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Abiding Joy

Who carry music in their heart
Through dusky alone and wrangleing mart,
plying their daily toil with busier feet,
Because their secret souls a holier repeat.
—John Keble

Serene will be our days and bright,
And happy will our nature be,
When love is an unerring light,
And joy its own security.
—Wordsworth

Abiding joy! Is there such a thing? Where is it? Who possesses it? Yea; there is such a thing. It is where there is no sin. It is possessed by the pure hearted.

As darkness is a passing shadow, and light is substance that remains, so sorrow is fleeting, but joy abides for ever. No true thing can pass away and become lost; no false thing can remain and be preserved. Sorrow is false, and it cannot live; joy is true, and it cannot die. Joy may become hidden for a time, but it can be always be recovered; sorrow may remain for a period, but it can be transcended and dispersed.

Do not think your sorrow will remain; it will pass away like a cloud. Do not believe that the torments of sin are ever your portion; they will vanish like a hideous nightmare. Awake! Arise! Be holy and Joyful!

You are the creator of your own shadows; you desire and then you grieve; renounce and then you all rejoice.

You are not the impotent slave of sorrow; the Never-ending Gladness awaits your homecoming. You are not the helpless prisoner of the darkness and dreams of sin; even now the beautiful light of holiness shines upon your sleeping lids, ready to greet your awakening vision.

In the heavy, troubled sleep of sin and self the abiding joy is lost and forgotten; its undying music is no more heard, and the fragrance of its fadeless flowers no longer cheers the heart of the wayfarer.

But when sin and self are abandoned, when the clinging to things for personal pleasure is put away, then the shadows of grief disappear, and the heart is restored to its Imperishable Joy.

Joy comes and fills the self-emptied heart; it abides with the peaceful; its reign is with the pure.

Joy flees from the selfish; it deserts the quarrelsome; it is hidden from the impure. Joy is as an angel so beautiful and delicate and chaste that she can only dwell with holiness. She cannot remain with selfishness; she is wedded to Love. Every man is truly happy in so far as he is unselfish; he is miserable in so far as he is selfish. All truly good men, and by good men I mean those who have fought victoriously the battle against self, are men of joy. How great is the jubilation of the saint! No true teacher promises sorrow as the ultimate of life; he promises joy. He points to sorrow, but only as a process which sin has rendered necessary. Where self ends grief passes away.

Joy is the companion of righteousness. In the divine life tender compassion fills the place where weeping sorrow sat. During the process of becoming unselfish there are periods of deep sorrow. Purification is necessarily severe. All becoming is painful. Abiding joy is its completion is realized only in the perfection of being, and this is:

A state
Where all is loveliness, and power and love,
With all sublimest qualities of mind,
Where all
Enjoy entire dominion o'er themselves.
Acts, feelings, thoughts, conditions, qualities.
—Philip James Bailey

Consider how a flower evolves and becomes; at first there is a little germ groping its way in the dark soil towards the upper light; then the plant appears, and leaf is added unto leaf; and finally the perfected flower appears, in the sweet perfume and chaste beauty of which all effort ceases.

So, with human life; at first the blind groping for the light in the dark soil of selfishness and ignorance; then the coming into the light, and the gradual overcoming of selfishness with its accompanying pain and sorrow; and finally the perfect flower of a pure, unselfish life, giving forth, without effort, the perfume of holiness and the beauty of joy.

The good, the pure, are the superlatively happy. However men may argumentatively deny or qualify this, humanity instinctively knows it to be true. Do not men everywhere picture their angels as the most joyful of beings? There are joyful angels in bodies of flesh; we meet them and pass on; and how many of those who come in contact with them are sufficiently pure to see vision within the form—to see the incorruptible angel in its common instrument of clay?

"They needs must grope who cannot see, The blade before the ear must be; The outward symbols disappear from him whose inward sight is clear."

Yes; the pure are the joyful. We look almost in vain for any expressions of sorrow in the words of Jesus. The "Man of Sorrows" is only completed in the Man of Joy.

"I, Buddha, who wept with all my brother's tears, whose heart was broken by a whole world's woe, Laugh and am glad, for there is Liberty!"

In sin, and in the struggle against sin, there is unrest and affliction, but in the perfection of Truth, in the path of Righteousness, there is abiding joy.

"Enter the Path! There spring the healing streams quenching all thirst! There bloom th' immortal flowers Carpeting all the way with joy! There throng Swiftest and sweetest hours!"

Tribulation lasts only so long as there remains some chaff of self which needs to be removed. The tribulum, or threshing-machine, ceases to work when all the grain is separated from chaff; and when the last impurities are blown away from the soul, tribulation has completed its work, and there is no more need for it; then abiding joy is realized.

All the saints and prophets and saviors of the race have proclaimed with rejoicing the "Gospel" or the "Good News." All men know what Good News is—an impending calamity avoided, a disease cured, friends arrived or returned in safety, difficulties overcome, success in some enterprise assured—but what is the "Good News" of the saintly ones? This: that there is peace for the troubled, healing for the afflicted, gladness for the grief-stricken, victory for the sinful, a homecoming for the wanderer, and joy for the sorrowing and broken-hearted. Not that these beautiful realities shall be in some future world, but they are here and now, that they are known and realized and enjoyed; and are, therefore, proclaimed that all may accept them who will break the galling bonds of self and rise into the glorious liberty of unselfish love.

Seek the highest Good, and as you find it, as you practice it and realize it, you will taste the deepest, sweetest joy. As you succeed in forgetting your own selfish desires in your thoughtfulness for others, in your care for others, in your service for others, just so far and no further will you find and realize the abiding joy in life.

Inside the gateway of unselfishness lies the Elysium of Abiding Joy, and whosoever will may enter in, whosoever doubts let him come and see.

And knowing this—that selfishness leads to misery, unselfishness to joy, not merely for one's self alone—for if this were all how unworthy could be our endeavors!—but for the whole world and because all with whom we live and come in contact will be the happier and truer for our unselfishness; because Humanity is one, and the joy of one is the joy of all-knowing this let us scatter flowers and not thorns in the common ways of life—yea, even in the highway of our enemies let us scatter the blossoms of unselfish love—so shall the pressure in their footprints fill the air with the perfume of holiness and gladden the world with the aroma of joy.

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James Allen

James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.

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