And he saw them toiling in rowing, for the wind was contrary unto them. —Mark 6, 48.
What hard work we make of living! How we labor at the oar in our efforts to be practical and to avoid the charges of idealism and credulity!
In the twilight of Galilee the fishermen were toiling when Jesus came to them walking upon the waters. No toiling in rowing for him—for even the winds and waves obeyed him—this superb idealist. Why should not such a man sleep in the midst of the storm, knowing he could walk upon the waters! Yet the only difference between the disciple and the Master was in the larger recognition of the force which was possessed by both. It was latent in the one and active in the other.
It is easy for us to imagine that we must furnish the motive power of life.
We are slow to realize that while it is for us to decide in what direction we shall move, it is the universal energy that drives us forward.
The winds and waters never fail to serve us when we recognize ourselves as rulers. There is no gale that can blow hard enough to drive us off OUR course.
There are no billows high enough to wreck or drown us.
All seas are buoyant to the undaunted soul.
To destroy the sense of fear, we need to cultivate the sense of mastery. Self-control is our first lesson, and in learning this we acquire the power to put all things under our feet. Absolute dominion is the destiny of man.
The path is found in the humblest walks—the most common occupations of our human life. Nothing can keep us from it when the soul has made its choice. Our daily trials are our preparation, and these are often as severe as the beds of burning coals the Eastern aspirant is compelled to tread before he is accepted as a novitiate in mystic orders.
The idealist is not usually a man of affairs. He is apt to be a very faulty mathematician. Nevertheless the real purpose of life is to measure business by the golden rule—to manifest in all our dealings with each other a love that is not foolish, and an enlightened selfishness not unloving— to find a way in which the devil shall not take the hindmost, nor each man stand for himself alone.
Life is a constructive force; it does not wish to feed upon us. There is no malignant fate pursuing us; there is no power in the universe which dooms us to disaster and compels defeat.
Every energy of life is pledged to the ultimate success of every individual, to the accomplishment of his purposes, wise or foolish, if he has learned the value of decision, of persistence, and of concentrated will. The heat of the blow-pipe will quickly melt the hardest substance upon which it is steadily focused. The lenses of the telescope serve only for the concentration of the rays of light and bring into our field of vision stars from which we are separated by inconceivable distances.
When we chain the wheels of our chariots they drag heavily.
With doubts and fears we dissipate our energies and clip the wings of Spirit.
If we listen with a mournful mind life seems to us a wail of sorrow. We do not hear the swelling undertone of love. When we are done with our complaints all voices become melodious.
Truth does not require emphasis. We state a mathematical proposition quietly.
We do not find gesture necessary in teaching history or reciting facts of which we have no doubt.
We are indifferent to all skepticism regarding our financial credit when we know it to be sound. Why should we ever be disturbed because our friends do not agree with our philosophies?
"He who knows does not talk;
He who talks does not know."
If in the human chorus any voice sings out of tune it is all the more necessary that we should keep to the score.
When we are distressed at the discords of those who are dear to us let us know that in the silence we can reach the higher self even while the personal is resentful and estranged.
The castle may be unapproachable, with moated walls and drawbridge raised, but a little bird can enter at its highest turret window, flying across the moat and above the closed portcullis. So can a loving thought wing itself where no word would be admitted, and where the lower nature has been barricaded by selfishness and prejudice.
All work of spiritual enlightenment is done upon the higher planes of the super-conscious self. There is no stronghold tenable against the silent influence of thought. Spirit is never limited by time or circumstance.
When we are tried by those we love we can learn the ministry of angels and be to them like an arisen spirit which in its larger vision should suffer no disturbance of grief or doubt.
It sees beyond the mortal day and turns from that which is temporary to that which is eternal.
It pierces the shadows of the night with spiritual vision and sees the dawning light. It has more than hope: it has the certainty of knowledge.
It waits without impatience for the hour when the mortal shall recognize its higher self and become obedient to its voice. The soul may be bewildered in the sensual life, but it can never be really enslaved. It may be mired in the lowlands, but it is only travelling its spiral of experience and will someday come to higher grounds. Its wings will not be always folded.
"Though ye have lain among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver and her feathers with yellow gold."
All life is gospel. The air is full of messages of good.
Humanity needs only to be instructed to receive and give.
The secrets of existence are not to be found by laborious seeking, but by willingness to learn and readiness to apply them.
Life opens unto all at every moment the highest good we can appropriate.
The soul always knows the road to truth when it is ready to set out upon its journey, but we must first clear up our heavy atmospheres laden with resentment and depression.
If in places the path seems steep we know it is leading more directly to the summit.
When our self-contention ceases we find ourselves at peace with all the world. It is only then that we can trust our judgment in the affairs of life. When thought is purified it draws to itself all things and persons necessary to the solution of its problems.
Peace is not a stagnant pool: it is a deep-flowing river.
Life always vindicates its equities without our anxious care. Our interference is often an impertinence. Events are not hastened to satisfy our impatience. Justice is a universal element. It always includes mercy, even when we see only the action of what appears to be inexorable fate. The vexatious questions of today can be better understood if we will take them out of their present setting of time and circumstance and view them from an impersonal standpoint. They will look very different against a background of fifty years. Time will dwarf them to their true proportions. A change of venue will assist us to more just and impartial conclusions and divest them of the false lights thrown upon them by vexation and annoyance.
We cannot handle malarial fever to advantage in the swamps in which it was contracted. If we remove the patient to higher ground where he can have pure air and water the crisis is safely met, and convalescence is assured. If we raise our personal and political contentions out of the swamps of feeling in which they have been developed, we will often be surprised to find the ease with which the difficulties solve themselves. Our relations are needlessly complicated by selfishness and obstinacy. If we will divest ourselves of petty pride we will perceive more clearly the responsibilities involved and find a quick adjustment practical.
When one's head is under water he cannot hear what is spoken in the air. These two elements of different density have different vibrations. Spiritual utterances cannot reach the ears of those who live wholly in the sensual life. They cannot perceive vibrations of the spiritual ether. Revelation is an opening of our inner vision rather than an addition to our knowledge from without. It is only when the plant has unfolded in the air and sunlight that its beautiful mysteries of form and color stand revealed. One knows but little of the true life of the body until he has begun to learn the secrets of the soul.
When an athlete desires to lift a heavy weight he finds that he needs something more than muscle and confidence in its power. He must learn to apply the muscle with intelligence, to get the right grip upon the object he wishes to raise. The wrestler cannot throw his opponent until he has grappled him in the right place; he sometimes gets this hold by yielding and letting go.
In the difficulties which present themselves to everyone it is of the greatest value that we should learn the lesson of adjustment. When we have got the right grip we can readily lift any weight that is ours to lift. We can throw any difficulty with which we have to wrestle. It is, however, important that we should not mistake our antagonist and waste our strength upon questions that do not belong to us to settle, or weights we need not raise today. All our work should be approached with the glad confidence of the sturdy athlete.
We will have no occasion to complain of uselessness and weakness if we do not scatter in trivial things the powers that are abundantly sufficient for any legitimate demands. The most powerful electric current if not carefully insulated will be dispersed by the induction of neighboring wires and fail of the work for which it was intended.
The clouds which gather in our heavens are often created by our own ingenious imagination, thickened and obscured by a doubtful mind. We think it is trouble that weakens and exhausts us, and makes us grow gray and old. If this be true, it is because we have not understood trouble and used it wisely. What we call trouble is really a stimulant and rejuvenator. It is the apparatus in life's gymnasium which serves to develop skill and muscle, and burns up tissues which may be perpetually renewed. It is a fundamental rule of physical culture that exercise should be continued till the muscles ache and cry for rest. The work should be increased as rapidly as new strength will permit. We are too easily cowed by suffering, and quick to whine at all discomforts. But the measure of our difficulties is the gauge of our necessities, and we should never turn away from discipline with rueful faces.
It is not by any means the people who have had the greatest trouble that grow old the fastest. If trouble serves to arouse the higher powers of the soul it results in a sense of independence and mastery which brings strength and youth. / We should find every problem welcome and every fresh experience proportioned to the power gained by former difficulties.^ The divine energy that we embody will not let us rest in inactivity and stagnation. We must climb to every throne that we would occupy as we grow continually to larger recognition of our right to govern. We dig in many a field for the pearl of great price. The digging should bring us pleasure and profit quite as much as that we get from contemplation of the pearl itself. Life will not set us any task i beyond our strength, nor will it ever demand of us bricks without straw.
We find no reason for unhappiness when we dismiss our apprehensions. We are too often overconfident in expectation of disaster. We are too sanguine of defeat. We overestimate our incapacity. We are too sure of failure.
When we hear suggestions of some pleasing possibility we think it "too good to be true." When disappointment comes to us it is "just what we might have expected."
Troubles are friendly tramps. We need not deal angrily with them and set the dogs on them, for if we treat them kindly they will show us many things we need to know, and cheerfully go on their way leaving blessings and not curses behind them.
Sooner or later life will give us all we want, and we will find severer lessons in satiety than in poverty.
Every truth that we encounter adds to our unhappiness until it has been accepted and embodied in our life.
A fruitful cause of dissatisfaction and unrest is an abnormal desire to please others. This often springs from personal and selfish motives unsuspected by the sufferer. He strives in vain to gain the satisfaction of recognized service and is met by coldness and indifference. If such an one would give up his subserviency, abandon his unwelcome efforts, and train himself to the indifference from which he suffers in others he would soon get satisfactory results.
We need to guard ourselves even in loving ministry against the sacrifice of individuality. It is indispensable to a true life to think from its own centers. It is not always wise to force ourselves to look at matters from the standpoint of another. We sometimes sacrifice our judgment to affection. This can bring no good to ourselves or others. As one develops individuality he is very sure to be misunderstood by his domestic circle.
Strong individuality is like a statue carved in stone which shows fine outlines and proportions on its pedestal, but looks extremely coarse when placed upon the ground. We need the softening effects of time and distance to enable us to judge correctly of a rugged human character. Its lines do not seem delicate when closely viewed, but a greater refinement would probably weaken it for its peculiar work.
The pedestal of some special occasion raises it beyond our criticism and brings out, in grand relief, strong points that were, perhaps, offensive to us within narrower limits.
True individuality is never selfish. When we understand our real relations to the universe of which we are a part, we open ourselves fearlessly upon all sides. Our desire is to yield in matters of mere preference. We know that giving is as necessary as getting in maintaining perfect circulation. Selfishness is congestive. It contracts and shrivels all the nature; but much yielding and giving is, in reality, more selfish than withholding and denying, and demands less force of character.
Eagerness in getting health or pleasure sometimes shuts out the good that is crowding constantly upon us. We are often as selfish in the indulgence of another's eagerness as in our own. Nature is a wonderfully careful mother, and makes the way of the transgressor hard. It is no kindness to try to make it easy. If one wastes his fortune recklessly he gains in exchange the wisdom of experience, which is perhaps worth more than what has been flung away.
Nature relieves the fevered senses of the profligate with a dash of the cold water of adversity, and arouses him from his intoxication and bewilderment.
Then comes the headache of remorse—the moan of disappointment, the idle question " Is life worth living?"—which springs only from unhappiness. Life means far more than the successful conduct of our petty personal affairs or maintenance of a conventional respectability.
Our higher self has other aims for us than finding an agreeable climate and an indolent existence. It arouses us with the sharp strokes of the alarm clock of some sudden discomfort. It compels us to go out into the cold and darkness of misfortune or disease and so move on to new activities. Our days are filled with the sense of failure, and in the night vexation and regret surge in upon us like chilling winter tides. We feel the darkness overpowering. A bottomless pit yawns beneath us. All remembrance of past joys is swallowed up in a midnight horror, and we hear only the echo of the words in our minds' corridors "He descended into hell." Heaven seems forever inaccessible.
Truly the shadows of the valley of humiliation are deeper and blacker than those of the valley of death. But the experience of these dark places seems necessary to us all.
Much of our dissatisfaction in life is due to the fact that we are not good judges of the fruit that grows on the tree in the midst of the garden—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We do not recognize the times of ripeness. We are misled by appearances and easily mistake the day of growing for the day of gathering.
We are premature in our expectations and feel vexed and mortified to find only leaves where we have looked for fruit—not knowing that "the time of fruit is not yet." It is idle to fret at immaturity either in ourselves or others. Ages are required to perfect the animal man, and ages more to make him master of the universe. We do not realize how usefully we are related to the environment in which we find ourselves. If it be distasteful we can see in it no good. We do not understand how much we need the things that come to us, and which often are reluctantly received. We sigh for solitude while getting our best stimulus from those about us.
Every human being radiates magnetic and electric currents, and receives from others similar radiations of nervous energy. Society provides us with something more than opportunities of pleasant conversation. It relieves us of surplus force which might react uncomfortably upon ourselves. It restores to us the subtle elements we most require. We are instinctively drawn to the surroundings we need, and which enable nature to maintain in us her equilibrium.
Plants feed on the carbonic oxide thrown off by human lungs. They purify the atmosphere for the further use of man, while at the same time emitting fragrance which is soothing and delightful. Each thus ministers to the other. This principle pervades all life, and manifests itself in marvelous ways to students of natural science.
When we come to a closer analysis of what we call vibration we shall find that everything has a more extended scale than we now realize.
Nature has different vibratory rates which will appeal to all the senses when our soul perceptions are more fully awakened.
We now see color and hear sound. Other things we taste, smell, or touch without hearing and often without seeing them.
If our senses were perfected they would all be cognizant of everything in the objective life.
We would then perceive not only with one or two or three of the five senses while the others were inactive. We would discover in everything some quality that touched a responsive chord in each. We would easily distinguish the movements of colors and sound-waves, taste their flavors and sense their touch. We would hear the harmonies of the flower-beds, the chantings of the ferns and forests. We would see the exquisite tints of musical chords, and at the same time enjoy their delicate odors. We would understand the variations of individual character from the symphonies of color radiated by the thought life. Laboratory experiments sometimes disclose rare dyes and fragrance where we had not supposed them to exist. A change of temperature in the crucible will develop strange forms and properties. The more advanced unfoldment of humanity must doubtless open new avenues of sensation. The spirit of man is all-seeing, all-hearing, all-perceiving; its intelligence is far beyond the present capacity of the senses to express.
These are imperfect avenues or points of contact between the material and astral realms, in both of which man functions.
Complete consciousness of both these planes, and intelligent direction of the will in all of his activities, is man's great problem on this planet.
Stand with me on an October day upon some high peak of the Rocky Mountain range. We are in the midst of one of Nature's grandest amphitheatres. Encircling us are mountain-tops that are crowned with eternal snows.
Below us lies the timber line marked with dark forests of pine, spruce, and cypress. Farther down the mountain-side are groves of beech and aspen brilliant with the glory of the burning bush, while at a lower level are green meadows with the silvery threads of mountain streams woven in and out between the lines of hills.
Above this panorama hangs a canopy of deep blue sky mottled here and there with the cumulus clouds and fleecy drifts of an autumn afternoon.
A little later we may see this spectacle, illuminated by a harvest moon throwing its mysterious light over the snow crystals, forests, and meadows.
We call to mind the strains of the old prophets:
"Then shall the trees of the wood sing out."
"The valleys shout; they also sing."
"When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy."
If our ears were truly open now what glorious anthems we might hear! What a marvelous diapason ranging from the snow-top of the mountain to the herbage of the valley! Then would life appear indeed to us a song of power and gladness.
If we wish to train our voices to sing true we must not listen so much to discords.
We must drop our habits of criticism. We must look for the sweet things in life and not the sour. We must gather flowers instead of nettles.
When one lives a grand, strong life we are not greatly disturbed that he is uninformed in any special field of knowledge, or even wholly illiterate and ignorant. His character in itself is a benediction which soothes, instructs, and stimulates us through the power of love.
And when another is endowed with all that makes a teacher great, except the personal demonstration of the truth he teaches, shall we not forget his personality and value that of which he is the voice? We learn from one the proposition of a principle, and in another we see the demonstration. We cannot well dispense with either, though perhaps we often find them separated. The fact that one proclaims a truth shows some appreciation of high standards, even though the teacher himself, limps painfully in his effort to follow them.
Truth is impersonal, and we can well afford to be indifferent to the channels through which it comes. If the postal service is efficient we do not quarrel with its employees, whatever may be their reputation.
We are not troubled because the pearl is found in a diseased oyster. It is a precious gem. We do not remember that ambergris is a morbid secretion derived from the bile of the whale. It is a rare fragrance.
When we are less fastidious in our demands, we will become more rapid learners. In mining for precious metals it does not disturb us to find the marks of the soil upon our working clothes and on those of our fellow-laborers. If we really seek the pearl of price we will be indifferent as to where we find it. Let us outgrow at the same time our hero-worship and censoriousness. They are alike unworthy of us. Each of us has enough to do in solving his own problems without looking over the shoulders of his neighbors to see how they are handling theirs.
Again, if we are to forgive our erring brother seventy times seven, shall we not extend the same consideration to ourselves, who possibly need it oftener?
Our greatest grief and discouragement in life is in the consciousness that we have not lived up to our ideals. Constant self-chiding is intolerable. It depresses one to the point of helplessness.
Let us give to ourselves the cheerful and tireless encouragement in the face of failure which we would give another in whose purpose and success we had entire confidence.
When we listen to the skilled players in an orchestra and our souls seem lifted up on waves of harmony it is hard to realize that every one of those musicians has struggled through many weary hours and months of discord in the development of his artistic talent.
When we suffer from interior discord we need to hold with unflinching confidence to the belief in the power of the soul to bring us ultimately the knowledge and peace of the Divine harmonies.
It is not sufficient to tune a single string of the violin or one key of the piano. The entire instrument must be brought to concert pitch before the full power and beauty of its tone can be expressed.
But let us enjoy and not quarrel with the tuning process in thought of the grand chords which we are making possible.
Discord destroys an instrument that will not yield itself to harmony. Nature will not tolerate an instrument it cannot tune. The whole philosophy of mental healing lies in the recovery of a lost chord. The operation of this principle is shown in the domestic circle and community. Discord disintegrates. It is a centrifugal force. Harmony is centripetal and blends. The home or nation that does not develop harmony within itself cannot be long maintained. Life hews to the line, regardless of where the chips may fall. Its standard is perfection. It will recognize no other law in any of its kingdoms than the survival of the fittest. Extinction is the penalty of disobedience.
Some of us live in prisons of fear. These are the true torture chambers of the Inquisition. Fear is the grand inquisitor who applies to us continually the rack, the thumbscrew, and the firebrand.
Some of us abide in cemeteries amid the tombs of memory, and are continually bringing garlands to the graves of our dead past. Some of us are cave-dwellers living on the lowest planes of animal existence and in the jungles of a merely sensual life.
But to all of us come the voices of the spirit bidding us come out of our mental prisons, out of our chambers of horror, out of our caves and dungeons, into the glad freedom of true life, to leave the fever districts of the plains and climb the mountain-side, to leave the shadows of the valley and seek the sunlight of the hills, to leave the stagnant waters and come to living fountains.
Thus shall we indeed "go out with joy and be led forth with peace while the mountains and the hills break forth before us into singing and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands."
An intuitional nature that violates its spiritual impulses renders itself peculiarly liable to disease and suffering.
At the point of discouragement we are often nearest accomplishment.
If we weather this cape we find the storm is over and the port in sight.
It is a scattering and waste of force to lament and criticize what we cannot help.