(Steinway Hall, October 6th, 1918)
That life may be beautiful you all acknowledge. Those of you who were here last Sunday and heard the subject for today announced, received that announcement without any surprise. Why? Simply because you are quite sure that life can be beautiful, and that it lies within the power of every one to make it so, if we will. Had it been announced that the subject would be, The Life Miserable, or, The Life Sorrowful, or, The Life Unhappy, you would have been astonished, and perhaps a little indignant, and in all probability would not have come to hear me today, and small blame to you...But you know—we all know, that the beautiful life is the natural life; it is the true life, and the only real life; and because you know it is so, you want to hear about it, and learn how to live it. But do not forget that it is not sufficient for us to say we believe in the Life Beautiful; nor is it sufficient to make affirmations about it; nor to make great claims concerning it. There is a very great danger today in what is called the Higher Life Teaching, or the New Thought Teaching, and that danger is, that the use of affirmations may be carried to such an extent that it will be forgotten that the affirmations of the New Faith do really, at times, threaten to become just as dangerous as the empty professions of the old. The latter had to be reminded that, "Not everyone that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father," and it appears to me that it is necessary now that we should be sometimes reminded that all the affirmations in the universe will not make life beautiful unless those affirmations are carried out in the daily life in a living practice even to the smallest detail.
There are common dangers attending the new thought, as well as those which attended the old faiths. We have been accustomed to hear it said "He is not in the faith," or, "She is not converted," or, "He is not saved," and those terms had no reference to the life and conduct of the individuals "not in the faith," or "not converted," or, "not saved," but they really meant, he, or she, does not belong to any church, or they do not believe as I believe, or, they are not of my way of thinking. Now let us beware of a much more subtle form of the same kind of thing in the new ideas, or New Thought, that is just now claiming the attention of so many. I have heard such remarks as, "He is not in the Truth," or, "She is on a lower plane," or, "They are not sufficiently advanced to see it," and so on. That kind of thing does not constitute the Life Beautiful by any means, it is just sublime egotism, nothing more or less! The last man, the last woman to claim to be on a higher place than others is the one that is most spiritual. "He that is greatest among you, let him be the servant of all." Humility is the hall mark of true greatness and of real spirituality. Not by professions of advancement beyond our fellows shall we enter the Life Beautiful; neither shall our claims of the possession of great and wonderful gifts convince any that we are superior to others, but rather the reverse. And who art thou that judgest another by saying he or she is not in the Truth? Not by such words of judgment and condemnation is the Life Beautiful found, for if a man esteemeth himself to be something better than his fellows, then is he far from understanding in the smallest degree the meaning of The Life Beautiful.
Truth is not an opinion! Truth is not my particular belief, or your particular belief! Truth is lived, not talked about and we do not listen to a man's words on talk or professions of Truth, to know him; we know him by his life and conduct, by his speech, by his behavior under all circumstances, and those are the things that convince us whether he knows Truth or not. TRUTH IS LIVED, NOT TALKED ABOUT. You shall not convince me, man or woman, whoever you may be, that your mind is more spiritual, or your heart more pure, or your knowledge and wisdom greater than others if your life, your actions, your deeds, your words, your influence, do not so convince me.
We must make this Movement that is called after the name of James Allen worthy of his name. He was the most practical man I ever knew. Never did I see such a Life Beautiful as his life was all the seventeen years I was honored to walk by his side. But never did I, or any other, hear him say that he was on a higher plane than any other, never did I hear him say that he was in Truth; nay, he esteemed himself lowlier than the lowliest. Never once did I hear him make any claims as to possessing more powers than other men, or that he was superior to others. He left all that to lesser souls. No, no, the claiming of superior gifts and graces does not constitute the Life Beautiful, but is more often the dust of ignorance and egotism, thrown by the lower self in the eyes of the understanding. And be sure of this, the moment you begin to claim something greater than others; the moment you set yourself apart as being holier than another, that moment you turn your back upon the Life Beautiful. Optimism is one thing—egotism is quite another, and they are as far removed from one another as the poles. Self-reverence, self-knowledge, and self-control are good and right, but arrogant claims for oneself, as possessing this and that power, are as far removed from simple and sincere goodness and nobility as the east is from the west. Those who do possess great spiritual powers say nothing about them.
The Life Beautiful is a life of unselfish service. When you hear persons talking of work being beneath them, or certain kinds of work being degrading—well, you may be sure they have much to learn It is not the task that is beneath you, dear one, it is the spirit that you bring to it that is beneath the task. It is not the work that degrades you, but your condition of mind that degrades the work. He or she who has entered into the realization of the Life Beautiful finds beauty in everything. To such nothing can ever again be common or unclean. We have been putting the cart before the horse in so many ways. We have been looking out for defilement where defilement never is, where it never can exist, instead of looking in for it, where all defilement has its origin. We have thought that in certain things existed the power to defile us, while all the time it is we who defile the things; we have in our foolishness and pride imagined certain work beneath us,—below us, not knowing that by that very attitude of mind we prove ourselves to be below the work. I know nothing that I may not make beautiful, In the Life. Beautiful there is nothing that defileth, or maketh unclean, for all is beauty. Said Fiona Macload,—"It is loveliness that I seek, not lovely things." When we find Loveliness we shall find her everywhere, and we shall sing with Emerson, that Great Lover of The Beautiful,—
There alway, alway something sings.
Are we forgetting the beauty of simplicity, and simple kindness, and cooperation, and service, and brotherhood, and comradeship and friendship? Do we really understand the real, deep, true meaning of those beautiful words? To believe in them as beautiful theories is not sufficient, they must be put into daily, hourly practice. How complex and involved life has become! How far, far away from the original simplicity we have wandered! Are we in danger of forgetting the beauty of kindness? There is more of the Beautiful in one act of kindness, in one unselfish act of loving service for another than in all the affirmations and creeds the world of men and women has ever made.
Where pity dwells the peace of God is there;
To worship rightly is to love each other,
Each smile a hymn, each kindly deed a prayer.
For he whom Jesus loved hath truly spoken;
The holier worship which He deigns to bless
Restores the lost and binds the spirit broken,
And feeds the widows and the fatherless.
Follow with rev'rent steps the great example
Of Him whose holy work was "doing good";
So shall the wide earth seem our Father’s temple,
Each loving life a psalm of gratitude.
Fellowship, cooperation, service, how beautiful they are! How much do we know about them by real every day experience? I do not ask how much you know about them theoretically; how much you have read about them, or how much you have heard about them, or how much you have talked about them, or written poems on them,—but how much have you LIVED them? It is more blessed to give than to receive, and the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister. The Life Beautiful is essentially a life of service, of fellowship in all departments of life; of comradeship, of cooperation. We know this better today than we have ever known it before. The brave boys at the Front and in the Camps have been teaching us many lessons. I verily believe that one of the beautiful things that is coming to us after this fearful war is a new awakening in regard to comradeship and service. l find it in every letter from my boys at the Front, in the Camp, the Hospital, the Convalescent Home. Those of us who have had the honor of entertaining the wounded men have seen the beautiful spirit of sympathy and fellowship between them. How kind they are to each other. I have seen the man deprived of both limbs carried up and down my staircase, and into the dining room, in the arms of a comrade. The cripple had no need to look round for his crutches when he needed them, some comrade anticipated his wants always. The helplessly maimed had no need to remind his comrades that his arms or hands were missing. How they watched and waited to do the loving service for each other. And how cheerful they are lest they cast a gloom over one another! The most cheerful guest I ever entertained in my home was a young officer who had lost both his limbs. Young, handsome, gifted, life must have been full of promise for him! He sat there as helpless as a babe, yet upon his face was ever the kind smile, upon his lips ever the happy word. I often think of that beautiful face when I am tempted to be downhearted or sad. I remember how his brother officers tried always to be the first to carry him, to move him from one part of the room to another, both he and they smiling at and joking each other, while all the time you knew his heart was broken, and you could feel that the smile and joke of the man who carried him in his arms was not very far removed from tears. These men are learning lessons, God bless them, and they are teaching us something too. We are finding out that sympathy and cooperation and fellowship are some of the great essentials of the Life Beautiful.
There are so many things that we may cultivate to make life beautiful. Friendship is beautiful. Sometimes we mar our friendships by moods and petty offences. I am afraid I have done it often. O let us make our ideal of friendship very high and pure. Let us seek to make our friendships as near as possible like that friendship that was known at the little home in Bethany. I know Martha sometimes may have marred its beauty by hasty words and foolish fancies. We have all been Marthas, more or less in this respect! But always it is the greatest, strongest, and purest one to allow the petty and small offence to pass unheeded. Let us seek to make our friendships so unselfish, so great, so beautiful, that even should we miss it in other ways, by this way at least we shall find the Life Beautiful. Is there anything so sad in all the world as a dead friendship! Not for my loved ones when they went into the Valley of the Shadow did I put on mourning, but I have felt at times that for a dead friendship I could do it.
To some of you something even greater than friendship has come, even Love. O keep it unsoiled, and pure, and unselfish. Remember always that the strongest and most essential element in life is that love that springs from sacrifice. Love ever seeks to give. It is not love that lives to take. Love may lead you down strange ways, and over rough and stormy seas, but follow on wherever it leads, and keep you ideal high. Look up, up into the face of God, for GOD IS LOVE. Yes, that beautiful, thing that has come to you is God. All love is God. Keep your side of it so beautiful so divine, that it shall bear your loved one to heaven. Remember how Faust could not stay in the regions of the lost and Margaret in Heaven because Margaret loved him. Her love never ceased until he came to her side in heaven. Love is so strong. It is God Himself.
I am sure that all men and women should be beautiful, should seek to cultivate beauty of face and body, beauty of clothes and surroundings. lf the mind be beautiful then all around us will, must, take on the beauty of the mind. The face grows like the thoughts that constantly pass through the mind. The surroundings become like the mind that thinks them into being. If you show me a beautiful room, beautiful in its coloring, its simplicity, its furniture, its restful influence, then l know that a beautiful mind planned that room—that a beautiful mind is generally in it. Show me a beautiful garden, full of flowers with the beds arranged in perfect harmony, and I will know that the gardener has created something after a picture in his own mind. Then if only all our minds were beautiful, what a lovely world this would be! It is all so simple. If every man had a beautiful mind, how he would seek to make the world beautiful! If every woman had a beautiful mind, how she would beautify her home until it became a very heaven upon earth! There would not be a prison, nor a criminal court, nor an asylum, nor war, nor want, nor poverty, nor disease in all the world, if the minds of men were beautiful. There would not be a dingy, dirty, untidy, unhappy home in all England if the minds of all women were beautiful. If man only loved order, culture, beauty, love, goodness, purity, if he were only striving towards perfection always, how exquisite he would make this world of ours in a very short time! It all comes back to the mind. The Life Beautiful begins in the Mind Beautiful, and the World Beautiful must have its foundations laid in the heart of man where the Temple of Beauty is built. Is it not a glorious thought that the Temple of Beauty is actually within the heart of every man—every woman! You know the old story of the Sleeping Beauty, and the Prince who came along one day and awoke her with a kiss. The Sleeping Beauty is the sleeping God within your own soul, and the prince is you, yourself, who shall awaken her with the divine kiss of recognition. Then the enchanted palace of your life will no longer be of drab, and grey, and somber hues, desolate, and lonely, and shut in, from all that blesses and inspires, but it will take on Light, and Life, and Beauty, and henceforth there shall exist for you only the life beautiful!
Lift up your heads O ye Gates, and be ye lift up ye Everlasting Doors, and the King of Glory shall come in!
More from 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.