"I cried aloud, and wrung my hands in woe
When Grief came to my door in mourning guise;
I strove to shut the door, and closed my eyes,
But she stood, patient, there, and would not go.
"Then Pain came down the pathway, sad and slow;
And Sacrifice with face raised to the skies;
And Poverty, with brooding, anxious sighs;
And all Griefs sisters, talking soft and low.
"Long, long I stood rebellious, with the door
Closed on the grim ranks waiting there outside;
My heart beat fiercely, and I paced the floor
With sobs and moans. But when the daylight died,
With trembling hands I flung the portals wide—
And lo! but Peace came in, to go no more."
The power that we call "God" and "Law" is wise and strong enough to provide for man the most favorable conditions he himself permits.
"God" is Love, and Love could be satisfied with nothing less, for Love is Infinite Intelligence and Power. Where, then, is the limitation, and why do we suffer?
The answer is always to be found within the individual soul, which has the sovereign power of control. Man can open wide all doors of receptiveness; can throw down all walls and live in the open; or he can shut himself up in the deepest dungeons of his personal life and bar out every ray of sunlight.
The sun is powerful indeed, but the delicate membrane of the human eyelid can exclude it when the man so wills. Nothing is so blinding as the persistent thought of weakness.
The first step in healing or altering the conditions of existence is recognition of the sovereignty of Self.
The next is recognition of the sovereignty of Good.
The work is complete when these two principles have been identified. The windows of heaven are always open. It is our windows that are often closed.
The Egyptian peasant fertilizes his little tract bordering on the desert by laboriously hauling up the water from the river with his bucket or wheel. He turns it into his small trenches. But there comes a day when the great river rises above its banks, and in a majestic overflow wipes away all its petty barriers and inundates the very desert itself, carrying opulence of fertility noiselessly and easily to all the surrounding country. If we stand upon the shore and watch its rising tides we see that the waters find their way to every nook and cranny, and the dry sands are drenched in its floods and cleansed with its billows. These flood tides are irresistible. They are glorious in their power and beauty.
All this is but a faint suggestion of the ever-present opportunities of the soul. Life is always at its flood, though our realization may ebb and flow. It is only we who imagine the ebb as we wade in the murky waters of a shallow experience, indulging our self-pity and bemoaning our sufferings.
If we cease our vain struggles and lamentations long enough to look away from the personal self with its petty cares, and to recognize the spiritual self with its calm confidence of inexhaustible energies, we realize that life is going very well with us indeed, and we are daily gaining the experience we need.
We exhaust our strength in our impatience at our work and the conditions that surround us. There is nothing that comes to us which we could not do easily with true adjustment, but we waste our forces in our worries. It is our leverage that is at fault. When that is changed we will find the heaviest weights are easily raised.
The mechanism of our existence is simpler than we think. None of its cog-wheels are misplaced. If we will only permit them to work into each other where they belong we will discover that there is no superfluous friction, and the adjustment of experience to need is truly marvelous.
The propositions of Euclid would remain true if there were no mathematical professors in the universities able to demonstrate them. The earth has been always round, even through the centuries when its scientific men declared that it was flat.
It does not follow that a proposition in spiritual science is untrue because we have never learned its demonstration.
Truth is never dependent to the least degree upon the personality of teachers. We must not imagine Truth will stand or fall with any personality. Telegraphy remains an accurate manifestation of electric science even though all the operators in the land be proven incompetent and unreliable.
It is always true when we suffer that, like Peter in prison, we are "sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains." One fetter is the thought of our own weak personality; the other is the doubt of the power of Good.
When the light has shone into our prison and we hear the voice of the Angel of Truth—"Arise quickly, gird thyself, follow me"—our chains fall off, we pass safely through the first and second wards, and even " the iron gate that leadeth into the city " opens to us of its own accord, and we go out again among men, freed from pain and disease, and strong in the might of the Spirit which has awakened in us the consciousness that all power is given unto us in heaven and in earth.
When our suffering seems almost beyond endurance we may always gain relief by making a bold "change of front." This is considered the most difficult problem in military tactics when made in the face of an enemy, and it is often the most brilliantly effective move of martial science.
Instead of declaring, as we so often do in our mental anguish, "I can't stand it any longer," let us assert with Paul, "I glory in tribulation;" "I take pleasure in infirmities;" "I can endure all things." Let us "agree with our adversary quickly" while we are in the way with him, and make friends of our adversities. Nothing else will so quickly disarm their power and neutralize their sting.
It makes a great difference in a landscape whether we see it through a convex or a concave lens; whether we look through the large end of a telescope and thus remove the objects to a distance, or through the small end and bring them within close range. We get a very different impression of a country when we view it from the mountain-tops from what we receive in passing through its valleys.
How vastly different a troubled question looks to us at noonday and at midnight! We flinch in the hours of darkness from a problem we can meet bravely when we are on our feet and under the momentum of the noonday vigor.
This is all the difference between negative and positive conditions.
The engine which moves the train so easily along its rails when the power is applied to turning the great drive wheels forward can be quickly reversed by a very slight movement of the lever, and all its force thrown into a backward motion.
By boldly and persistently changing our thought from the negative conditions of discouragement and suffering to the positive conditions of strength and life, the very worst case of nervous prostration can be quickly overcome. Nature abounds in remedial power, and it is always within our reach. Indeed, it is the same force that is tearing the engine to pieces, and needs only to be reversed to drive it forward.
We ourselves have built the road-bed of our own experiences, and laid the rails on which we are pushing our engines ahead to a larger realization, or backward into suffering. Let us know that the highest lesson of life is not to live in either the present or future, but in the eternal. "He to whom time is as eternity and eternity as time is free," said the old mystic Boehm—an aphorism we should all engrave upon our watch-cases.
When we look at pain or trouble through the small end of our telescopes they are brought easily within close range and show in large proportions. When we reverse the telescope the same things seem infinitely removed.
Now let us look at the personal man and all his paltry affairs through the lenses which put them far away and bring the eternal man into the field of our clearest vision. When we thus gain even a passing glimpse of our higher selves the landscape of trouble seems misty and remote. We do not have to climb very far up the mountain-side to get above the clouds and find a different world. How many an Alpine traveler has passed from the drenching storm of the lower altitudes to see the glorious silvered clouds below him, and the sun shining in all its radiant splendor on the snow-capped peaks of Jungfrau and Mt. Blanc! It was only a turn of the road and a few rods' upward climb that wrought the magic change. But such an experience can never be forgotten, for it brings a dream of paradise.
How shall we climb out of nervous prostration? Let us begin by ceasing to oppose—ceasing to fight our troubles, declaring their nonentity, while we give ear to the thought of the eternal man—our own true self— whose voice we have learned to know and whom we have invited in to sup with us.
We have thus accomplished a positive molecular change. We have turned off the current of anxious thought. We have altered our polarity. We have accomplished with our troubles the same results that would follow to the iron filings grouped about the magnet if it should be suddenly demagnetized. The bits of iron fall away. They have nothing to which to cling. The force that held them is transferred to a new field. Our troubles are like spoiled children that seek to gain attention by their kicks and screams. They make faces at us like street urchins as long as we come to the window. When we no longer scold, and calmly pass along in true indifference, they do not find the satisfaction they demand. They feed upon sensation and are starved to death by our refusal to acknowledge them.
The small boy who fell in the woods and hurt himself told his young friends who asked him if he cried, " Of course not, there was nobody to hear." Our troubles often show a seeming intelligence, and leave us when we no longer notice them and they find they have lost the power to annoy.
This comes when we cease to coddle or fear the personal man and begin to cultivate the Spiritual and live in the Eternal; when we learn the meaning of the words, “I, the imperfect, adore my own perfect."
Disease and trouble never enter our dominions unless they are invited. They never stay unless they are entertained.
Science declares that death comes always through disease and for disease we are responsible. Old age itself is never fatal. The fountain of life is perennial. Ignorance and fear are at the root of all disturbance. In overcoming these we vanquish the last enemy. All suffering comes from ignorance of God.
In the beautiful allegory of Job we find that after all material things had been taken from him and he had learned that there was nothing to trust but God the test was successfully passed and his possessions were doubled from that hour.
In the ancient folk-lore we are told of a flood in which all land passed out of sight and Noah had nothing but his ark and the promise of a clean earth. But the flood ended; the ark rested upon solid ground; and the new life was richer than the old.
We read that Abraham was ready to sacrifice his only son, and when he had faced that point of self-surrender the emergency of his life was safely over. To Job was returned his wealth, to Noah his earth, and to Abraham his son.
When we are confident of our possessions we are not tenacious of them. Fear is always a mark of poverty.
Through willingness to surrender we often gain a truer hold.
If we would loosen our life we would always save it.
Intensity of desire is an obstacle to accomplishment.
It is idle to talk of "dying grace" and faith in another life when we haven't enough faith in the passing day to carry us through a single hour without worriment.
Our "faith" too often ends with the limit of our eyesight, just as our appreciation of God's goodness is gauged by the size of our bank account.
Every hour of emergency will bring its own deliverance to him who waits with confidence.
The fears and sufferings which we encounter in one place are left behind as we move on.
Higher levels are always accessible. We need not struggle with any difficulty upon the plane where it appears. If our cellars are submerged we do not have to occupy them. If the fog has dropped down upon us in the valley we must gird up our loins and climb the hillside. In other altitudes we will find the sunshine, and leave behind the restlessness and fever which have wearied us. Life's vexations and annoyances fall away from us in a clearer atmosphere. They are as yesterday's flesh stains which were washed off in our morning bath, or yesterday's bruises which were healed while we slept. The morning finds us fresh and vigorous and ready for the work of a new day. Our trouble was only a dream. Love is the real power which rules our universe and weaves the warp and woof of life, throwing its shuttle with a wisdom and precision which seem marvelous to our half-opened eyes.
Why do we so often stop upon the threshold of Divinity when we might enter its very courts?
Why do we so often prefer to believe in the necessity of suffering and weakness rather than in the possibility of strength and gladness?
Why do we argue so persistently for endurance and resignation rather than accept the larger view of life which vests all power in ourselves and makes us the arbiters of our own destinies?
Why should we cling with such surprising tenacity to our musty theories and dogmas, as if they were treasures from which we could not bear to part, though they have brought us nothing but sorrow and disgust with human life?
How closely we hug our dark delusions, while we thank God we are not credulous as other men! How carefully we nurse our griefs and troubles, priding ourselves that we are “practical" in our bondage!
Poverty and illness we call decrees of God. Fate and luck are our taskmasters.
Spiritual freedom is an idle superstition, death is a wall and not a door. Imagination and mindreading explain all phenomena, and what we do not know is not worth knowing. Happy imbeciles!
Is there no other way for us to climb to knowledge than through pain?
Must we drain the dregs of the cup of sorrow only to find at last that it was our own hand that pressed it to our lips?
We have been often told that we should not grieve the spirit. Is it not equally wrong to grieve the body, the expression of spirit?
The highest good is possible only when we have established full accord between these two.
The body is grieved by our distrust of any of its organs. It is grieved by asceticism and foolish starvation as well as by unreasonable indulgence of the sensual life.
The reaction from one form of selfishness frequently carries us into another extreme that is just as far removed from a true balance as the first. We often swing like the pendulum across the arc of the circle many times before we rest in the spiritual center that is equally removed from both extremities. Truth involves expression that is rounded and complete. It has become unconscious symmetry that is not emphasized as either vice or virtue. It identifies the human and divine, and does not strangle one in order to express the other.
We do not throttle the child to hasten his progress through the elementary stages of his education. We guide him patiently and kindly, with full assurance that as he becomes developed he will put away childish things. Meanwhile his childish things are doing him no injury, and if he occasionally indulges himself in too many "sweets" his own stomach will revolt and eject the poison.
Nature rules her university better than we govern our particular schoolrooms, and has carefully provided that man's self-destructive follies shall very soon correct themselves.
Health is the possession of everyone who has learned to draw his check upon the Bank of Universal Life which honors all right demands, and never asks to compromise with creditors.
It is a sacrifice of power to divert our thoughts needlessly to the concerns of the personal life. An unworthy self-indulgence is self-denial in the end, for the reason that it keeps from itself the best things, while much that is called "self-denial" is simply an indulgence in the high privilege of service and a denial only of the lower self.
When we cultivate thoughts of strength for others we ourselves grow strong. Habitual thoughts of peace bring us tranquility.
The thoughts of opulence will naturally result in wealth if rightly held. True thought will lead to action, but the power is in the thought more than in the action.
If all of Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace, there is nothing more unrighteous than disease and poverty. Any and all attempts to find excuse for them in ourselves or others is perversion of truth.
Life is not the mystery we suppose when we are willing to look it boldly in the face with honest eyes. But we must study it apart from the artificial conditions of a pseudo “civilization."
Health and prosperity are found in the soul's own heaven of simplicity.
We have only to lift our eyes to the serpent symbolizing wisdom, and the glance brings deliverance and healing. We have only to dip in some thought-pool of Bethesda, when its waters have been troubled by an angel, to be made perfectly whole of any disease.
Naaman expected the prophet to do some great thing for his recovery, but a simple act of obedience on his own part proved sufficient for his cleansing.
Our eyes are opened by the healing touch of some cool waters of Siloam, and we find ourselves in a new world which has not needed to be reached by dangerous voyages across strange seas, but which has always lain about us, though we knew it not.
There are no "peculiar" cases to the mental healer. The community of suffering is due to the community of ignorance and fear. This is human and racial, and not in any sense peculiar.
When we have recognized our common weaknesses and killed out the sense of separateness, we have learned the earliest lesson in true brotherhood. The pride of family is gradually disappearing in the larger thought and knowledge of fraternal life.
Suffering has often proved the greatest blessing to humanity. It compels us to search out and remove its cause, and thus we learn the beauties of Eternal Law.
Life is more continuous than our recollection. Is it incredible that we have been personally familiar with all the historical eras of this planet? Is it impossible that we have been performers in many of the dramas we study with such interest? May we not have played many parts on different stages of human action, governing and serving alternately in high conditions and in low? Is it difficult to conceive that we may have moved in the long past through all the range of climate and of social circumstance while following westward in its course the star of empire? Could we not have migrated from one continent and race to another, and from oriental quietude to the evolution of occidental energy? It is a strange fact to be observed today that this western nationality of ours is absorbing the composite man of Europe and the East, and the ready adjustment to new conditions suggests that they are possibly not so new as may appear. One sees in many an American face strange reminders of oriental types, hinting at Egyptian, Greek, or Hindu ancestry.
There is much in the social and political conditions of the Anglo-Saxon race in this nineteenth century to recall the Elizabethan and Roman eras, which in their turn resembled one another so peculiarly that it would hardly seem difficult to recognize the old performers in new roles and costumes.
Through all the weaving of mortal and immortal life runs the golden thread of spiritual consciousness. As we gradually awaken, we perceive that life itself is a perpetual miracle.
The old legends are literally true. We sell our souls for a bauble when we deliberately choose the sensual above the spiritual and give it the reins of government.
When the daylight comes to us, whether upon this side of death or the other, we discover that the material coin we have earned by the exchange is as debased and useless as dead leaves.
If here we abide by principle we will find there that we have built real treasure houses and filled them with precious things.
Some people sigh for rest and heaven and angelic company while blind to the presence of veritable angels in their own households—guardian spirits that walk lovingly beside them in the homely guise of mortals ministering patiently to their daily needs, heedless of their ingratitude and selfishness.
The yearning for rest is generally the fruit of self-pity and indolence. It is best cured by the stripes of severer trouble with which life in its kindness often arouses us to tardy recognition of our blindness. The new difficulties make the former state appear as heavenly compared with that into which we have fallen through our persistent folly. Many of those who long the most for angels to comfort and succor them would not know an angel if he should appear, nor would they find anything congenial in his company. They are not fit for such society. There is but little in them that would be attractive to celestial beings.
A selfish life dulls all our senses and makes us both deaf and blind to our highest good.
If we give ear to other voices we cannot hear the voice of infinite Wisdom.
Our Divinity will not share its throne. It demands an individual kingdom.
We may "go first" and bury our dead, buy and sell our lands and oxen, and bid farewell to those that are in our homes.
We may listen to the voice of fame, the voice of greed, the voice of pleasure, and in the end we are sure to declare that all is but vexation of spirit.
As these voices die away there comes a silence, and out of the silence comes a faint and gentle tone that we have never heard before:
"Behold stand at the door and knock."
"All things are now ready." "Ye shall find rest to your souls."
If we heed this voice we gladly turn away from all the tumult in which we have spent our days and find at last that we are truly honored guests in the banqueting-house of Life, and the banner over us is Love.
None but ourselves can ever fix the measure or quality of our goodness.
Everyone is as good as he chooses to be, but none so good as he knows how.
Our lives should not be governed by the opinions of others.
The only matter of importance is that we should deserve to think well of ourselves.
When we are truly poised we are indifferent alike to praise and blame. Praise is no longer sweet to the taste, nor is blame bitter.
Nature is an all-sufficient nurse. The greatest assistance we can render her is to trust her to do her work.
Her resources are not limited by our perceptions.