The one essential, alike in the interpretation of life and in wise adjustment to its inevitable conditions, is the knowledge that there is one, and only one, Reality, whose being therefore transcends and includes our own and all that can ever form an object of our thought. All else is contained in this, all else follows from this, if we pursue our inquiry far enough to learn what that Reality is and how it is made known. The supreme problem is to know how best, most economically, most healthfully and happily, to take the eternal order, not simply as we find it in the outer world, but as it is made known within as a part of the life, of the very consciousness and substance, of that one Reality. For, if this is literally true, if the world-system is the self-realization of an infinite God, it behooves us to know it, to make this knowledge the guiding principle of life, since the universe cannot then be a world sent out from Deity, apart from him, the product of mere caprice, to be some time destroyed, when the caprice shall change. It must endure as long as eternity shall last. It could no more be destroyed than the self-existent Reality, whose consciousness it is. The world-plan could not be changed without departing from the highest wisdom and purest love which God must possess in order to be the one Reality.
There is the strongest reason, then, for taking life as it really is in this largest sense, since it must be part of the best possible world-plan in order to be a fact at all and be self-preserving. Everything that occurs in your life and mine must have some meaning in this world-plan, for nothing could come forth at random from an infinite wisdom. There is no other reality, and we have no independent life. To let this one purpose have free expression through us, so far as it relates to our individual career—this is life in its deepest and happiest sense, this is health and poise.
But, before considering this final element in the problem of adjustment, let us ask: What is to be the ultimate outcome of life's aspiration? What is the real meaning and purpose behind all these mysterious experiences and trials? Is it not the development of a soul, and is it not for lack of spiritual self-possession that we are whiffed about by opinions and fears? What is a soul? One may as well try to define the larger self, from whom, as we are persuaded, the soul's noblest aspirations come. Yet we know perfectly well what we mean until we are asked to define it; and we have some conception of that eternal realm of thought, superior at once to space and to time, where the poets and philosophers dwell who speak words of comfort to the soul. Our own deepest reflection transports us there, and we seem larger as a result of our meditation. There are experiences that call us out of and above ourselves, noticeably those that make one acquainted with grief in its larger sense; and the soul seems to expand with the new experience. We know when, on the one hand, a man's soul speaks through his words, and when, on the other, he says one thing with his lips and thinks another, thereby trying to conceal his soul. The whole being speaks through a perfectly genuine act, through truly ethical conduct. We mean something genuine, something honest, appealing, and true, bespeaking that indefinable thing called personality. It is a part of what we call character and temperament. It is that which endears one to those whose life gives us a glimpse of God, and makes one feel assured that life, if it produces such a thing as this, is well worth all its hardships. It is the test of all that is dearest and truest in human experience. It is that which transcends, yet gives unity to the physical, the intellectual and moral man. Through it comes that wisdom which leads men to act better than they know, which bids one be calm when there is seemingly reason to fear and grieve, which assures one that all will be well even when reason opens the way to the profoundest doubts. It is the meeting-point of the eternal, never-changing Spirit with the ever-varying experiences of human life; and many feel confident that we are far enough on the eternal side, so that life will be continuous from this experience on, so that we can affirm personal immortality.
Our deepest life, then, is a continuous incoming of renewing, sustaining power welling up from the heart of the universe into the spirit of man, a continuous, divine communication engaged in the rearing of a soul. The deepest self is not physical, nor even intellectual. It is spiritual. We are spirits now, in germ it may be; but, in so far as we are conscious of our life in God, that consciousness will probably never be broken. Man is not a body with a soul, but a soul or spirit, which in every well-poised person is master of the body and of the powers of thought.
Now, if the soul stands uppermost in importance, it is our first duty to keep the soul on top. Many people work so hard at their vocations that their souls have no room to expand. They are lawyers, doctors, financiers, with whom business stands first, not men in this spiritual sense of the word. Anything which subordinates the soul, and prevents man from taking all that belongs to him as a free spirit in a beneficent world, any mistaken sense of humility or self-suppression, has a harmful effect on the whole life, and is evidently as far from a normal attitude as strong self-conceit. If one has continued impulses to do good, and suppress them, a reaction is sure to follow. It is better to express the impulse, even in a slight way, if one cannot realize one's deepest and fullest desire. Theological creeds often suppress the soul. One feels a desire to be larger, freer, and to think for one's self. Want of charity, continued fault-finding, the attempt to do a task that is beneath one, narrows the soul. Love, of the truer sort, broad thinking, open-heartedness, happiness, expands it, and has a marked effect on the health. Sacrifice of individuality to the control of a stronger mind suppresses the soul. Education often crushes out originality.
Now, we were evidently designed to be free, to have strong, manly individuality. It is well, therefore, to consider wherein we are held down by people and circumstances, and to discover how we are cramping our souls. The soul should be master, and the powers of thought should be free. Do we not yield part of our manhood or womanhood the moment we give way to worry, to continued grief or discouragement? On the other hand, is not the realization of what we are as living, growing spirits, who use the body as an instrument, and control it by thought, who dwell with God and need never fear any permanent harm—is not this the way to free ourselves most rapidly from all that would hold us down? We have all experienced those calmer moments when we quietly faced our fears, our doubts, and our wavering opinions, and as calmly dismissed them, henceforth powerless because we saw their utter absurdity. Half the battle is won when we see our error, and realize the possibilities of the soul. We are momentarily masters of the situation. We are more truly and profoundly ourselves, we discover our inner center, and become poised, grounded on eternal reason and calm in eternal peace. This is at once the highest use of the will and the truest spiritual self-possession; for it is in these moments of calm decision, when we realize our relationship to eternal power, that the mind changes, and brings all things round to correspond to our deep desire. The ideal of daily conduct is to maintain this inward repose, to keep it steadily and persistently in view, to regain it when we lose it, to seek it when we need help, to have a calm center within which is never disturbed, come what may—a never-yielding citadel of the higher Self.
It is evident, then, that the whole of human life, and all that we have considered in the foregoing chapters, may be restated with deeper meaning in terms of soul, or spiritual, experience. The soul must learn what it is and why it is here. It must gain this knowledge by actual experience, in order to learn the value of right conduct, in order to learn that there is a Wisdom, a Love, that is equal to all occasions. It must descend into density, or matter, and become acquainted with darkness and sin, in order to discover the meaning of life and become conscious of itself as an individualization of God. It struggles upward and forward to completion. It is ever trying to come forth and express itself; and, when man comes to consciousness of what it means to develop a soul, and of the divine trend in his personal life, he no longer resists this deep moving. He comes to judgment in his own soul, and sees how he might have acted more wisely. With this deeper consciousness comes readjustment to life and more soul freedom. His soul finds better expression through the body, not in some future existence or in another body, but here and now; for even its experiences in the flesh are soul experiences, and demand, not punishment in the flesh at some distant time, but better and truer conduct in the eternal now.
If anything is purposeful in the universe, then it is the life, the aspiration and character, the soul of man, as it passes from stage to stage in its progressive experience, unfolding and giving to the light the divinity involved in its very being. It is the knowledge of this permanent factor in so much that is passing and trivial which gives one poise and strength to pass through any experience without fear that it may prove too hard.
People disturb us. They narrate their troubles and describe their sensations with painful minuteness of detail. Crowds, city rush and noise, deprive us of our peace. Be as watchful as we may, we find ourselves going off on a tangent, on a tirade of fear, or on a round of gloomy thoughts. We are misunderstood, ill-used, and wronged. Our faith is tested to the utmost, and we are pushed to the wall. There is obviously just one wise course to pursue in all such cases. Not to be disturbed, not to enter into the painful narration, not to rush with the crowd nor to countenance gloomy thoughts, not to feel uncharitable, revengeful, or unforgiving, since one will only add more trouble, but to regain one's poise by such thoughts and realizations of who we are as progressive beings, and what the Power is that is with us, as the occasion may suggest. Find your center, learn to know your home in God and what he is doing with you, and you can safely let the great world go on, and let nature's organism right all wrongs and heal all hurts.
I need hardly remind the reader that it is not so-called will power that invites this repose, but the higher and truer will explained in the foregoing chapter; for self-assertion plainly defeats one's object. People who are strong in themselves alone obviously have no poise in this deeper sense, as a soul experience. Those who reach out after the ideal as though it were somewhere afar off and not immanent in the real, who look forward to the future with a nervous strain instead of living in the present, where help is alone to be found, lose what little poise they have, and fly aloft on a burst of enthusiasm. The consciousness is concentrated wherever we send our thought; and, if we reach out or pray to God as a distant being, the thought is sent away from its proper sphere. It were better not to have ideals at all than to strain after them, and assert that they shall become facts at once; for nature's method of measured transformation through evolution is the only wise and health giving course to pursue.
To know that everything we need is within, here and now, this is poise. Realization, not assertion, is the method of this book—a realization which teaches through actual communion with it that there is an omnipresent Wisdom to which we can turn at any moment and in any place, of which our being partakes, and which is so near to us that we have no wisdom, no power, no life wholly our own.
We are so accustomed to think of the divine nature as wholly unlike and separated from our own character that it is long ere we can make this realization a fact of daily consciousness. We have taken credit to ourselves for qualities which inhere in the very Essence itself. We have limited our worship of God to one day in the week, to one place of prayer, and sought his revelation in one book. Dogmas have crystallized about us, and we have hardly dared to think for ourselves. Yet a little reflection shows that we are, that we must be, partakers of an omnipresent Love; that not the Bible alone nor any other sacred book, but every book through which the soul of its author speaks untrammeled, every divinest impulse, all that spurs man on to progress, all that is most sacred, is a revelation of God, for he is not an exclusive, but an inclusive God. This being so, we obviously do not know ourselves, do not possess ourselves, and have no permanent center of repose, until we discover this inward kingdom of heaven.
When we discover it, life seems just so much the larger and better worth the living. We learn that there is something within that will teach man better than any mere thought of his own, that he has a wellspring of guidance and inspiration in his own soul. It gives quietness and comfort to know this fact. Nearly everyone has had such guidance at times, sudden warnings of approaching danger and impressions not to do this or that; and help has often come to us during sleep. But this realization of the nearness of All-knowledge gives a reason for such experiences, and encourages one to believe that they can be cultivated and relied on. Then, too, it gives one confidence and strength of a truer sort, not in self, self-consciousness, and the products of one's own intellectual development, but in that larger Self which is crowded out by all sentiments of pride and self-satisfaction. One loses fear, one ceases to worry about one's friends and to suffer for wrongs that one is powerless to prevent, when this realization becomes a fixed habit of thought; for, if God, and not man, is behind events, we can safely trust the universe to him, and not only the universe, but our friends, our suffering and ignorant fellow-beings, and our own souls. The sense of officiousness is displaced by a feeling of patient trustfulness, and we spare ourselves a deal of unnecessary suffering; and I need hardly add that one not only gains greater repose, but that the health is immensely benefited, since the disease-making directions of mind no longer have a chance at us.
Education of the truer sort brings poise; for it develops individuality, health, and strength of intellect, which in turn means health and strength of body. Physical exercise, music, or any line of work which rounds out the character and acts as a balance wheel, is essential for the same reason, since it draws the activities out of narrow and therefore unhealthy directions of mind. Those who are very intense in disposition often find it necessary to exercise vigorously, in order to counteract this extreme mental activity, until by degrees they become less and less intense, and learn to work moderately and easily. There is an easiest, simplest way of doing everything, with the least degree of strain and nervous anxiety. We do not learn it while we hold ourselves with the grip of will-power, when we try to work our brains, and force the activities into a given channel. "Self-possession forgets all about the body when it is using it." It interposes no obstacle to the physical and mental forces. It discovers the easiest method of concentration through inward repose, and finds in this quiet restfulness the greatest protection from nervous reaction and fear.
Poise, then, is a word of degrees. Many have it on the physical plane, and are apparently seldom disturbed in their physical life. Systematic physical exercise brings control of the muscles of the body, and with this control a certain degree of poise. In learning to play a musical instrument, one gains it through long training; and we say of a great musician that he has repose, that he plays or sings without effort. But one may have bodily repose, yet have no repose of character, and may be the victim of a veritable whirlwind of nervous excitement within. Those who are aware of their own mental development and soul growth are usually conscious of touching a deeper and deeper center, and with each experience comes added poise and readjustment to life. Every trying experience demands a strengthening of one's faith or a deepening of one's self-possession; for the natural tendency is to fear, worry, and doubt. We are not sure of ourselves until we have met and undergone the test of a severe experience. Any experience, then, that strengthens this inward repose is rather a blessing than a hardship. Is it too much to say that we can become equal to any experience whatever, and meet it unmoved within, in quiet trust and perfect faith? Surely, the possibility is worthy of our consideration.
If we have proved to our satisfaction that two and two make four, and that the result will always be the same, we are undisturbed by those who affirm that the result should be five. So far as we have rationalized experience and discovered certain laws, our conviction is no less certain, because nature, like mathematics, is a system on which we can rely. If the reader is convinced that God is immanent, or that evolution, so far as science has described it, is a true statement of life's process of becoming, this knowledge furnishes a basis on which to reason. It gives poise and inspires trust. To be sure, the conditions may change, and other forces enter in to counteract and modify the results in a given case. To the forgetfulness of this fact is due the tenacity with which some people cling to their beliefs, simply because they are unaware of these modifying circumstances and causes. Doctors seem justified in affirming that disease is a physical thing, that organic and chronic diseases cannot be cured by mental means, because as a class they are unaware of the deeper aspects both of the cause and the cure of disease. But the exceptions only go to strengthen our faith, since every effect is like its cause, unless a new element be introduced. Then it is invariably different. The laws hold true universally; and, if the reader has grasped the few great but highly important laws of human life, he can now rise superior to moods and experiences, troubles and illness, which once would have caused fear, doubt, and a great amount of unnecessary suffering. Simply to know that every event has an adequate cause, that action and reaction are equal, that experience depends on our attitude towards it, and that with a change of mind, a new directing of the will, the forces of our being are brought round to correspond with it—without any further effort on our part—this simple knowledge is enough to give us poise, and make us masters of our fate.
One's method of adjustment to life or one's optimism need not necessarily be the philosophy of this book. There are as many approaches to it as there are temperaments, and this is just the point of this chapter. Have a method. Have a soul of your own. Be your true self. Think, realize, reflect, until you have a measure of unborrowed conviction, which establishes a center of repose, and is a source of happiness and contentment—a center which yields to no outer tumult, but is ever receptive to the divine Self; which never harbors fear or doubt, no matter what the wavering self may say; which never wavers, never forgets that the individual belongs to the Universal, never relaxes its hold of the deepest, the truest, the most spiritual in life, come what may, be it sorrow, illness, or any calamity which life may bring; a center which you will probably discover at last rests on the love of God for its strength, making it part of eternity and of all power and substance, though it be but a point in the infinite whole. And, when you lose this poise, regain it, as though you would say, "Sit still, my soul: thou at least must not lose thy composure nor thy awareness of the eternal presence of God."
Those who are nervously inclined will find it necessary to stop themselves many times a day when they discover that they are under too great pressure. They will find themselves hurrying unnecessarily or inwardly excited. Oftentimes all that is needed in order to prevent serious mental and physical trouble is to take off this pressure, and find this quiet inward center. It is wonderfully refreshing and removes fatigue to relieve the pressure and open the spirit to the healing power. Simply to turn away from self, and all that destroys repose, to the Self which knows nothing but peace, is sufficient to give one help and strength at any time and in any place. The wise direction of mind opens the door to help. If we trust, if we expect it, the help will come, whereas the effort to make it come will put an obstacle in its pathway.
To know how to rest, this is the great need of our hurrying age. We are too intense, too active. We have not yet learned the power and supremacy of the Spirit, nor the value of quiet, systematic thinking. We struggle after ideas. We read this book and that, and go about from place to place in search of the latest and most popular lecturer, instead of pausing to make our own the few great but profoundly simple laws and truths of the Spirit. We are unaware of the power and value of a few moments of silence. Yet it is in our periods of receptivity that we grow. Not while we actively pursue our ideas do we get the greatest light. Oftentimes, if the way be dark, and we can get no help, it is better to cease all striving, and let the thoughts come as they may, let the Power have us; for there is a divine tendency in events, a tendency in our lives which we can fall back on, which will guide us better than we know, if we listen, laying aside all intensity of thought, and letting the activities settle down to a quieter basis. Here is the vital thought of this book, its most urgent appeal to suffering humanity and the soul in need. Part of its teaching can only be verified by experience, and must seem merely theoretical to many readers. But here is a thought that is for everyone, a simple, practical thought, that leads to and includes all the rest. Let us pause for a time, think slowly and quietly, and not leave it until we have made it our own.
Silence invites the greatest power in the world, the one Power, the one Life. Let us be still in the truest and deepest sense of the word, and feel that Power. It is the All in all. It knows no space. It knows no time. Its slightest activity is universal and eternal. It surrounds us here and now, in this present life, this beautiful world of nature, of law and order, this inner world of thought and the soul. It is the supreme wisdom and perfect love. It knows no opposition. There is naught to disturb its harmonious, measured, and peaceful activity. It is beauty and peace itself. Its love and peace are present here with us. Let us then be still. Peace, peace, there is nothing to fear. In this one restful happy moment we have won the peace of eternity, and it is ours forever.
Who that has communed with the Power of silence in this way can do justice to the unspeakable joy of that one moment of rest and peace? It is not a thought alone or a suggestion that brings it. It is something more than so-called thought. It is inner stillness. It is the receptivity of the soul. It opens one to the thing itself, the eternal Peace. Many will find it difficult at first to banish other thoughts; and it is better not to force the stillness to come, but to let the agitation cease by degrees, letting the thoughts come until they quiet down for mere want of conscious attention. When at last the thought no longer wanders here and there, but is poised in the present moment, and the feeling of peace becomes uppermost, it is better to cease definite thought altogether, and simply enjoy the silence. One will then have a sense of incoming power and of newness of life which no other experience can bring. This may not be the result at first, because it is only after repeated trials that one learns how to become still. One may even be made more nervous by the simple thought of stillness. It is often easier to realize this peace for another than for one's self, but the result will in time be the same. The consciousness will be drawn away from self and physical sensation; and this, after all, is the one essential, to rise above self into the nobler world of altruism and the Spirit.
Some have found it helpful to set aside fifteen minutes each day for quiet receptivity of this deeper sort. Then, when times of trouble and suffering come, one will not lose one's self-possession, but will know how and where to find help.
The instance is related of a student in the University of Leipzig who was in such an intense state of nervous strain that the students and professors were much alarmed at his condition. By some good advice he took up the habit of sitting quietly by himself for about fifteen minutes each day, in absolute silence, maintaining as nearly as possible a state of perfect composure and muscular rest, banishing all thought and all activity. In a short time he made a very noticeable improvement, and finally recovered his health. The mere effort of maintaining an easy, relaxed state of mind and body had relieved him of the inward pressure. He had unconsciously realized the power of silence, and it had healed him.
If one fails utterly at first to gain this silent repose, and becomes still more restless, one should not feel discouraged. That is just the moment to rejoice and to know that one has succeeded. The experience is the same in all efforts of reform. The first result is to stir up and encounter opposition.
Suppose for a moment that the reader is impatient, and, seeing the error of his ways, decides to exercise self-control. Very likely he will lose his patience on the very first occasion, and act or speak impulsively. Discouragement naturally follows; and the reader forgets one of the great laws of growth—the law, namely, that a period of darkness, of regeneration, of sharp contact with all that can rouse itself into opposition, follows the reception of new light, of greater power. Conservatism and habit are ever ready to rise up, and say that there shall be no reform. All healthy changes are evolutionary, not revolutionary. We forget that an idea, like a seed, has life, and, if sown in the mind, will grow. We forget the outcome. We often falsely accuse ourselves of sin, when the relapse is really due to a firm determination to be better. If we keep the end in view, if we have an ideal outlook, we can safely let the disturbance be what it may. Quiet persistence is the word. Each effort to renew our ideal adds to its evolutionary power. "Keep your eye fixed on the eternal, and your intellect will grow," says Emerson.
One's first real success in attaining this inner repose sometimes comes alone with nature when, standing in silence under the pines and thinking in harmony with their whispering or awed by some grand mountain scene, one freely and fully yields to the spirit, the calm, the rhythm of one's surroundings. Afterwards one can return in thought to the mountain summit, where the eternal silence of the upper air was so deeply impressive. Or one can imagine one's self by the sea, where the ceaseless ebb and flow of the surf on a sandy shore once quieted the troubled spirit, or afloat at sea on a beautiful June day, listening to the regular play of the waves along the steamer's side. Any thought which suggests silence will produce the result, until one gets in the habit of thinking in harmony with the rhythm of nature, just as one can learn to rise and fall with the motion of a steamer as it responds to the steady waving of the ocean.
Everything in nature seems to have its ebb and flow, its alternation of day and night, of activity and rest, the one blending into the other throughout the seasons and the centuries. The strains of a grand symphony carry one in thought to this region of rhythmic alternation. One is glad enough at times to lay aside present problems and everything that is modern, and read the great authors who wrote for all time, or read some history or scientific work which transports one to the past, and gives one a sense of time, of the long ages and the periods through which the earth has passed and man has worked his way.
There seems to be a corresponding rhythm in human life, with its ups and downs, its joys and sorrows, its successes and its failures. Yet the interval is often too long for our short-sighted discernment. In the night of trouble and despair we forget that the day will surely dawn again. We occasionally emerge into remembrance of what it all means, and we think that now at last all will go well. Then comes the descent. We are plunged once more into the depths, where the facts of life are seen at the close, pessimistic range; and once more our memory fails to hold over. But in due time these contrasted experiences fall into a system, if we reflect on their meaning. We are awed by the eternal fitness of things. A stronger hand and a profounder will than our own is revealed in the fabric of our soul, which no purely human effort could have knit together. We are almost ready to affirm that whatever is, is right.
It is true we make many apparent mistakes. Within certain limits we seem to have an infinite choice. We are conscious of wrong-doing. We deliberately sin sometimes, and we have much to regret. Yet a time comes when many of these experiences yield up their meaning. We justify mistakes in the light of their outcome. Each hour of conflict had its place in teaching part of life's great lesson. A world of truth flashes upon us through the memory of some wrong act; and we question the wisdom of the slightest regret, since we have acted so much better than we knew. This soul-experience, this personal evidence that we have been guided, is for many the strongest assurance that our world-order is the best possible order. They are conscious of being led to certain lines of conduct at the right moment. They see their humble place in the world, and await the next step in quiet expectancy. One may as well tell them they have no eyes as to deny this inward guidance, for it leads them from task to task with a certain system. If it does not tell them what to do, it at least opposes no obstacle, like the famous daemon of Socrates. It either speaks definitely or it opens the way to the soul in repose, not the soul that thinks it knows how to act, and gives the deeper Self no room to speak. One cannot hasten it. One cannot always discern the proper course until the proper moment. It often comes unexpectedly, causing humility and surprise that so much should be given us. But the right thought comes in the fitness of time to those who quietly await it.
Thus one is drawn at last out of the narrow prison of one's own self-consciousness and physical sensation into this larger thought of the whole. It gives rest and trust to feel one's self part of a fabric so wonderfully and systematically woven, where the world-plan is not alone concerned with the selfish needs of one man, nor the wrongs which one would like to see swept away because we do not see their meaning, but with the total needs of all as related to the total universe.
One loses all sense of time and space under the power of this grand thought of the transcendent wholeness which shades off into eternity. This transient thought of ours, this divine moment of time, is a part of that eternity. It links the limitless future with the irrevocable past. It is just as important, just as truly a part of eternity, as any moment could ever be. We learn that we are in eternity now, not that it is something to come. We try to comprehend what it means, in eternity now, in infinite time, in boundless space, or, better, above all time and space, where one Power, one law, holds all events together, where each and all are inseparable and necessary parts of the one Reality.
If we dwell in eternity, why need we hurry in soul, whatever bodily hurry may be required? Why should we not dwell here in the everlasting now, instead of reaching off somewhere in thought, anticipating the future and death, as though there would ever be a break in the stream of life? If we, as souls, dwell in eternity, is not our life continuous? It surely cannot die if it enlarges into the infinite, eternal life, else it would not be life, but mere physical change. Even in physical disintegration there is no annihilation, not even the minutest particle is ever lost. Can we believe anything less of the soul? Must we not believe more; namely, that the aspiring consciousness and sense of individuality remain unbroken? If the great Father has a purpose with us, however infinitesimal as applied to you and me, it must be a part of his infinite life; and there is nothing to break its continuity.
In some of us has been born a desire to live forever. It is probable that we are no more responsible for that desire than for our deepest faith in God. In the supremest moments of human life it is he who stands by us, not we by our faith in him, and we would fain doubt him if we could; but we never quite persuade ourselves that he will fail to fulfill every deepest desire and justify all the conditions in which we have been placed, though it take forever. There are times when we seem to dwell in a region where all is good and wise and true; for we have momentary glimpses of the sublime wholeness of things, the sublime reason, the sublime end,, a region where, if we have not all power, we at least have as much as we can make our own, and a faith that knows no doubt. Yet it is no credit to us that we have this faith, this belief in God. We did not originate it.
If I display goodness towards another, I partake of the nature of God in some degree. The love of God speaks through the heart of the mother. It must be a part of the infinite love, since we all belong to him; and, if we had any power wholly independent of him, all men, all things, would be independent of him. There would be no fundamental unity, no omnipresent, inclusive Reality, no universe as we know it. The life, the power, the goodness, the love, the groundwork of the universe, of men, and of the soul, must be the all-inclusive Self; and human nature, however individual in its history, must be at each moment in some measure dependent on the Universal. One's soul is not one's self alone. It is also God's emphasis of some phase of his own nature, the attention of God fixed on some object. One's unquenchable faith is ultimately God's unfailing love. We believe in him because he knows us, because he possesses us, you and me, and uses, has need of us, because he has made us aware of his presence. He loves us, and we trust him because we must. He has aroused interest in our minds in the deepest problems of life—problems which it will take eternity to solve; and, if we long to solve them, we may thus know that we are so far immortal, because this interest is fundamentally the eternal purpose of God.
This realization of our oneness with the unthinkably great and eternal, which brings us just as near to it and makes us just as much part of it here and now in this present moment as though we were this great wholeness, and had lived from all time, is strengthened by considering our indebtedness to the world. Here we are in this beautiful, beautiful world. How wonderfully it is wrought! How systematically it has evolved, governed by exact laws and animated by unvarying forces! It is our own home. We can rely upon it and on that heaven-taught instinct which guides its creatures better than the combined wisdom of all mankind. What a delight to exist! What exceptional pleasures come to us at times among the mountains, by the winding streams, the peaceful valleys, the great ocean, inspiring awe alike in storm and calm, and ever suggestive of that Whole which unites us all! Days are continually recurring which stand out above many others because of some charming scene in nature, some impressive communion with the spirit of the woods or the hills, while the dreariest day in winter or the most barren landscape in nature will yield its gift of beauty if we seek it. The poet and the artist see all this, and live in a diviner world because they are watchful. But the beauty is there for us all, to inspire contentment if we need it, to reveal the good if we look for it, and do not let the habit of narrating and seeking only the bad control us, and to make us thankful and trustful when we consider its deep significance, its correspondence to the beauty of law and order, of need and supply in the inner life.
Then, too, the beauty of human character more than all else endears one to life, and gives one joy in existence. Two or three noble friends are all the world to some people. Where they are is home, and where they are is always happiness and contentment. One is constantly being touched by little acts of kindness and devotion. Sometimes in the country, even among a simple folk, one draws very near to the heart of humanity. One is moved beyond words, for nothing conceals the honest hearts that reach out to one in all their native feeling and sincerity. Such experiences have a wonderful effect upon the recipient when put beside the darker aspects of life—with those undeniable evidences of wickedness which might otherwise almost persuade one that human life is corrupt to the core.
Omit these darker experiences we cannot in trying to cast our thought into some sort of system; but in daily life we are too inclined to dwell on them, especially to enlarge upon our own woes, to describe every detail, so that as a result our friends form harmful mental pictures of them. We are apt to contemplate these darker facts, and never get beyond them. We stay in gloomy surroundings, and then call the world ugly. It is well once in a while to pass in review all that should cause us joy and thankfulness, to ascend the mountain, whence we can look beyond the ugly spots and see their relation—and, after all, it is a beautiful one—to the great landscape beyond.
I do not speak alone as one who has stood on the mountain top, and thought the world beautiful, but as one who has suffered keenly and critically in the darksome vales below, who has met with the severest losses and suffered the deepest disappointments, and has had a most intense nature to overcome. Our poise is worth little if it fails to give strength and composure in any possible experience, and to be itself strengthened by the newest trial. The experiences and realizations suggested in this chapter prepare the way for the severer tests of actual life. If we habitually realize what it means to dwell with God, what the soul is, and how it is approaching completion, and keep the ideal of adjustment to life ever before us, pausing in silent receptivity whenever we become too intense, into the thought will steal the renewing and strengthening Power, which will prepare us for the day of sorrow and the hour of supreme suffering.
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