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Miracle and Law

That miracle in the sense of violation, suspension, or contravention of law never occurs we need not hesitate to affirm. Nature's laws are the expression of the thought, the volition, the purpose of the all-inclusive Eternal Spirit, who is the same yesterday and today and forever. The revulsion the keenest intellects so strongly feel at the conception of miracle regarded as the violation or abrogation of the laws of nature is well-founded. The ultimate ground of the objection will be found to be that it seems to imply change in the volition of the Eternal Will, an instability of the Divine Character and purpose, a conception unthinkable, contradictory, and absurd. But though law cannot be broken or annulled, it is quite conceivable that it may be transcended. Let me illustrate. By mechanical law the stone on the roadside will remain where it is, held fast by the iron necessity of the law of gravity, unless some force impinging on it from without set it in motion. If I saw the stone suddenly begin to move on its own account and even to follow me down the street, this would be a miracle startling indeed. But on returning home I enter my sitting-room and see the dog reposing on the hearth-rug. He rises and comes towards the door to greet me, but I see no miracle in this. But why not? The body of the dog is a mass of matter quite as truly as the stone. Both the dog's body and the stone are ponderable, equally within the operation of the law of gravity. Wherein is the difference? The reason we see no miracle in the activity of the dog is that the material substance of his body has come within the scope of higher biological law. What would be an amazing miracle in the sphere of pure mechanics is perfectly natural in the realm of biology. Every higher sphere of law appears miraculous looked at from the standpoint of the lower. The higher spheres do not violate the laws of the lower, but absorb them, redirect them to the accomplishment of other and higher ends. Before life it dawned on the planet spontaneity of movement, such as we now witness in living beings without surprise, would have been miraculous. But with the entrance on the scene of biological law all is changed. Life can use for its own ends the laws of chemistry and mechanics. So, too, the biological laws of automatic instinct are transcended and used by the higher powers of the intelligence and will. In each higher stage the impossible to the lower is realized, but there is nothing miraculous, all is natural.

Nearly every year now seems to supply fresh instances of the bringing into action of laws which render possible achievements that previously would have been rightly deemed miraculous. The truth is the term miraculous is purely relative. Ice would be miraculous at the tropics, but is quite natural at the pole. I traveled the other day at the rate of from sixty to seventy miles per hour; such speed would have been quite a miracle in the old coaching days. A short time ago it would have been deemed impossible for any man to speak to another at the distance of one hundred miles. The report of such an event would have been scouted as preposterous. Now a concert in Liverpool can be heard in London. What a few years ago would have been thought of sending a telegraphic message without a wire, or of photographing a living man's bones through his flesh? Yet now these things are of everyday occurrence. What then has happened? Nothing strictly miraculous. New laws have been discovered, or known laws have been found capable of wider application. No law has been broken, none suspended, none repealed. Yet what a transformation has been effected in our whole social life, all without miracle, yet none the less most marvelous.

Now all these things are a parable. What we have seen in the realm of nature is paralleled by what is occurring in the realm of mind. As the years go by with growing , experience, higher powers are being disclosed by the human spirit. More and more it is coming into possession of itself. The soul is the repository of many as yet unreached, unexplored powers. The race is still in its infancy. The faculties of which we are at present conscious, which we are now using in our daily business and in the customary round of our social existence, are chiefly those which have emerged from below the threshold of consciousness to serve the exigencies of man's transitory existence on this planet. Yet are we constantly catching gleamings from afar of regions within the soul where are untold and unimaginable powers waiting their development into conscious life, here or hereafter. Within the mystic depths of every human mind divine capacities are concealed. At present we are too confined within the limits of our bodily senses for these powers to have free scope. Through our selfishness, through the deadening effects of our gross materialistic modes of living and thinking, there are visions of beauty we never see, divine voices we never hear, healing and renewing powers we never experience.

Sometimes these strange depths, under special conditions, have been reached in the soul, and the nobler powers hidden within it have been touched and opened. This was notably so in the ministry of the Christ, who was not only a Savior of souls, but a healer of afflicted human bodies as well. There is no need to suppose anything strictly miraculous happened in the healing work of Christ. Almost identical curative results and even moral reformation have been effected by suggestion in the artificially produced if hypnotic sleep. In this state higher laws are brought into operation and deeper powers latent in us each are reached. The phenomena of hypnotism and the parallel results that have often flowed from high religious exaltation of spirit seem of great value as indicating the direction in which the future progress of the race will lie. But it is only by renunciation of selfishness, only by the power of a divine love within that this better day can be hastened in us each. Not matter, but spirit, is the ultimate Reality. To purity of heart, to faith in God is there anything impossible? Let each of us put these principles to the test, and maybe there will be for us new heavens and a new earth.

I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood;
I see that the elementary laws never apologize.
—Walt Whitman
A man after fourteen years of hard asceticism in a lonely forest obtained at last the power of walking over the waters. Overjoyed at this acquisition, he went to his teacher, and told him of his grand feat. At this the master replied:
"My poor boy, what thou hast accomplished after fourteen years' arduous labor, ordinary men do the same by paying a penny to the boatman."
—Ramakrishna

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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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