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The Meaning of Suffering

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Published in the book: The Power of Silence
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It was evident from the very outset of our inquiry into the origin and nature of things that we were considering a system, an organized whole. Events in that system move steadily forward with a certain rhythm. Everything is related to something else, cause leads to cause, and every fact suggests some relationship to an infinite whole. Indeed, it is difficult to see how a universe could exist unless its substances and forces were somehow unified in an ultimate, orderly whole, which should include them all; for a chaotic, an evil, and, therefore, a self-destructive universe is clearly an impossibility. A universe must be good—that is, it must fulfill a purpose, intrinsically and extrinsically, in the light of the whole and in the light of the parts—in order to exist. It must have a meaning. It must spring from a self-existent Reality, which knows that meaning, inspires that purpose, and is at least as orderly as the universe itself. That our own world-system is just such an orderly progressive whole is proved by the existence of an exact science describing it.

But what chance has man in such a progressive system? Everything seems to be determined. Long before he can take a hand in his career, fate has apparently chosen for him. Inheritance compels him to suffer for the sins of his parents. He is born into a world of misery, from which he vainly tries to escape. Life is a conflict at its best; and, even though he were free from the pangs of sorrow and suffering, there is a stern necessity which apparently carries him resistlessly forward to a destiny not of his own choosing.

One fact, however, of fundamental importance qualifies all that we know about the world of necessity. That world resistlessly makes itself known in a certain manner. But man is primarily a conscious being. He seems to be the product of environment, and his thought, his feeling, a mere ephemeral outgrowth of matter. Yet deeper than feeling, deeper than all that holds him in bondage to matter, is his individuality; and through this speaks a Power which renders all things possible. No two men are alike. No two interpretations of a world which is everywhere governed by the same laws are wholly identical. A personal element enters into every phase of human experience. Life, with all its pains and pleasures, is largely what we make it by our thought. Thought is a subtle molding power, and is capable of directing or hindering the forces of nature. Behind the stream of consciousness is the human will, choosing and giving shape to it. The direction of mind is the tendency which gives shape to physical, intellectual, moral, and spiritual conduct. The idea is the foremost factor in every aspect of experience. These two facts—namely, that the infinite Power is trying to make something of us through our individuality, and that everything, happiness, misery, health, and disease, depends on our attitude toward that Power—explain the very mysteries of suffering and evil, at least so far as our limited knowledge can make them clear.

The first and most helpful thought to bear in mind, then, alike in the interpretation of a given case of suffering or evil and in those moments of pain when the soul reaches out for help, is that the Power is with us here and now, immanent in the very soul that needs help and in the very trouble from which we wish to be free. If one keep this realization ever in mind, remembering what that Power is and how it is made known, if one never forget the outcome, the meaning of it all, instead of dwelling on the sensations and the actual process by which one is becoming free, one's thought need never be oppressed by a sense of the stern necessity which compels one to suffer; nor will it become entangled in matter, as though that were the all in all.

Once more, then, the opinion we put into a thing determines its effect upon us. The direction of mind is fundamental. We become like that which we feed upon. If we go regularly to the theatre, if we read sensational and realistic novels, if we are intent on making money, if we live for pleasure or self alone, we draw the thought into a channel corresponding to the ideas on which the mind habitually dwells. If we associate with those who are morally and spiritually our superiors, we are made better by giving them our attention. If we investigate a certain line of phenomena alone, we become specialists, if not extremely narrow, in our way of thinking. If we reason, the world becomes rational to us; and our fears and vagaries die for want of an intelligible basis. Best of all, if we dwell upon the ideal Self, which is making the most of us it can, the whole life is made purer and more unselfish. But most vital of all is the thought of the last chapter; namely, that, if we look toward matter, toward physical sensation and disease, we call forth the energies in that direction, and build up through the subconscious mind and the spiritual matter a condition which corresponds to it, whereas, if we maintain a happy, hopeful state of mind, there is a corresponding expansion and lightness of the whole being.

The nature of suffering is therefore already in part explained; for, if our beliefs and directions of mind have such a powerful influence in the mere interpretation of matter, they must be equally powerful in determining our states of suffering. Recent literature has gone so far as to affirm that all disease is mental, a mere error of the mind. Yet it is evident from the foregoing discussion that the direction of mind is not all. It is the controlling factor, but is at times itself controlled. People do not consciously think themselves into disease or simply believe they have a certain malady. The subconscious mind, wherein we turn over and make our own the ideas and impressions that come to us, is a far more potent factor in our experience than the mere conscious thought. The influence of our opinions and habitual beliefs, our fears and traditional theories of disease, is so subtle, so closely connected with every aspect of life, that we are almost wholly unconscious of its power over us. We do not see how our states of mind can become translated into bodily conditions; and consequently we do not include these subtle effects in our interpretations of disease, until we learn that the direction of mind carries the whole energy of the being with it, because it takes form in spiritual matter. Human experience is most surely what we make it by our thought, but in that one word "thought" is involved the whole individuality and being of* man. Our inquiry has taught us little if it has not shown conclusively that experience is a synthesis of objective and subjective elements; that even in the simple experience of physical sensation there is present not only the substantial basis for which the materialist contends, but also the thought, the conscious ego, which makes our life primarily mental. If the reader will bear this dual aspect of experience in mind, he cannot misunderstand this chapter.

It is clear, then, that suffering is a state of the whole individual. Everyone who has given much attention to the subject of disease from this broader point of view must be convinced of this. In fact, from this point of view it makes little difference what the physical malady be called; for on the disposition of the patient depends the nature and intensity of the disease. Back of all chronic invalidism there is usually a selfish nature or one that is hard to influence, whose traits of character are made known in every aspect of the disease. On the other hand, an unselfish person, devoted to a life of self-denial, or one who is absorbed in congenial work, is apt to be freest from disease. Those who have time and money to be ill, those who live in and for themselves, and have nothing to take their thought away from physical sensation, never lack for some symptom out of which they can develop ill-health; and the whole practice and theory of disease are ready to cooperate in this process.

The very fact that so much depends on the temperament and beliefs of each individual renders it difficult to describe the causes of disease. Some people are so very hard to influence in any way, and are so tenacious of a condition when they get into it, that a very simple malady may be worse than a much-dreaded disease in a case where the disposition is pliable. The structure is tight and unyielding in many cases. People are too exacting, too intense in thought and action, or too opinionated and self-assertive to be easily moved. In such cases the struggle is always severe when it comes, and nature has a hard task to overcome so much rigidity. Many suffer from mere want of the action that comes from physical exercise. Some live too much in the so-called spiritual phase of life, and are out of adjustment to the everyday life of the world. Others are starving for spiritual food, and are in need of mental quickening, if not of severe intellectual discipline. Narrow religious opinions have a cramping effect on the whole life, both mental and physical. The tendency to nervous hurry is responsible for a large proportion of the more modern ailments. People dwell in fixed and narrow directions of mind, until they become cranky or insane.

Worry and fear play an important part in all varieties of disease, and some people have scarcely a moment's freedom from some tormenting belief or mental picture. Ill-will, want of charity, jealousy, anger, or any emotion which tends to draw one into self, to shut in and contract, is immediate in its effect; for, if it be continued, it disturbs the whole being, it is reflected in the spiritual matter, and finally in the body, where it is treated as if it were a physical disease. Unrealized ambition, suppressed grief, continued unforgiveness, dwelling in griefs and troubles instead of living above them, disappointments, and a thousand unsuspected causes, which impede the free and outgoing expression of the individuality, have a corresponding effect on the outer being.

We may as well turn at once, then, to the fundamental principle involved in all suffering; for there are as many kinds and causes of disease as there are people. Disease is not an entity which can seize us any way, regardless of our own condition. Whenever there is a disturbed condition which invites it, there is some cause of this disturbance back of the mere physical state, just as thought influences affect us through some sympathetic channel or not at all. Let us, then, define disease as mal-adjustment to the forces that play upon us, and see if this definition will hold true in all cases of suffering. If so, we shall find the road to health to be wise adjustment to the real conditions of life. We shall eliminate disease not by fighting it, not by studying its causes or doctoring its physical effects, but by seeing the wisdom of the better way. When we learn that it is a matter of economy never to rehearse the symptoms of disease, never to get angry, never to cherish ill-will, revengeful or unforgiving thoughts, never to make enemies, but always to be charitable and friendly, kind, good-natured, and hopeful, we shall not need to be told how we caused our own disease; nor shall we need to say, "I will not think these wrong thoughts anymore," for they will die out of themselves.

It is universally admitted that there is a natural healing power resident in the body. This power is common to all, or nearly all, forms of organized life; and by observation of the higher animals we have learned how thoroughly and quickly it can cure under favorable conditions. Many people have learned to relax and to keep quiet, like the animals, by giving nature a free opportunity to heal their maladies. No one has ever discovered limits to this power, and some are firmly convinced of its ability to heal nearly every possible disease. It can knit bones together. If one meets with an injury or merely gets a splinter into one's finger, it immediately goes to work in accordance with certain laws. There is a gathering about the injured part, and an outward pressure tending to expel any obstacle foreign to the body. Everyone knows that the healing process is impeded or quickened according to the way we deal with it, and it becomes evident on a still closer study of the question that our opinions and fears have a strong effect upon this natural process. The whole process is simple and fairly well understood, so far as a mere injury is concerned. We rely upon it, and know how to adjust ourselves to it. But what happens when the equilibrium of the body has been interfered with in another way, and the vital functions impeded? Do we wait as patiently for nature to heal us as when we meet with an accident? No, nine times out of ten we mistake its cause, call it a disease which we think we have taken, misinterpret our sensations, and resist the very power which vainly tries to heal us. This resistance, intensified by dwelling upon sensation and careful observation of symptoms, adds to the intensity of the suffering, until the trouble becomes pronounced, if not organic or chronic. Yet all suffering is the same from the inner point of view, and should be treated in the same general way.

From this point of view the natural restorative power, the evolutionary force, or the spirit, in whatever form the immanent Life appeal to us, is ever trying to make itself known. On the physical plane it is ever ready to free the body from any obstacle or inharmony, and restore the natural equilibrium. It is continually purifying, cleansing, throwing off, all that is foreign. It is trying to free us from any inheritance which may cause trouble or suffering. It begins with us where it left off with our parents. Wherever we are weak, unfinished, undeveloped, that weak point, that undeveloped state, or that animal residuum, if one still be partly animal, and not man, is the seat of pressure from within of this same power, trying to make us better and purer. It ever penetrates nearer and nearer the center of one's being, and the reason why a disturbance like the grippe is different each time it comes is evidently because the individual has changed. If one be exposed to the cold, to an atmosphere of contagious disease, of depression, or whatever the influence, the power is still there to protect and to heal. In all natural functions the power is with us, fully competent to secure their free and painless activity. It works through instinct and impulse for our welfare. On a higher plane it is operative in character, urging us to be unselfish, to understand the law of growth, and to obey it. On the spiritual plane it is ever ready to guide and to inspire us, but apparently, not so aggressive here, since so much depends on our own receptivity and desire to learn. On all these planes the power is pressing upon us from within, trying to expand from a center, just as the rosebud expands or as the seed develops when its resident life is quickened. It is the power of God. It is beneficent, good, evolutionary, calling for trustful cooperation and restfulness on our part. We need not go anywhere or think ourselves anywhere to find it; for it is with us in every moment of experience, but usually unknown, rejected, and opposed.

If, then, it be asked why passion is so persistent, why evil has such power, why disease is so positive and real, there can be but one answer. The reality lies in the Power that is active with us, the suffering, the evil, the disease in our mal-adjustment to it, in our ignorance of its nature and its purpose with us. There is something in us to be overcome, some obstacle, some inharmony. The restorative power is trying to free us from it; and, as it comes in contact with it, friction results. There is an agitation of the particles, made known to us as pain. This sensation we resist, not understanding it; and it becomes painful in proportion to our resistance to it. It grows more intense with every effort to endure it, to get rid of it, to doctor it; and so many sympathetic sensations are developed in different parts of the body, each with a different name, that it would hardly come within the province of this book to describe them. Everything depends on what opinion we put into the sensation at the outset; for the thought gives shape to the whole process, and either helps or hinders it.

To illustrate: The case was reported not long ago of a lady who was suffering with severe neuralgia. In her despair she was walking the floor, and her physician said the pain would not be relieved for forty-eight hours. Word came to her from one who had learned that much suffering is due to resistance to the remedial power to "let it come." The effect was immediate. The lady had been nerving herself to endure the pain, thereby increasing the intensity which first caused it; and the message revealed the whole process to her. She relaxed mentally, and surrendered the hold by which she had tried to endure the pain, became quiet, and fell asleep. This case is typical of a thousand others.

Again, those whose task it is to do considerable mental work learn after a time when they have worked long enough; for, if they work beyond a certain point, they become aware of pressure in some part of the head, from which a reaction is likely to follow. This is especially noticeable in learning a new language, taking up a study requiring close concentration, or any new occupation, art, science, or any form of physical exercise to which one is unaccustomed. One is soon conscious of fatigue, because the task is a new one, and habits have not yet been formed. The general tendency is to give up to the feeling of fatigue. Many become discouraged at this point, and give up study or exercise, saying that it makes them tired, and they cannot bear it.

What is this sense of fatigue? It is evidently due to the calling of power into a new direction. The new thought clarifies. It comes into contact with dense matter, with an uncultivated portion of the being, physical as well as mental; and, meeting with resistance, friction of some sort is the natural result. But this friction does not mean that one cannot exercise or study. It means the formation of a new habit and direction of mind, and the best work is done after one has passed this hard place. It calls upon one to wait a little while, and let the agitation cease, let the new power settle down and become one's own. It is nature telling one to be less intense for the moment, and to extend the limit of one's activity little by little.

It is a mistake, then, to give up to a feeling of fatigue and of pain. By giving up to it, one's thought is put upon it, with the result that it is increased, until the consciousness is absorbed in physical sensation. Rightly understood, pain is the conflict of two elements, a higher and purer element coming in contact with a lower, and trying to restore equilibrium. It is remedial. It is beneficent, the most beneficent of all nature's arrangements, the best evidence of the unceasing devotion and presence with us in every minutest detail of life of a resident restorative power. Through it we are made aware that we have a life not wholly our own that cares for us, and is capable, perfectly competent, to take us through any possible trouble, since it is there only for our own good, since it is itself thoroughly good.

But it is obviously the power that one should think of, and not of the sensation. In this way, if one be determined to see the good, to think of the outcome, one will live out of and above the sensation; for all these thoughts help. The consciousness is either turned in one direction or the other. It either helps or it hinders. One either moves with, thinks with the current of life, or tries to stem it. In one direction the thought is turned into matter, in the other toward spirit. In one direction toward self, with a tendency to withdraw, shut in, contract; in the other, toward the higher Self that is with us, telling us to be wiser, toward all that is happy, hopeful, and expanding.

These two mental attitudes may be illustrated by the sensation one experiences on a very cold day. When one comes in sudden contact with the cold, the first impulse is to shiver, to draw in and contract, whereas all who have tried it know that by simply letting it come, by opening out instead of shutting in, one does not feel as cold, and no harm results. In the former case, as in all instances of suppressed grief, fear, or any emotion which causes one to withdraw into self, that which has been shut in must be opened out. This, the natural restorative power tries at once to do. A pull or a painful sensation in some part of the body is the result; and, mistaking the sensation, the person, full of fear, contracts more intensely, causing the sensation to increase, until nature can only restore equilibrium by a violent reaction, which receives the name of some well-known disease.

But why do we resist? Why do we withdraw into ourselves and into consciousness of physical sensation? Obviously, because we are ignorant of the Power that is moving upon us. We have been educated to believe that disease is a physical entity. We put the wrong thought or some borrowed opinion into our feelings. The fears and sympathetic words of friends help the process. The possible symptoms we are likely to suffer are graphically described, the memory of past experiences of suffering is called up, until finally the whole diseased condition is pictured out before us, and the thought is every moment becoming more firmly fixed in the wrong direction. Our whole environment tends to keep us in ill-health; and disease is literally made by man out of a simple condition, from which nature would have freed us had she been given opportunity.

In order, then, to understand how we resist and cause our own suffering, we must recall the central thought of the preceding chapter. Life is primarily mental. It is the conscious ego that knows and feels the suffering. The sensation, the pain, the suffering, is in consciousness. It is mental, and every conscious state is interpreted according to the wisdom of the thinking ego behind it. Here is the starting-point of all subsequent experience in the outer world. As we start, as we believe, as we think, so will be our experience, our suffering, or our good health. The reader need only pause to consider all that this means, to see the full bearing of a state of mind, in order to understand the whole process; for the entire personality, education, temperament, and the physical activities are carried with the direction of mind, and, if the direction be into matter, into the belief and fear of disease, nature has just so much more resistance, to overcome.

The leading thought of this chapter will therefore be lost unless the reader understand disease from its mental side, unless it be clear that the whole process is mental; for, if this discussion have simply called up pictures of suffering and the memory of the reader's own struggles, without showing what lay beneath them, it has wholly failed in its purpose, and aptly illustrated the power of a wrong direction of mind. We are in search of a way out of suffering; and, if it is now clear that the entire mental attitude enters into our diseases, causing resistance and pain, it must also be clear that the same energy sent out in the right direction will be of the greatest help in securing health.

Here is a vital truth. The discovery that by maintaining a quiet, trustful, reposeful state of mind, inspired by genuine understanding of the process that is actually going on, the whole being is kept open, permitting the natural activities to operate unimpeded and without suffering. It is of such vital importance that the remaining chapters of this volume will be devoted to a consideration of this most helpful attitude, and how to maintain it. Here is the turning-point away from matter, mental pictures of suffering and theories of disease into spirit and the stronger, purer, higher life, where one never speaks of one's self as diseased, but where the same Power which once made itself known through suffering, because one opposed it, now causes good health, because one moves with it. Here is the way of escape from the narrowing thought of life in the present, in time, into a hopeful realization of what one's experience means as a part of eternity; and, when one contemplates the end, the outcome, one is no longer entangled in consciousness of the means, the process.

The first point to note is that one cannot judge by physical sensation, but should look beyond it. In sensitive natures the sensation of pain is very much exaggerated, and is no guide at all. Sometimes the sensation is so keen and the pressure reduced to such a fine point that one's consciousness is like a caged bird fluttering about in a vain endeavor to escape. Shut in there with such intense activity, the wildest fears are aroused when there is no real cause for alarm. The trouble is simply very much restricted. The Power is pressing through a very narrow channel; and relief will come in due time if one be quiet, patient, not trying to endure the pain, but letting the Power complete its task.

The second point is to remember that the resident Power, or Life, is always with us, and to think of that Life instead of dwelling upon our troubles. What a change would come over the moral world if this realization were to become a permanent factor in daily life! for there is obviously no exception to the omnipresence, the love, of God. If one accepts the doctrine of God's immanence, there is no logical stopping place in favor of the elect. If God dwells with one, he dwells with all, consciously or unconsciously. If he has some purpose with one, he has some meaning in the lives of us all. No man, then, is inherently wicked. There are no heathen. No one is lost or ever could sink so low that the same Spirit that had a meaning in his sin could not carry him through it to a conscious realization of what that meaning is. Once more the vital question is: What is the divine meaning of it all? For, if a person or an act has a meaning, that person or deed is not and cannot be wholly evil, and to say that any act of wickedness happens despite the divine power is to deprive that power of the very infinity and wisdom by virtue of which both God and the universe exist. When the emotions are touched, the struggle is apt to be very intense, and more likely to be misunderstood. The immanent Life, moving upon man where he is weak and undeveloped, through instinct, passion, and impulse, produces restlessness, which in turn causes him to rush now into this thing and now into that, and perhaps commit a crime even before he is aware of what he is doing. The very tendencies and instincts which would guide him in his development, if he understood them, are misdirected. An impulse blesses or curses, according to the opinion of it, the attitude towards it, and the way in which it is followed, blindly or intelligently. Man never conquers himself by self-suppression any more than by indulgence, but by adjustment to the forces of his own being.

The meaning of much of our moral suffering and evil is, then, to teach the right use of our powers; and moral misery and degradation will probably continue until the lesson be learned. All cases of sickness, misery, evil, wrong, demand better self-comprehension. If there be one genera] meaning which applies to them all, it is, in one word, progress—the effort of the Spirit to give us freedom. If we understood this, we should have a larger sympathy and charity for the whole human race, and be spared much suffering over the sins and crimes of others, and should look for the meaning, the Spirit, behind all wrong acts and all degraded lives.

The one great question, then, in all problems of suffering and evil, whether in personal experience, in history, in the animal world, or in present human society, is this: What is God doing with us? What is the ideal toward which the immanent Life is moving through us? All secondary questions reduce themselves to this; for everything goes to show that the universe is a system, an organism, an adjustment of means to ends for the benefit and development of the whole, inspired by one grand purpose, and proceeding from a Spirit that put all wisdom into the great world-plan. We did not make the world-order. We cannot change it; and, if our life in it be full of misery, it is for us to discover how we make that misery, how we rebel, how we resist, and what the order means for us and through our lives.

If a nation be torn by internal troubles, by wars and wrangling of conflicting parties, it is evident that it has not yet learned the great lesson of human brotherhood, and that its troubles must continue in one form or another until it discover what the evolutionary energy means, what it is trying to make known through these very conflicts. Our own nation, standing as it does for freedom, progress, and industry, has already made a great advance toward this larger fellowship as compared with its more warlike neighbors and competitors. It will undoubtedly be the first nation also to settle the conflict between rich and poor; for here, too, it has brought the issue forward more rapidly than other nations. It is learning one of the great lessons of evolution; and the poor must suffer until the two classes learn their respective and brotherly relations to each other, their need of each other, and their common goal.

Contest and controversy will continue in the same way between science and religion, between the great religions and the sects into which many religions are divided, until men learn that all truth is one and universal, and does not depend on any book or any person, but is the inherent property of all, trying to make itself known through these very controversies, and revealed in every fact of life. Theory and practice will also be at variance until it be clear that they are one, that what a man does he believes, regardless of his boasted theory. Impulse or instinct will be man's guide until he learns what is behind it, until he stops to reflect and to act intelligently with, not against, the forces of his own being; for thoughtlessness is the besetting sin of man. A large proportion of the crimes committed by him would be prevented if he stopped to consider the consequences, not only the suffering which would be caused to others, but his own severe punishment, caused solely by his own acts, because action and reaction are invariably equal.

Suffering, then, is intended to make man think. Behind all experience moves one great aspiring Power, developing and perfecting the world. It moves straight toward its goal unceasingly and without permanent hindrance. Wherein man is adjusted to it, he is already free from suffering. He moves with it, and knows how to be helped by it. But wherein he still acts ignorantly, he suffers, and is obviously sure to be in conflict until he understands the law of growth. Man has been defined as a pleasure loving animal. He is lazy, and will postpone thinking for himself or try to shift his responsibility until he learns that everything depends on the development of individuality and of individual thought. But a day comes when he begins to reflect and to see the meaning of it all. Everywhere, in the outer world, in history, in politics, in religion, he finds two forces contending with each other. Turning to his own nature, he finds the same, a higher, a rational, a moral and spiritual self contending with a lower, an impulsive, an animal self. He sees that he must obey the one and neglect the other, or, better, lift the other to a higher plane. He sees that evil is a relative term, depending on our point of view, and that conduct which seems perfectly justifiable on one plane of existence is condemned on a higher plane, where different standards prevail. It becomes clear that virtue or goodness can only be attained through an experience full of contrasts and friction, an experience which calls out the best that is in us—true sympathy, love, and character. The meaning of his own mysterious past becomes clear. He sees the rich compensation for all that he has suffered in the wisdom and character it has brought him. And, finally, in this far-reaching adjustment of means to ends he recognizes the love of God, and proves to his own satisfaction that love really dwells at the heart of the universe.

The discovery, then, that there is no escape from the operation of cause and effect, neither mental nor physical, is a turning-point in the progressive career of man; for the majority still persuade themselves that they will somehow be excused. Suffering is only necessary to bring us to a knowledge of the law, to bring us to a certain point; and it will persist until that point be reached. Our experience of today is conditioned by our past life. It is what we have passed through which alone makes it possible for us to stand where we do today. Consequently, what we do and think today will largely govern our experience of tomorrow and of all future days. Fate has not decided everything for us after all; for it was by our own consent, unconsciously, thoughtlessly, and consciously, that we suffered. Our fate is that through our individuality something is bound to come forth, for the resistless power of Almighty God is behind it. Our freedom lies in choosing whether to move with progress or against it; for man may evidently continue to sin, to oppose, and misuse the very power that would bless him, and to postpone the lesson which at sometime and somewhere he is fated to learn. If, then, in any case the result will sometime be the same, it is a matter of economy to learn the real course of events as soon as possible, since the law of action and reaction is eternal.

As hard, then, as it may seem to be compelled to suffer the results of our own unwise conduct, it is in this discovery that we learn the meaning of suffering and the way out of it. Once more, then, we must look beyond physical sensation to the conscious man behind it, choosing, willing, determining his conduct and his pain or pleasure by his direction of mind. It is impossible in one chapter to consider suffering in all its phases; but, if this central thought be clear, if the reader has stopped to consider the intimate relationship of God to man in every moment of life, these neglected problems will be equally clear, for that relationship must be universal. Not all suffering is evolutionary. Not every evil act has its discernible meaning. Most of our suffering is purely incidental, passing off without leaving us any the wiser; but all suffering, all evil, may become evolutionary. Every slightest experience will teach us something if we question it, and will yield its message of hope. This is the chief value of all experience and of the present discussion; for the final meaning of suffering is hope, the last word of this chapter is "hope," the message of the Spirit as it speaks to us in moments of despair, in times of trouble, throughout life, throughout history, in all evolution, is a grand inspiring Hope.

Horatio W. Dresser

  • Born on January 15, 1866 in Yarmouth, Maine[] and died March 30, 1954 in Boston, Massachusetts[]
  • Authored many books, including The Power of Silence, and published several magazines.
  • Earned his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1907

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