(At Steinway Hall, Sept. 8th, 1918)
Those of you who were here last Sunday will remember that I spoke on the spiritual evolution of the race. We traced the mental and spiritual history of the race from the beginning of history up to our own time, considering the message of man as it was given to the race in each period. And as it was comprehended by each age; and we found that the human mind always formed its conceptions of God and the Universe, of Life and the Soul, according to its own condition—its own state of evolution.
It is true, however, that the race is made up of individuals, but we are sometimes inclined to forget this fact when we talk generally about the race. So, far more important, in every way, is the evolution of the individual, for the race is either urged forward, or it is held back, by every individual soul within the race. Therefore the evolution of the individual is the all-important thing "No man liveth unto himself." We are not isolated souls, independent of Leach other. We are all bound in the bundle of life, and no man can reach out to purify, virtue, honor, truth, and goodness, but all the race of mankind are so much nearer to heaven. No man can go down into the depths of impurity, uncleanness, dishonor, and vice without dragging the race down with him. It is a stupendous thought, and if, when tempted to do wrong, to soil the life with the unclean and degrading thought and action, men and women would stop to think:—If I do this thing I not only defile myself; I not only turn my face from Truth and Honor, but I also weaken and retard the race, and drag humanity down with me.—If only they would think so, how often the power of the temptation would pass away, and the soul, saved from the terrible sorrow that must inevitably follow upon all sin, would also be saved from the remorse that must follow when it is realized that by that action of the race has been deliberately hindered in its struggle towards the Light.
There is an old saying that if everybody swept before his own doorstep the street would be clean, and we may apply it spiritually and say, if everybody loved purity then the race would be pure; if everybody exercised love and charity, then the race would be beautiful and Christ-like, and poverty, crime, suffering, sin, war, and terror would be no more. So, seeing that the evolution of the race depends upon the evolution of the individual, how necessary it is that we should seek earnestly for those ways and means whereby we may hasten the evolution of the race, and bring more speedily to this weary earth the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven for which we pray every time we say:—Thy will be done on earth as it is done in Heaven.
The greatest force in the evolution of the individual is the force of Ideals. Without idealism the soul stagnates, and stagnation means death. There can be no living force within the man who has no ideals towards which he strives day by day. No ideal means no progress. Ideals are the great magnets that draw the soul ever upward and onward...There are two ways of evolving. You may evolve very slowly, just the long, long, blind upward groping of the soul, urged forward by a Force it cannot understand, only knowing that it sins and then suffers; it wanders far from the way of virtue and purity, honor and truth, and then comes back again over rough and weary ways, having learnt its lesson by the way of pain and suffering, and so rises through the long, long spiral of the ages,—so long! so long! It is the way of the majority. Or you may, by the force of Ideals, evolve rapidly, rising higher and higher day by day; realizing greater and more glorious freedom from sin and suffering; and instead of being forced forward on the way of pain, learning by bitter experience, you may GO FORWARD joyfully by the force of Ideals reached out after and gained, as you conquer, one after another, the inward enemies—the only enemies the soul has to conquer
The Heart of Being is celestial rest;
Stronger than woe is will: that which was Good
Doth pass to better—Best.
And, as by the great compelling force of Idealism, you gain height after height, you will see away before your ascending footsteps still higher heights to gain; still greater victories ahead of you, still more wonderful, more beautiful, more desirable will break upon your enchanted vision the mountain tops of yet another Beulah Land—each more beautiful than the last. So ever your Ideal will move forward, beckoning you to follow. And you will follow, for dearer than all beside; more precious to you than gold, or precious stones, or name, or fame, or anything under heaven, will be the Ideal of your soul. So shall you take into your own hands the evolution of your own life and being.
Have you an ideal? Oh, but you are poor indeed if you have not!
We live in many worlds, for there are worlds within worlds for the soul. We are beings of many impulses; many possibilities; many opportunities. We are as much body as soul, and soul as spirit. So it would be more correct if I were to ask you—Have you Ideals? We cannot have too many. I am always adding to my list of Ideals. I have so many I could not name them all to you even if I would. I think I have always been an Idealist. Just as far back as I remember I had my ideals, and I intend to be an Idealist all my days. "This one thing I do," said the Apostle Paul, "forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forward to the things that are before I press towards the mark of the prize of my high calling." The success of his life was according to the strength of his passion for the Ideal. And the success, and happiness and blessedness of my life and yours will be, must be, just in proportion to our passion for the Ideal.
It is making use of a hackneyed phrase I know, but it is such a good illustration I cannot resist using it,—the manor the woman without Ideals is like a ship without a rudder, tossed hither and thither at the mercy of every passing wave of influence; or like the driftwood, compelled ever to take the way of least resistance, now on the crest of the incoming wave—now deep in the trough of the sea. Never certain, never to be relied upon, ever unstable in all their ways.
I am sure I am right when I say that the reason why so many fail is not because they are essentially weak. The reason why so many "go under" in the battle of life is not because they love the sinful thing, but because they have no fixed purpose as an anchor for the soul; no Ideal to aim at: nothing to make the effort worthwhile.
The man who has no ideal has nothing to measure himself by. The woman without an ideal has no standard to live by. Oh, to inspire men and women to become Idealists! How different life would become to them! How quickly would character and circumstances and environment all alter! How rapidly would the old conditions of life pass away, and all things become new and beautiful!
Perhaps some may ask,—Name some Ideals to which you would have us strive. Ah, that is a big subject. Our ideals must differ even as our characters, our circumstances, and our environments differ. I would have you idealize everything in life—everything! You cannot err in having too many ideals to reach out after, for the greater the number of ideals, the greater the drawing power of the magnet! Now, have vou ever had an ideal personality towards which you pressed? Have you ever formed an ideal of a beautiful, strong, healthy, magnetic body? Have you ever dreamed of a beautiful face and form, and made up your mind to have and possess them? You know some men and women, don’t you, so fine, so strong, so magnetic, so beautiful? And why are they like that? Have you ever asked why they are so beautiful and powerful? And have you ever told yourself that you too might be as they are by the force and power of Idealism? I tell you that just such a body—just such a personality is for you, as sure as the sun rises every day by a natural law, so you must become that personality to which you aspire, for the force of the Ideal will draw you to it, sooner or later. But remember, it may be later, and you may have to wait even years for the realization of your ideal. It may be delayed for another life. We take long, long years building up defective bodies, and weak personalities, and then imagine that we can in so many days destroy the work of years! This cannot be. We must be patient and wait, but for your encouragement let me say that it rests with you in your earnestness and devotion to the ideal how soon these things will come to you. Now, here, this very moment make your Ideal. Put in your claim for all that seems to you to constitute a perfect physical body, and no matter how far you may be just now from realizing it; no matter how far you may be from demonstrating it at the present moment, I tell you, for I know it, the time will come when the Ideal shall be real to you. How to realize that Ideal will be the subject of some of our Study Classes, for it is too big a subject to deal with in a single address
Character—Have you any Ideals in regard to that? Is there a condition of Purity, of Truth, of Honor of Integrity, of strength of will and purpose towards which you ever strive? In all your difficulties and trials; through every sorrow and temptation; in spite of all disappointment and failure, do you press ever towards an ideal character? Remember we each make our own character. Characters are not ready made and handed out to us. We are the makers of ourselves, and our characters are according to our ideals. The man who loves fighting becomes a pugilist. His ideal is to develop big and powerful muscles, he aims at brute force. He is drawn by the force of his ideal to become a man after the desire of his heart. The pleasure seekers—both men and women—live for the pleasure of the moment, their ideal is to what they call "a good time" and they get it. But they have to take the reaction too. So, "each man his prison makes." Make your ideals now. Form your ideal of life and character and let it be the highest conception your soul can reach after.
But when you have made your ideal, my brother, my sister, cling to it. You shall reach it. No power on earth, or heaven, or hell, can prevent you. The Great Magnet will draw you on and on to sure possession. The Ideal shall be real to thee. Part with your physical life if need be, but do not part from your ideals. This body that we know must perish, but the real you will live on, and your ideal will still await you. Ideals never perish.
How beautiful is that life that ever strives towards, and is faithful to, the Ideal!
How sad is that life that has turned away from, and has been unfaithful to the Ideal!
There may be some listening to me now who once had beautiful ideals, and with great joy followed them as they drew them higher and higher, nearer and nearer to the desire of their life. But—in an evil hour you turned from your ideals to—as you thought—the real. But you learnt by bitter disappointment, weariness and pain, that the real was the IDEAL after all.
Some pure ideal of a nobler life
That once seemed possible?
And yet we lost it in the jar and fret,
And now live idle in a vain regret.
But still our place is kept, and it will wait,
Ready for us to fill it soon or late,
No star is ever lost we once have seen.
We always may be what we might have been.
Let such return to the Ideal this afternoon. It waits for you. You have but to look up again and there you will see the Ideal you once loved so well, waiting, waiting for you to come back again. You know the difference it has made to you. You only can tell that. Return unto thy rest, oh soul, this afternoon, and let the Ideal again become real to thee.
I feel sure that hundreds, if not thousands, come up to this great City from the country, from home, from the simple village life, from the Sunday schools and the influences of religious associations, and they come determined to hold on to their purity and honor. But they find themselves alone in London. Can you imagine anything so sad and undesirable? The awful loneliness and desolation of it. I know it, for I have experienced it. As the days go by I can imagine how at last the ideal is forgotten and men and women give way to the suggestions of evil and go down, not so much because they want to, or because they love the evil thing, but because they are so alone— so utterly alone! I want to reach such lonely ones. I want to be the friend of every lonely woman in London. Will you help me to find them? Bring them to me here, and they shall know that there is one who will care, and who will love them. I have tasted the cup of loneliness and found it very, very bitter, and I would be a comfort and a companion to all such today.
Alone on a wide, wide seal
So lonely ’twas that even God
Scarce seemed there to be.
I pity the lonely ones, and those who have turned from the Ideal—to them my heart goes out in a great wave of compassion and sympathy, and for them, more than for any others, I am here today. May the power of the Ideal be ours, and may the inspiration of the Ideal ever draw us onward to the Goal.