Some knowledge of the law of cause and effect lies at the basis of all systematic reflection. When a message is flashed over the wires from town to town, or the electric car transports us quickly and easily through the city streets, we know beyond all question that some cause has produced the effect which serves us so readily. The ease and rapidity with which the effect results do not deceive us. We may know little about the force in question; but we know that it acts in unvarying accordance with certain laws, the understanding of which enables us to control it. We learn further that every cause has its antecedent. The electricity is generated with energy derived ultimately from the sun. The motion of the ship, as it sails before the wind, is likewise traceable from wind to sun, from the sun to the very primal source of the motion which caused our universe to be. And we stop here only because we know not the antecedent of this first activity.
The chain of related causes and their subsequent effects is in reality endless. Without a cause nothing can happen, nothing ever happened; and with an eternally active cause in the world something must always happen. Every cause, every effect, every event in the history of the universe and in our own lives, is inseparably connected with this infinite series, extending far backward into the irrevocable past, and potentially related to an ever-dawning future. If we start with the simple motion of the hand, or the reflex nerve-action which preceded it, and seek its cause, we inevitably end with this untraceable series of closely related events, which bewilders the thought by its vastness.
What does all this signify? When did cause and effect begin? An absolute beginning is simply unthinkable. One all-embracing series of causes and effects must have existed eternally, of which our world and its activity is a part, and of which all future activity will be an outgrowth. Furthermore, if the motion of my arm is related causally to the activity of my whole body, to my brain, to my physical and mental environment, to my parents and to thousands of others who have thought and acted before me, to the world, the sun—in a word, to all activity throughout eternity—then the substance moved is no less a part of eternity.
To grasp this thought fully, try for a moment to conceive the absence of all existences in the universe, and then imagine the creation or appearance of something or of some being in this infinite void. Such an event is utterly inconceivable, since something could not be a product of nothing, and every result must have an efficient and substantial cause. If, then, something can neither be made from nothing, nor something become non-existent, the sum total of substance must ever be the same. It can be modified, evolved, or dissolved, but must itself be eternal.
Try now to imagine a condition of things in which there should be no motion, and conceive the beginning of motion in the illimitable and perfectly inert universe which you have conjured up. Once more the attempt is futile. Absolute and universal rest, like a perfect void, is inconceivable. Something moving would be needed wherewith to start motion, just as something substantial must have existed before a new product could result. If only one particle moved, then something moving must have caused its motion; and, if it moved once only, all existing particles would be set in motion, since all particles are causally correlated. Motion could not cease, since only a moving power could stop it, and there would be no power to stop this inhibiting force.
The cessation of motion, then, like its inception, is unthinkable. If it were not continuous, eternal, it could never have become a fact. Moreover, motion implies not only a continuous, all-embracing series of causes and effects, but the existence of the eternally moving substance already postulated. Motion also means change from place to place, from one condition to another. Change in turn implies the experience of rhythm or interval in motion, which we call time. Change also implies the experience of space, or the extension in three directions of that which is moved. Thus an eternally existing substance, uncreated and never-ceasing motion, infinite time and infinite space, are inseparably connected. Any particular substance, motion, interval, or space must be part of a great unitary whole which includes yet transcends them all. There is cause and effect, duration between them, extension of that which is moved or affected, eternal motion, and an ever-moving something whose infinite activity is thus characterized. Out of these we have constructed the universe in imagination, and this grand result is implied in the simple statement that every effect has a cause.
And what does this reasoning further signify? That there is one, and only one, eternal, omnipresent Reality, whence came all that ever existed, or ever will exist, which includes and is all that ever proceeds from it, the one, ultimate, all-embracing Cause, which needs no farther explanation. It is self-existent, uncreated, indestructible, at once the basis and the essence of all being, the one source to which all activity is ultimately traceable. It is simply Reality—that for which we need seek no proof, since we are compelled to assume it in the very reasoning whereby we hope to prove its existence. It simply is, its own best reason for being. It is substance and power; it is life and consciousness itself, the knowledge of the existence of which is the one surest possession of human intelligence. It is, if you will, the infinite Spirit, the eternal Father, the unseen and permanent basis of the visible and transient series of causes and effects which constitute world experience and human life. It is the great Whole, to which there is no space and no time, no beginning and no ending, whose activity is continuous, and whose substance is all there is, to which we are ultimately led if we pursue our reasoning to its last conclusion.
Were we to conceive the existence of a vast number of causes in place of the one Reality, these causes would still be correlated; they could not be independent, since every cause is the resultant of some antecedent cause, and no reality could be independent but the all-inclusive origin of which we are speaking. The last cause, could we conceive an end to the infinite chain, would still be a unit, uncreated and eternal, and would therefore be the sum total of all that ever could exist. Otherwise stated, if there were more than one reality, then these other realities would possess activity and substance revealed in space and time. No one of these realities would be omnipresent, independent, or self-existent. There would still exist an all-uniting, omnipresent Reality which would be the life and substance of all others and superior to all limitations of space and time. For the origin, being the All, is therefore infinite, including yet transcending all bounds, including and revealing itself through all forms and qualities.
When, therefore, we speak of a being or substance with limitations, when we give names and assign attributes, such as "God is love," we mean some portion of this one eternal, omnipresent, all-sufficient Reality, the one substance, the one life, the sum total of all that actually exists. Could we know this one, could we define it, we should be this one. It is known to us through its infinite self-revelation as the universe. This universe of the correlated many must exist for one supreme purpose and be governed by one transcendent law. Could we state this law and define this purpose, we should once more be this one which the many reveal. We may define it as intelligence, power, love, substance. But we have not defined it, but rather a certain attribute or manifestation as we know it. We may say that we know him, meaning a personal God. But we know him only in the one phase which appeals to our finite intelligence. The Reality is still the basis of all phases, of all attributes, of all manifestations of power and form.
Again, we may deem him imperfect, and actively engaged in thinking out his mighty problems, of which this great, pulsating universe of ours is the objective representation, part by part corresponding to his thought, and our lives representing some special phase of this problem. But why, then, this definiteness of motive, revealed alike in all the kingdoms of nature, this cooperation toward an apparently preconceived end, if he is merely experimenting with us? Would not this limited being be part of a larger Self, who knew all things from eternity, and is unlimited, infinite, and utterly beyond all definition? Conceive and define him as we may, there still remains a Reality which no statement describes, which ever recedes as we seek to grasp it, but which is all we mean when we use the terms "God," "Spirit," "life," "the universe,"—yet more, which we cannot deny, since we assume it before we deny it, which imbues our thought with its presence—yes, is our thought, is the thinker, the all in all.
But I have thus far spoken of God only as the transcendent Reality which no language can define, a Reality which some dismiss as the unknowable, while others conceive it in purely mechanical terms. It follows from the foregoing that he is also immanent, that, whatever he may be as the absolute Reality, he is known in part to us as the God of our life and of our world. While, then, in one sense there can be no space and no immanency to an All, we must consider the relationship of the whole to its parts, and see how the world of manifestation of the Many proceeds necessarily from the nature of the One.
We have seen that the events of life and of the universe are causally correlated, that they are joined in an unbroken series. And, since this series of events is part of a great unit, and there is only one Reality, all activity originates within and never outside this Reality. It is impossible, then, that some man-like God should have impressed his energy upon the primeval nebulous mass, and then retired we know not where, or that he should have made the world out of nothing in six days, and then interfered with it from time to time by miraculous providences. For there is no extra-natural Deity. The sum total of substance and force does not change. And evolution, not creation, is the law of life.
The manifold changes which have brought the world to its present state, the endless working of force against force, of animal against animal, and man against man, and the ups and downs of human history, are probably just as important and require the divine presence just as much as the impulse which first brought our world into being. Either, then—note the alternative—God put forth his own being as the world, immanent yet transcendent, and is with it, transforming it through phenomena, as much now, in this age, in these changing times, in this room, as in the irrevocable ages of the past, or there is no God at all. For whatever exists is a part of and within the one Reality. Nature's God, the immanent God, is the only possible God. Let me repeat. Either God is revealed through the cohesive force which holds matter together, and holds the planets in their positions in space, through the love which draws man to man, and the fortunes and misfortunes which characterize his progress, through the insensible gradations by which our politics are changing and our own conflicts are making us true men and women, or there is no divine Father at all; for science tells us of no other development but that of ever-gradual and never-ceasing evolution, due to resident forces.
Life, then, all life, yours and mine, all that holds it together and links it with the eternal forces of the universe, is a continuous, divine communication. There is no separation between our own souls and that Spirit in whom, in the most literal sense, we live and move and have our being, between the world in which we live and that eternal Reality of whose substance and of whose activity it is a part. The life which sleeps in the rock, dreams in the plant, and awakens to consciousness in man, is the same, the one great life, which is revealed just as clearly in the fortuitous changes that spur us on to progress as in the exact movements of the planets. All nature reveals God. The sea, the sky, the mountains, the complex life of great cities, the simple life of the country, the admiration of the poet, the thought and feeling of all men, all nations, all books, all churches, all religions. All thinkers, all artists and lovers of the beautiful, are feeling after him. All state in their own terms, and according to their degree of intelligence, the conception of a divine Father, which I have tried to make clear as it appears to me; namely, that he is nature, yet more than nature, personal, yet more than person; on the one hand, the great unit, omnipresent force and substance whence all things and beings proceed, impersonal, infinite, unknown, transcendent, indefinable; on the other hand, relatively known, finite, immanent, personal; an intelligent power, large enough to be the author of all life, and near enough so that Jesus could name him Father, and so that we can perceive his activity in our daily lives; an omnipresent Reality, whose complete nature is revealed in the total universe, and so much as we can comprehend in our own lives; a Spirit which has no form, but which all forms reveal; a God who is unknown and unperceived in this larger and deeper sense, except by those who have thought and suffered deeply, he whom we refuse to recognize when we look afar into the heavens for a god of our own fancy; a God who is not only immanent, but is that in which he dwells—a continuous, all-pervasive, all-pervaded Spirit; a Friend who is just as near to us in this present happy moment as in the countless eons of eternity of which this fleeting moment is an integrant part.
Do we realize what this nearness means, what it is to dwell with God consciously? Let me try to bring him yet nearer.
Sometimes one seems to look far into the eyes of a friend and to see the soul gazing from unseen depths in return; and, as the face softens into a smile, one draws still nearer to that elusive somewhat called the human spirit, as it lends life and beauty to the features, itself invisible, yet so plainly revealed that one can almost locate its vanishing touch. There are days in the country in summer—noticeably in June and September—when a divine stillness seems to rest over all the world. We feel an unwonted and indescribable peace which lifts us above our petty selves to the larger Self of eternal restfulness which nature's calm suggests. We almost worship nature at such a time, so near it brings us to the Spirit which imbues the very vibrations of the atmosphere. Again, when standing near some grand mountain, or when looking far into the clouds at sunset, we seem to perceive the strength and the vanishing glory of him who is almost revealed to our longing eyes, yet forever remains beyond our keenest vision.
And, if we push our analysis still farther, do we not discover that all that is best and dearest in human life, all that is most useful in nature, is like this retreating beauty of a soft landscape: the mechanism is visible, but the beauty is of the mind? I saw my friend, you say. Yet you only saw his face, not his soul, just as you see the world, but not the Life which animates it. You feel love, you use wisdom, you reap the inner benefits of goodness; but all is intangible. No one ever saw force: we see and make use of its effects. Yet no one doubts its existence. We know it through its manifestations. And some affirm that there is no dense material, simply varied modes of motion of one infinite force, of one underlying Reality; while other philosophers describe the universe as a system of ideas produced in us by the great Reality behind all phenomena. Whatever the ultimate nature of matter may be, and this is a question which we cannot profitably discuss here, it is evident that the Reality is somehow made known to us. No one denies it, yet no one ever saw it; so intimate is the association between motion and that which moves, between cause and effect.
The retreating beauty of nature, then, seems typical of our deepest associations with the Father, a union to which Emerson has given the best expression in his "Over-Soul." We are conscious of the human part; and, when in times of sorrow we seem comforted from on high, we are dimly aware of the divine. Yet we cannot grasp it: we can only affirm that God resides in and is the source of our being, just as the grandeur of nature resides in a landscape whose beauty we can never locate. Take love, take wisdom, start with any quality in human life which points to a common nature, and, tracing it to its source, one's thought is lost in contemplation of the great Reality which must be all these qualities, since there could be but one perfect love and wisdom, which all share in greater or lesser degree, just as surely as the force with which I move my arm is related to the power which, from all time, has caused the planets to revolve and the infinite series of causes and effects to be active.
Were we not thus a part of the one omnipresent Reality, there would then be someplace where the Reality does not exist; and it would not then be omnipresent. Unless our activity is due ultimately to the one life, then there is an existence independent of it; and this we have proved impossible. Our consciousness, our life, our intelligence, must blend with the infinite life and consciousness; and this larger life must therefore be all of yet more than our own. Since this Reality is omnipresent, and is the sum total of all that exists, we must be part of it in order to exist at all, and as dependent on it as the plant on the sunlight. And, since it must be conscious in order to be aware of its own existence, it must know us as a part of itself. Thus, then, there is no escape from the conclusion that we are part of the great Reality, or God, that we reveal him when we truly love and serve and are really wise, that he knows us as a part of himself, that we have no power wholly our own, and that we do not exist apart from, but as a part of, this great Over-Soul.
In such a realization as this, that we blend in consciousness and in love with the ever-renewing Life, and that we reveal more and more of the divine nature as we ascend in the scale of being, lies a real way of escape from morbid self-interest, introspection, self-consciousness, want of confidence, and the feeling of one's own insignificance. To know that our highest love, our deepest thought, our truest self, is not wholly our own, but, in so far as it is unselfish, is divine—this it is to have something in which we can trust and on which we can rely, which shows us what we are, not as weak human beings which we vainly try to understand by self-analysis, but what we are as particles of the divine nature. Thus the painful thought is lost in the consciousness of divine nearness, just as though a particle of sunlight should become aware of its relation to all sunlight and to the sun. And what a pleasure it is to view nature and human life with an ever-deepening consciousness of this divine background! Truly, there is no time for complaint, or even for suffering, so far as suffering is self-caused, if we dwell in this pure region of thought, where we look upon the good and true as an outburst of the divine, and all else as slowly evolving toward this realm of goodness, where the landscape suggests the beauty which it so well typifies, and where our own hardships lead us, not into the realm of complaint, but into the land of inquiry, of genuine desire to know what God is doing with us.
But the question still remains: How can the infinite become finite? How can a perfect God know imperfect man, with all his woes and struggles? Why should he create? The answer is contained in what we have already said concerning the one Reality.
Continuity of motion is one of the attributes of that Reality, the activity of which originates within itself, and is never self-destructive. Eternal self-interaction is the cause of eternal self-manifestation. The Reality has therefore never been without manifestation. Although it is the One, it must ever have been the Many: it must ever have been at once finite and infinite, since it is not simply an undivided whole, but is the sum of all its parts, each one of which, like the figures 1, 2, 3, is finite. Motion could not spring suddenly out of a perfectly simple, inert unit. Even an ultimate cause must be substantial and active from eternity, and have something on which to act. We need not then try to conceive the beginning of this universe, for it never had a beginning except in its transitory aspects. Nor need we conceive a motive for the first manifestation of the one Reality, since it could not exist without manifestation; and whatever appears is at once a part of itself and an outgrowth of that which has actively existed throughout eternity.
The One is the sum total of all possibilities: it is eternally the Many, either actually or potentially. If it be actually the Many, then there is always somewhere all possible forms of manifestation. If the One be only potentially the Many, then we are bound to conceive it as progressively manifested in a world-order like our own, and must expect a continuance of the series until the whole has been expressed in finite form. The One, then, must ever have been perfect in every possible sense of the word, but only perfect through its transcendent unifying of the Many, either immediately or progressively making itself known to itself, and thereby giving the One an eternal object.
Put in more familiar phraseology, Could a perfect being exist without some object of his love and wisdom, without some manifestation whereby he should know himself? And, if God is perfect intelligence, does he not know all possibilities, both of divine and of human action? Is he not present in the very struggles and conflicts which we try so hard to reconcile with his unfailing love?
Unless some change takes place, even in a perfect universe there could be no object of divine knowledge; and, if a change takes place, there must be some consciousness of it. Furthermore, an infinite being would at least have a desire to know itself, to vary its pure monotonous self-consciousness; and, unless it had such a desire, it could never become perfect, since it must want to know itself not only through" its foreseeing intuition, but through the realization of its own foresight, through self-experience and manifestation of all its attributes.
The infinite Self, or God, must, then, have thought and desire, or some form of consciousness transcending what we denote by these words. He must reveal and know himself part by part, as the finite, as the world, as man, in human love and aspiration, in order to know his total self. For, if we have come into being unnecessarily, then some other god rules, and not the all-wise Father in whom we believe, and who seems to need us. The very effort to be rational, the act of self-knowledge, consists in separating off some portion of the infinite in such manner that it shall represent a phase of the total life. And are we not just such differing aspects of a common nature, with our varied temperaments and our diverse ideas?
Since, then, the infinitely self-conscious Reality includes within itself all possibilities of thought and action, before its boundless contemplation must pass all that could ever be thought. God must see the outcome of all these thoughts, were they to be objectified in outer life, with all the suffering involved, and then chooses, if we admit the possibility that our world-order might have differed from the present system, and fixes upon the system which he proceeds to realize. He must, then, know of our petty lives and our suffering, our longings and what they mean, or else we are greater than the cause that produced us. He must have all intelligence, all power, since whatever exists, that is he. He must surely have chosen the world-order which should most fully reveal his wish and nature; and, if that nature is one of perfect and unchanging wisdom and unending love, it follows that the universe was brought forth in love, and that it is the best possible world-order. It follows, also, that this plan of manifestation cannot be altered, since it reveals the nature of the only Reality that could ever exist, since nothing could change that Reality, and since it possessed and put all wisdom into a plan which otherwise would have defeated its object. There must, then, be a will or purpose in this world-order. For, if it had no purpose, it was called forth by a non-intelligent reality, it is simply mechanical, evolution has no deep meaning, our desire for reasons is without a basis, and there is no reality which includes our intelligence, and we have misinterpreted nature when we deemed it the product of intelligence.
In order, then, to grasp this wholeness of relationship of the great world-order, let us once more adopt the imperfect figures of human speech, and conceive this Reality as an infinitely wise, an all-loving, all-containing, all-animating Thinker, in whose comprehension the shining worlds of space and the tiniest atoms whereof matter is made are grouped in one transcendently perfect system of self-realization; through whose measured reflection are evolved planets such as our own, unvarying in their law because he is unchangeable, requiring ages of time because his reflection is measured and sure, definite in shape and known to us as matter because his purpose is rational, and because reason consists in establishing bounds, and through whose tender care we are led onward to conscious union in thought and deed with his purpose for us. Our earth, then, is a part of the great rational life of God. It has its definite orbit and a definite history; it follows unchanging laws just because it is part of a thoroughly rational life. It is distinct from other spheres of the infinite activity, just because its history fulfills a purpose, and is therefore moral. It is finite, because it is a part only of this morally rational life. And so, let me repeat, with you and me. We are expressions of the infinite life, yet are finite just because the all-seeing intelligence means one thing in your life, and something else in mine. We are imperfect, incomplete, because we join with others to form his meaning; and he has not yet reflected our lives to their perfect conclusion—a process which we are confident he will complete, though it take eternity.
Such a figure as this, the relation of a thinker to his progressive system of thoughts, seems most nearly to approximate the nearness which human speech can barely suggest. I am trying to show that God knows us, even though we fail to know him, that he has a purpose with us which he is even now executing, that he is the completing Sell without which our lives have little meaning, the knower and the known, the thinker and the thoughts, the builder and the built, the sustainer and the love which sustains, the limiter whose will we know as fate and as matter, without whom we are as naught, with whom as gods.
In those rarest moments of human life when the soul, in the peaceful isolation of the woods, by the sea, or in the quiet of the library, is lifted above itself and made aware of its kinship with the Father, have you not been conscious of just such relationship as this? Has not God seemed for the moment to belong to you alone, as though in the unsearchable depth of his love he lived for you? Yet were you not conscious that the Spirit which then moved you to silence is the same which speaks throughout the countless spheres of the universe? What a divine joy would life be could we always maintain this consciousness of the inner presence! But are we not apt to forget this nearness, to fear, to worry, and to act as though we were independent of the great Reality, the all-seeing Father, without whom we could not be?
The present paper is simply an attempt to lend system to these rare moments of uplifting, that we may become more conscious of the divine inflow. And what is life for, in the deepest sense, if it be not to bring us to consciousness of its source and its import? Is it not in our moments of earnest thought, when we reflect on experience and learn its meaning, that we grow? And, if mankind were judged on the basis of real worth, would not so much avail as we really are as thinking, helpful souls—that part of us which, as we hope, survives all change?
Man may be called a point of energy, a center of application of divine Power. His consciousness, his will, if he be aware of his eternal birthright, is a vantage-point whence the infinite Thinker views the world and thereby knows himself. But the infinite Self seems to act through the majority of men almost by force, for they seem unaware of his presence. They are moved in throngs, and spurred along by suffering, because in their shortsightedness they fear and oppose the moving which is for their deepest good. As Emerson puts it, "We are used as brute atoms until we think, then we use all the rest." Yet, if this world-order is the best possible order, the love of God must be just as clearly manifested in the struggles which carry us along until we think as in our moments of repose. It is character that avails, that seems to be the purpose of our contests; and character is the result of determined effort to surmount the obstacles we are compelled to meet until we learn to live above our troubles. The experiences of evil and suffering seem justified by their outcome, since we should know nothing without experience.
Without contrast and comparison we could not interpret experience. Without darkness and evil we should not know light and good, even if we were perfect at the start, since our perfection, like that of a God without manifestation, would simply be an unrealized ideal, It is the one who has lived and suffered, conquered, thought, and practiced his own truest wisdom, who moves with fate. He is no longer as one among thousands, but himself a mover, a sharer of power, cooperating in intelligent companionship with the Father. Then dawns the Christ-consciousness, with its accompanying life of self-sacrifice; and the faithful soul enjoys a personal relationship with God, whom he now knows through actual experience to be literally the All.
But our realization of the immanence of God must do more for us than simply to furnish a rational and intuitive basis for belief in an omnipresent Reality. A lasting benefit and mental freedom come from systematic thinking about life, as well as a measure of inner repose when we have pushed through doubt to settled conviction. But the real test of faith comes in moments of trouble and periods of discouragement and sickness. If we say that we believe in God, and then worry, doubt, and fear, and return to our selfish life, then we do not yet know the omnipresent Comforter. To act as though we really believed that God is in his world, in our own souls, concerned in our daily experiences, and ready to strengthen us in any need whatsoever—this is a genuine test of faith. To lift our thoughts to him habitually, not periodically, as if we really expected to get health and help from him, instead of asking for the impossible—this is genuine prayer.
Do we put our faith to such a test? Do we try to trust God fully, understandingly, with a deep conviction that it is his life, his power, that is pressing upon us through what we call the remedial forces of nature, through the very life of the body? Do we wait for guidance when we are perplexed? Do we try to see the divine meaning, the outcome of our experience as an integrant part of a great world-experience? Do we let this life come as it may from the divine source, without rebellion, without doubt, carrying before us an ever-renewed ideal of ourselves as happy, useful, in good health, every day in our experience having some meaning in the divine economy? Do we turn from matter to the Reality behind it; from the body to the soul that moulds it, now in this fashion, now in that, by the power of thought; from the ills which seem so real while we dwell upon them to the inner self which can become so strong that we shall have no ills whatever except those which are essential to our truest evolution?
I am not asking these questions from the point of view of some ideal theory. There are earnest souls who make this practical realization of the immanence of God the basis of a system of healing at once removed from all formulas of suggestion, assertion, denial, and from all methods of physical cure. To such the overwhelming power which accompanies this realization and the desire to help the sufferer is everlasting evidence of its truth. And all hypnotic processes would be as superfluous as they would be irreverent in the presence of this divine power, alike inspiring humility and confidence in its renewing strength.
Nor am I advocating mere religious faith in God, or an easy-going optimism which assures us that somehow all will come out well. I am pleading, first, for a scientific interpretation of the world; secondly, for a conception of an underlying Reality, an indwelling Spirit, large enough to give continuous life to this world; and, finally, for wise adjustment to and intelligent cooperation with the impulses which spring from this indwelling life. I advocate that interpretation of life which places the responsibility largely on ourselves, which teaches us not to lean on systems of thought and on people in whom we believe and whom we permit to do our thinking for us, but encourages us to look within and to find in our own souls an ever-present resource.
Deep within every human soul there is a dormant intuition which, if it be quickened, will guide us, as, unerringly as the instinct of the dove, to our center, to our home in God. There are those who, aware of this divine instinct, await its word and rely on its guidance with just as much assurance as the most ardent believers in science await her profound conclusions. They make almost no plans, but look upon the task which comes to them to do as bearing some relation to the great life of the All. Their faith is based on accurate and long-continued observation of the phenomena of the inner life, on oft-repeated proof that help and guidance are ready for those who listen confidently and receptively. Is there not a possibility here, an ever-present yet universally neglected resource, capable of bringing such usefulness and joy into existence as we have never dreamed of?
It seems unbusinesslike to await impressions, to trust. Yet the merest reflection proves that all life reposes on trust. The reputation of a business house can be ruined in an hour, if its standing be seriously questioned and the report be noised about. With all that science has told us about nature's laws, we are still compelled to take the world on trust. We fall quietly asleep at night, believing that the day will dawn tomorrow, that no calamity will befall our world, that it will be safe to depend on nature's forces. Nature has never deceived us, and we believe she never will. Yet we do not know what may happen. We run a thousand risks each day, in the streets, in the cars, everywhere, with perfect composure. Can we not carry our trust a bit farther and understand that on which we should rely, and not only rely upon it, but call upon it for aid? Is God less watchful, is he any less present in the realm where thought controls and leads us into fear and disease or into trust and composure, according to our direction of mind? If gravitation holds the earth in its position in space, may it not be that its spiritual counterpart, the love of God, sustains our souls in their progress, and provides for us in ways which we have scarcely suspected? Yet how many of those who say, God is love, stop to realize the world of meaning in that little sentence? There is healing and comfort in such realization. Let me suggest it briefly in closing.
The omnipresent Reality, or immanent God, must love the world he has brought forth to reveal him, and therefore must appreciate and love you and me as parts of it. He must have caused it to evolve from love or desire, for otherwise he would have been compelled to cause its existence. Had he been compelled against his will, the existence of a compeller would be implied; and this is impossible, since there is but one Reality. Since he is the All, he is all the love there is; and, since he must of necessity reveal himself in order to have an object of his inexpressible devotion, he must have put himself forth in love. And, if he brought us here in love, he must care for our continued welfare, since he is unchangeable. If he cares for us, he must have had a loving purpose in causing us to exist; for he was not compelled to bring us into being. He is all-wise, and could not have brought us here without knowing his own purpose. No one can defeat his purpose since he alone exists. His purpose cannot be self-destructive, nor can he wish us harm, since he called us forth in love. If he loves us, he must be with us, since a distant God is impossible, and would be cold and unfeeling, while the true God is our larger, our diviner self, nearer to us than thought, closer than thought can imagine. His relation to us must ever be intimate, since there is no power, no substance, no space, to separate us. Therefore we are not in any sense apart from him. We exist with him in a relationship typified by that of a child in its mother's arms. He is our Father, though infinite in power and wisdom. Nothing can prevent us from enjoying his love, his help, his peace, his inspiring guidance, but our own failure to recognize his presence. Let us, then, be still and know his love, his indwelling presence. Let us test it fully, and learn what it will do for us if we never worry, never fear, never reach out and away from this present life. Let us absorb from his love as the plant absorbs from the sunlight; for our spirits, like the plants, need daily nourishment.
Can we estimate the value of such quieting reflection as this, if it be renewed day by day? Sometimes a text of Scripture, a poem, or a piece of soft music, will bring it to us. Sometimes we must seek the solitude of nature ere the Spirit come; for it is the Spirit that is the essential, and not, I insist, any form of words, or assertions, or suggestions. Silently and unobserved, the Spirit will breathe upon us if we reflect, if we wait for it in stillness day by day. It will not come if we doubt, if we fear, or—note this especially—if our own thought be too active; for the Spirit never intrudes. It lets us go our own way if we choose: it comes, we know not how, if we trust. All it asks is receptive listening. Then all an unselfish human being would wisely ask is ours.
It steals into our consciousness when we think deeply, to guide, to strengthen, to heal, to encourage. The great secret of life is to know how, in our own way, to be receptive to it, how to read the message of its inner whispering. The sure method of growing strong in realization of its nearness is to believe it will come if we listen, to trust it in moments of doubt as the lost hunter trusts his horse in the forest, to have an ideal outlook, and then renew our realization day by day, ever remembering that, as this Spirit is the only Reality, the one power, the one love, we live in it, and with it, and there is naught to separate us from its ever-watchful care, its ever-loving presence.
More from Horatio W. Dresser
- Born on January 15th, 1866 in Yarmouth, Maine and died March 30th, 1954 in Boston, Massachusetts
- Authored many books, including The Power of Silence, and published several magazines.
- Earned his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1907