clings to the principal or the kitten that makes the transformation possible. The student must learn to STIR UP SOMETHING or to create a principal factor in every situation of life and shake it up. If he will cling to that which symbolizes the root consciousness he will be enabled to survive the transformation of reality and emerge safely and triumphantly in a new and higher sphere of expression.