ICame that they may have life, and may have it abundantly." (John x, 10) The intimate relation of the divine to the human life is the most fundamental truth that can occupy our attention. How to secure a fuller measure of vitality has been and ever will be the universal quest and most absorbing problem. In dealing with the present plane of human activity, the various departments of physical science have their special fields of inquiry and points of view. They are related to life, but its primal source and constant influx are not of them. It comes "through the Son." But human belief has mainly regarded this higher life as an abstract proposition, and as having application more directly to the future state. But life, while mysterious, is the nearest and most common of all things. In reality, there is but One Life and its flowing is continuous.
Swedenborg affirms that man is so made that he can apply to himself life from the Lord. In certain lofty conditions of spiritual consciousness, man may become highly charged with a divine vigor and he finds that it is possible to invite and cultivate such experiences. God is our highest ideal of universal and all-abounding life, and through a feeling of oneness we may experience an influx of energy or divine incarnation. If, as Paul affirms, "In him we live and move and have our being," he must be our inmost substance, and our outward states should make a corresponding exhibit. It is of the highest importance that we constantly hold a living consciousness of this relationship.
Our woes and disorders come from the feeling of separateness which we carelessly or unconsciously allow to prevail. While the soul is distinct in its individuality and never loses its identity, it should cultivate a real sense of the divine presence and immanence. We are greatly inclined to think of theology as religion, but they are far from being the same. Religion is a binding to God, while theology is an opinion about him. Health is a symptom of full and exuberant life and its relation to religion is most intimate. There may be a certain animal vigor, but wholeness, in its complete sense, involves a distinct spiritual element. While all living creatures derive their life from God, the human recognition of its incoming rounds out and increases the healthfulness which is available to man. The Psalmist speaks of God, "Who is the health of my countenance."
The reaching out of the soul toward God is true prayer. In the general sense prayer needs to be redefined. It is commonly regarded as petition, or asking for something which has been withheld and is at present lacking. But in its depth it is rather a recognition of what already is. St. Paul reminds us that "All things are yours." The divine exuberance is never suspended but our souls are unresponsive and not open to receive. Can one hunger when in the midst of nourishing and delicious viands? It is quite possible if he does not make himself aware of their presence. With closed eyes he might starve. It is the fault of the condition within rather than that without. The opening of the soul upward and the exercise of faith are necessary to the appropriation of the good which is in readiness.
Says James in his general epistle, "The prayer of faith shall save him that is sick, and the Lord shall raise him up." The work comes not merely through prayer but through "the prayer of faith," Faith in anything involves conscious dependence upon it. Faith is not real faith until it is sufficiently living and tangible in the soul to be the main reliance. Material forces, as temporary and auxiliary may have their place, but faith will not yield its energy if made secondary. It belongs at the head. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." This does not especially refer to graven images, but to a divided and doubtful allegiance. To make God secondary as a healing agency is an inversion of the divine order. In modern life, even among those who call themselves Christians, material science has largely usurped the first place. The living faith, as a restorative, which was normal and practical in the days of the primitive church has been crowded out by lower agencies. By a long and almost unconscious process these have become "other gods."
"He that hath the Son hath the life." (1st John v, 12) It seems plain that this means Sonship, a spiritual relation which is open to all, here and now. It is not limited to some future or distant realm of being. The incarnation of the spiritual Christ is the coming of the Son, and it brings life, or rather is life. The "coming" is the awakening from latency of that which is already within. It is the uncovering of the divine image in which man was created, the quickening of his essential nature and potentiality. The biblical teaching of these vital principles is very emphatic and constantly repeated.
It is admittedly unconventional to place the "prayer of faith" among the health-giving forces of the present time, but if the light of the Bible be shed upon the philosophy of life, there can be no uncertainty in the conclusion. In the event of some extraordinary public emergency, the prayer of petition is resorted to, but little is said of an abounding faith. If the restorative prayer of faith be divinely instituted, why should it not be regularly employed without reserving it for special occasions? Physical functions derive their energy from the primal spiritual functions which correspond to and are back of them, and it is the power of faith which calls forth their activity.
The goal of the higher development is the opening of the spiritual consciousness. This is the divine and true point of view rather than that of materiality. We need to be made free from the old limitations of sense and slavery to the flesh. The Apostolic gifts of the Spirit are offered without money and without price. As soft iron which in its natural state is inert and passive, may, through the influence of magnetic contact, be filled with a powerful quality which gives polarity to every molecule and makes the whole mass a positive force, so the physical organism may receive a spiritual potency and physical energy. Spirit is the primal substance because it is the foundation of the material organism and all outward expression. Briefly classified, we have three kinds of substance not separate but each within the other. The material body is interpenetrated by the psychic and both of these by the spiritual, which is primal and absolute. These are not apart by spatial conditions but by discrete degrees of refinement and subtle inner relation. Nothing is displaced, but each being more refined in vibration, dwells within the other. The realm of primal causation, being that which is most interior, should, as a duty and privilege, be consciously identified with the ego. "The kingdom of God is within you." To have an abiding-place within that realm puts us in direct contact with the Divine Mind. This is "the secret place of the Most High," and lies above the zone of change and uncertainty. This hidden place of rest and recuperation is no poetic extravagance, but a veritable reality, but it must be earnestly sought by those who would have it at command. Gross and solid physical forms cannot permeate each other, but these properties are no obstacle to the occupation of spiritual substance. In the Gospel of John, we are told that after the resurrection Jesus was able to pass through closed doors and to manifest himself in bodily form and appearance.
The Christian Church, by a continued non-recognition of the life-giving power and psychic and spiritual potency of the gospel, in dealing with human disorders, has made an omission which has shorn it of its normal power and adaptability. The promised "signs" which were to follow those who believe have been wanting, and thus the consciousness of the multitude who live upon the lower plane —being unable to comprehend abstraction—behold no works which can appeal to them. The power of the gospel must reach men where they are and demonstration should meet them upon their own level. The mission of Jesus was to hand his convincing proof down to dull souls and to talk to them in a language which they could understand.
The unusual works accomplished by the Master, which are called miracles, have been looked upon as special and not in accord with the inherent nature of things. Having been accounted as violations or suspensions of the established order, their practice and perpetuation have not been expected. In spiritual attainment men do not find what they have, in advance, decided to be impossible. Humanity has been reckoned as fallen and unspiritual and therefore has not claimed spiritual Sonship which Jesus not only demonstrated but declared belonged to all. The truth has seemed too good to be worthy of belief, and this has put a living faith out of the question. In effect men have regarded the world as governed by caprice instead of beneficent law.
The "wonderful works" recorded in the gospel narratives are variously interpreted. The sceptic and materialist express absolute unbelief in their historical accuracy. Others who claim to believe, accept them as facts, but think them exceptional and beyond the pale of orderly procedure and given only as special "signs" to prove the deity of Jesus. This position ignores the fact that they were common in the primitive church and not confined to the personality, or even the time of the Master. The third and true exposition of the works is, that while exceptional in degree, they form a vital part of the divine human plan, are normal, and under like favoring conditions and development should be duplicated in every age. In other words, they form a Christian ideal and are neither disorderly nor strange. Can any deep thinker, having in view the history of mankind, reasonably affirm that they are abnormal? How can the scientist be dogmatically opposed to the spiritual philosophy of the source and influx of life when with his own chosen means of investigation it wholly eludes him?
The logic of all philosophy and analogy shows that life and mind build up the physical organism and are not the property or result of it. These invisible and primal forces lay hold of suitable, elemental material, and erect it into corresponding visible articulation. Not technical chemistry, but the chemistry of life, with wonderful skill selects and transmutes the proper materials for its own expressive uses. It unifies and organizes them, and thereby makes outwardly manifest its own plane and nature.
It is a universal law that life of every grade seeks embodiment. It is the executive of its material constituents, and should reign over them. But from the lack of spiritual assertiveness, and a belief in his own inherent weakness, man's grasp upon the embodiment which should serve him becomes weak and uncertain. The dynamic of faith is lacking and hence cohesive energy is feeble. Disintegration is thereby invited, and, in consequence, life vacates and seeks more suitable conditions.
Life more abundant is the world's need and should be its ideal. Except in a subordinate and temporary way it does not derive its sustenance from matter but its real nourishment is from above. It is entirely reasonable to suppose that as the spiritual consciousness and deeper insight which were possessed by the Prophet of Nazareth are developed by his followers, in any age, they, through orderly divine methods, will "do the works." But this supremacy over lower things will come only as a gradual and sane realization. It is potential and yet mainly latent. "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also." Nothing could be more positive and no limitation is implied. His message to the world was not some system of theology, standard of ethics, or outward restriction, but, more life. Vigorous life must include love, and love supersedes the ceremonial law. The time is at hand when the Christ which was manifested through Jesus must have wide and general incarnation.
If conversion, instead of being limited to abstract belief and an assent to certain theological doctrine, meant new life and a growing release from fleshly bondage and disorder, how the world would seek it and desire its fruits! There would be an appeal which every man could understand, and it would have overwhelming attraction. This is his lawful inheritance.
That various states of mind directly affect the body no one will deny. This principle once admitted, there remains only a question of our possible control of these states, and an understanding of how they may be invoked and brought into use. The most intense mental action and shaping comes through faith and the imagination. These are the divinest and most potent elements in the soul. True, the creative imaging faculty is capable of perversion, but the same is true of every normal power. Forces, of whatever nature, must be turned in the right direction. Reverse the most useful machine or invention and it becomes destructive. Its goodness is turned to evil. The character of the product of the imagination determines the heavenly or hellish quality of man's interior states.
It may be objected that faith cannot be invoked on demand, and that belief requires evidence for a foundation. But faith, when cultivated, becomes a veritable kind of knowledge. If it be lacking in external conclusiveness, it awakens an internal proof which is even more satisfactory. Its positive results furnish their own certitude and endorsement. Faith is the saving power of God in proportion as it is relied upon, for it brings the soul into vital contact with the center and source of all life. Reason and logic are well in their own province, but there is a higher source of knowing. Inward seeing awakens a degree of energy which no outside influence can equal. If a perverted imagination, or evil thinking can cause disorderly conditions, it logically follows that, rightly used, they may heal and restore. The soul is constantly shaping and conveying its quality to the seen organism. "Thy faith hath made thee whole," expresses a law which is as reliable as any principle in chemistry or physics. With the decline of faith the religious life has largely lost its vital element. The intellectual absorption of modern life has usurped the rightful authority of the intuitive or spiritual perception, and it insists upon its supremacy.
In the practice of the Master the conversion of the soul and the healing of physical disorder were but the internal and external sides of the same process. The bodily expression was reformed through the newness of mind, as a perfectly natural result. The principle is the same as when joy or fear, exaltation or guilt, manifest themselves in facial appearance.
The restorative energy in nature which we always rely upon is a part of the universal divine beneficence and we can accelerate and assist its healing power by thinking and affirming in harmony with it. Such is divine and human cooperation, and God's part is always in readiness, being already complete. It is possible for thought either to promote or obstruct that which we wish to make manifest. God works not from the outside but from within and this unceasingly. Because he dwells in the soul it is easy to find him and come into conscious relation and communion. Neither ordinance, ritual, nor petition can bring him "down" because he is already here. What we call pain and disease are really the friction which comes from the recuperative energy striving to correct our mistakes and straighten our crookedness. A recognition of their true mission, with a non-resistant attitude, mitigates their discomfort and hastens relief. Though so universally misapprehended, pain is not an enemy sent to distress us but an angel of mercy in disguise. We furnish it with its armament by our belief of its hostility. "As a man thinketh in his heart so is he." That feverish condition which we call disease is really the hurried effort of the divine inner forces to expel obstructions and purify "the temple of the Holy Ghost." God is ever working to turn us into the right path, both by its attractiveness and in a negative way by proving to us the bitterness of the one which is wrong.
The Dispensation of the Spirit comes on apace. We are learning that there is a divine side to man which opens into the unfathomable deeps of God's nature. The increasing higher consciousness which forms the true basis of psychic and physical soundness is also manifesting itself in the broadening of theological systems and in the spiritualizing of science itself. Men are "feeling after God" and finding more life. Divinity and humanity shade into each other and a realization of this coalescence furnishes a balm for all the woes of mankind.