The unceasing change, the insecurity, and the misery of life make it necessary to find some basis of certainty on which to rest if happiness and peace of mind are to be maintained. All science, philosophy, and religion are some many efforts in search of this permanent basis; all interpretations on the universe, whether from the material or spiritual side, are so many attempts to formulate some unifying principle or principles by which to reconcile the fluctuations and contradictions of life.
It has been said that mathematics is the only exact science; that is, the only science that eternally works out true without a single exception. Yet mathematics is but the body of which ethics is the spirit. There is not a mathematical problem but has its ethical counterpart, and the spirit of ethics is as eternally exact as the form of mathematics.
It is being discovered that all natural sciences are fundamentally mathematical. Even music popularly considered to be as far removed from mathematics as possible—is now known to be strictly mathematical. The science of harmony revealed certain fixed tones which never vary in their relative proportions, and all of which can be numerically resolved. These tones, like the numbers which represent them, are eternally fixed; and though their combinations—also like the combinations of numbers—are infinite, a given combination will always produce the same result.
This mathematical foundation in all things is the keystone in the temple of science; and this mathematical certainty constitutes the "rock of ages," and the "great peace," on which and in which the saints and sages have ever found rest from the stress and turmoil of life.
Human life and evolution at present is the learning of those preliminary lessons which are leading the race towards the mastery and understanding of this basic or divine knowledge; for without such a permanent, exact mathematical basis no lesson could be learnt. When human beings are spoken of as learning the lessons of God or of life, two things are inferred, namely; (1) A state of ignorance on the part of the learner, and (2) that there is some definite knowledge which he has to acquire. This is seen plainly in a child at school. Its lessons imply that there is a permanent principle of knowledge towards which it is progressing. Without such knowledge there could be no lessons.
Thus, when one speaks of erring men as learning the lessons of life, he infers, whether he realizes it or not, the existence of a permanent basis of knowledge towards the possession of which all men are moving.
This basic principle, a knowledge of which the whole race will ultimately acquire, is best represented by the term Divine Justice. Human justice differs with every man according to this own light or darkness, but there can be no variation in that Divine Justice by which the universe is eternally sustained. Divine Justice is spiritual mathematics. As with figures and objects, whether simple or complex, there is a right and unvarying result, and no amount of ignorance or deliberate falsification can ever make it otherwise, so with every combination of thoughts or deeds, whether good or bad, there is an unvarying and inevitable consequence which nothing can avert.
If this were not so, if we could have effect without cause, or consequence unrelated to act, experience could never lead to knowledge, there would be no foundation of security, and no lessons could be learnt.
Thus every effect has a cause, and cause and effect are in such intimate relationship as to leave no room for injustice to creep in. Nevertheless, there is ignorance, and, through ignorance, the doing of life's lessons wrongly; and this doing of life's sums wrongly is that error, or sin, which is the source of man's sufferings. How often the child at school weeps because it cannot do its sums correctly! And older children in the school of life do the same thing when the sum of their actions has worked out in the form of suffering instead of happiness.
The ground of certainty, then, on which we can securely rest amid all the incidents of life is the mathematical exactitude of the moral law. The moral order of the universe is not, cannot, be disproportionate, for if it were the universe would fall to pieces. If a brick house cannot stand unless it be built in accordance with certain geometrical proportions, how could a vast universe, with all its infinite complexities of form and motion, proceed in unbroken majesty from age to age unless guided by unerring and infallible justice?
All the physical laws with which men are acquainted never vary in their operations. Given the same cause, there will always be the same effect. All the spiritual laws with which men are acquainted have, and must have, the same infallibility in their operations. Given the same thought or deed in a life circumstance and the result will always be the same. Without this fundamental ethical justice there could be no human society, for it is the just reactions of the deeds of individuals which prevent society from tottering to its fall.
It thus follows that the inequalities of life, as regards the distribution of happiness and suffering, are the outworking of moral forces operating along lines of flawless accuracy, this perfect law, is the one great fundamental certainty in life, the finding of which ensures a man's perfection, makes him wise and enlightened, and fills him with rejoicing and peace.
Take away a belief in this certainty from a man's consciousness, and he is adrift on a self created ocean of chance, without rudder, chart, or compass. He has no ground on which to build a character or life, no incentive for noble deeds, no center for moral action; he has no island of peace and no harbor of refuge. Even the crudest idea of God as of a great man whose mind is perfect, who cannot err, and who has "no, variables nor shadow of turning," is a popular expression of a belief in this basic principle of Divine Justice.
According to this principle there is neither favor nor change, but unerring and unchangeable right. Thus all the sufferings of men are right as effects, their causes being the mistakes of ignorance; but as effects they will pass away. Man cannot suffer for something which he has never done, or never left undone for this would be an effect without a cause.
Man suffers through and of himself. Where the effect is there is the cause. Its seat is within, not without. The things which men are reaping today are of the same kind which they formerly sowed. The good man of today may be reaping the results of past evil; the bad man of today may be reaping the results of past good. Seen thus, this divine principle throws an illuminating light on those cases (common enough) where the good suffer and fail, and the bad enjoy and prosper. Things as they are did not spring into existence without a cause. They have behind them a long train of causes and effects, and another such train will follow them in the future. In viewing the objects in a landscape we allow for perspective; we must do the same in viewing events.
This principle of Divine Justice is not distinct from Divine Law. It is the same. Partial men separate justice from love, and even regard them as antagonistic, but in the divine life they blend into one.
Nothing can transcend right. Nothing can be more loving than that we should experience the sequences of ignorance and error, and so become "perfected through suffering." In this Divine Love, which never alters, never errs, never passes over a single deed, we have a sure rock of salvation, for that which could shift and change could afford no foothold. Only in the unchangeable, the eternally true, is there permanent peace and safety. Resorting to this divine principle, abandoning all evil, and cling to good, we come to a knowledge and realization of that basis of certainty on which we can firmly stand through all life's changes; we have found the rock of ages and the refuge of the saints.
Broad Park Avenue,
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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.