After this study of the teachings of the Divine Master let us know this. It is the material that is the transient, the temporary; and the mental and spiritual that is the real and the eternal. We must not become slaves to habit. The material alone can never bring happiness—much less satisfaction. These lie deeper. That conversation between Jesus and the rich young man is full of significance for us all, especially in this ambitious, striving, restless age.
Abundance of life is determined not alone by one's material possessions, but primarily by one's riches of mind and spirit. A world of truth is contained in these words: "Life is what we are alive to. It is not a length, but breadth. To be alive only to appetite, pleasure, mere luxury or idleness, pride or money-making, and not to goodness and kindness, purity and love, history, poetry, and music, flowers, God and eternal hopes, is to be all but dead."
Why be so eager to gain possession of the hundred thousand or the half-million acres, of so many millions of dollars? Soon, and it may be before you realize it, all must be left. It is as if a man made it his ambition to accumulate a thousand or a hundred thousand automobiles. All soon will become junk. But so it is with all material things beyond what we can actually and profitably use for our good and the good of others—and that we actually do so use.
A man can eat just so many meals during the year or during life. If he tries to eat more he suffers thereby. He can wear only so many suits of clothing; if he tries to wear more, he merely wears himself out taking off and putting on. Again it is as Jesus said: "For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and lose his own life?" And right there is the crux of the whole matter. All the time spent in accumulating these things beyond the reasonable amount, is so much taken from the life—from the things of the mind and the spirit. It is in the development and the pursuit of these that all true satisfaction lies. Elemental law has so decreed.
We have made wonderful progress, or rather have developed wonderful skill in connection with things. We need now to go back and catch up the thread and develop like skill in making the life.
Little wonder that brains are addled, that nerves are depleted, that nervous dyspepsia, that chronic weariness, are not the exception but rather the rule. Little wonder that sanitariums are always full; that asylums are full and overflowing—and still more to be built. No wonder that so many men, so many good men break and go to pieces, and so many lose the life here at from fifty to sixty years, when they should be in the very prime of life, in the full vigor of manhood; at the very age when they are capable of enjoying life the most and are most capable of rendering the greatest service to their fellows, to their community, because of greater growth, experience, means, and therefore leisure. Jesus was right—What doth it profit? And think of the real riches that in the meantime are missed.
It is like an addled-brain driver in making a trip across the continent. He is possessed, obsessed with the insane desire of making a record. He plunges on and on night and day, good weather and foul—and all the time he is missing all the beauties, all the benefits to health and spirit along the way. He has none of these when he arrives—he has missed them all. He has only the fact that he has made a record drive—or nearly made one. And those with him he has not only robbed of the beauties along the way; but he has subjected them to all the discomforts along the way. And what really underlies the making of a record? It is primarily the spirit of vanity.
When the mental beauties of life, when the spiritual verities are sacrificed by self-surrender to and domination by the material, one of the heavy penalties that inexorable law imposes is the drying up, so to speak, of the finer human perceptions—the very faculties of enjoyment. It presents to the world many times, and all unconscious to himself, a stunted, shriveled human being—that eternal type that the Master had in mind when he said: "Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee." He whose sole employment or even whose primary employment becomes the building of bigger and still bigger barns to take care of his accumulated grain, becomes incapable of realizing that life and the things that pertain to it are of infinitely more value than barns, or houses, or acres, or stocks, or bonds, or railroad ties. These all have their place, all are of value; but they can never be made the life. A recent poem by James Oppenheim presents a type that is known to nearly every one:
I heard the preacher preaching at the funeral:
He moved the relatives to tears telling them of the father, husband, and friend that was dead:
Of the sweet memories left behind him:
Of a life that was good and kind.
I happened to know the man,
And I wondered whether the relatives would have wept if the preacher had told the truth:
Let us say like this:
"The only good thing this man ever did in his life,
Was day before yesterday:
He died ....
But he didn't even do that of his own volition....
He was the meanest man in business on Manhattan Island,
The most treacherous friend, the crudest and stingiest husband,
And a father so hard that his children left home as soon as they were old enough....
Of course he had divinity: everything human has:
But he kept it so carefully hidden away that he might just as well not have had it....
"Wife! good cheer! now you can go your own way and live your own life!
Children, give praise! you have his money: the only good thing he ever gave you....
Friends! you have one less traitor to deal with....
This is indeed a day of rejoicing and exultation!
Thank God this man is dead!"
An unknown enjoyment and profit to him is the world's great field of literature, the world's great thinkers, the inspirers of so many through all the ages. That splendid verse by Emily Dickinson means as much to him as it would to a dumb stolid ox:
He ate and drank the precious words,
His spirit grew robust,
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his frame was dust;
He danced along the dingy days,
And this bequest of wings
Was but a book! What liberty
A loosened spirit brings!
Yes, life and its manifold possibilities of unfoldment and avenues of enjoyment—life, and the things that pertain to it—is an infinitely greater thing than the mere accessories of life.
What infinite avenues of enjoyment, what peace of mind, what serenity of soul may be the possession of all men and all women who are alive to the inner possibilities of life as portrayed by our own prophet, Emerson, when he said:
Oh, when I am safe in my sylvan home,
I tread on the pride of Greece and Rome;
And when I am stretched beneath the pines,
Where the evening star so holy shines,
I laugh at the lore and pride of man,
At the Sophist schools and the learned clan;
For what are they all in their high conceit,
When man in the bush with God may meet?
It was he who has exerted such a world-wide influence upon the minds and lives of men and women who also said: "Great men are they who see that spirituality is stronger than any material force: that thoughts rule the world." And this is true not only of the world in general, but it is true likewise in regard to the individual life.
One of the great secrets of all successful living is unquestionably the striking of the right balance in life. The material has its place—and a very important place. Fools indeed were we to ignore or to attempt to ignore this fact. We cannot, however, except to our detriment, put the cart before the horse. Things may contribute to happiness, but things cannot bring happiness—and sad indeed, and crippled and dwarfed and stunted becomes the life of everyone who is not capable of realizing this fact. Eternally true indeed is it that the life is more than meat and the body more than raiment.
All life is from an inner center outward. As within, so without. As we think we become. Which means simply this: our prevailing thoughts and emotions are never static, but dynamic. Thoughts are forces—like creates like, and like attracts like. It is therefore for us to choose whether we shall be interested primarily in the great spiritual forces and powers of life, or whether we shall be interested solely in the material things of life.
But there is a wonderful law which we must not lose sight of. It is to the effect that when we become sufficiently alive to the inner powers and forces, to the inner springs of life, the material things of life will not only follow in a natural and healthy sequence, but they will also assume their right proportions. They will take their right places.
It was the recognition of this great fundamental fact of life that Jesus had in mind when he said: "But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you,"—meaning, as he so distinctly stated, the kingdom of the mind and spirit made open and translucent to the leading of the Divine Wisdom inherent in the human soul, when that leading is sought and when through the right ordering of the mind we make the conditions whereby it may become operative in the individual life.
The great value of God as taught by Jesus is that God dwells in us. It is truly Emmanuel—God with us. The law must be observed—the conditions must be met. "The Lord is with you while ye be with him; and if ye will seek him, he will be found of you." "The spirit of the living God dwelleth in you." "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering." That there is a Divine law underlying prayer that helps to release the inner springs of wisdom, which in turn leads to power, was well known to Jesus, for his life abundantly proved it.
His great aptitude for the things of the spirit enabled him intuitively to realize this, to understand it, to use it. And there was no mystery, no secret, no subterfuge on the part of Jesus as to the source of his power. In clear and unmistakable words he made it known—and why should he not? It was the truth, the truth of this inner kingdom that would make men free that he came to reveal. "The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works." "My Father worketh hitherto and I work.... For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.... I can of mine own self do nothing." As he followed the conditions whereby this higher illumination can come so must we.
The injunction that Jesus gave in regard to prayer is unquestionably the method that he found so effective and that he himself used. How many times we are told that he withdrew to the mountain for his quiet period, for communion with the Father, that the realization of his oneness with God might be preserved intact. In this continual realization—I and my Father are one—lay his unusual insight and power. And his distinct statement which he made in speaking of his own powers—as I am ye shall be—shows clearly the possibilities of human unfoldment and attainment, since he realized and lived and then revealed the way.
Were not this Divine source of wisdom and power the heritage of every human soul, distinctly untrue then would be Jesus' saying: "For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened." Infinitely better is it to know that one has this inner source of guidance and wisdom which as he opens himself to it becomes continually more distinct, more clear and more unerring in its guidance, than to be continually seeking advice from outside sources, and being confused in regard to the advice given. This is unquestionably the way of the natural and the normal life, made so simple and so plain by Jesus, and that was foreshadowed by Isaiah when he said: "Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not, neither is weary? He giveth power to the faint and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint."
Not that problems and trials will not come. They will come. There never has been and there never will be a life free from them. Life isn't conceivable on any other terms. But the wonderful source of consolation and strength, the source that gives freedom from worry and freedom from fear is the realization of the fact that the guiding force and the molding power is within us. It becomes active and controlling in the degree that we realize and in the degree that we are able to open ourselves so that the Divine intelligence and power can speak to and can work through us.
Judicious physical exercise induces greater bodily strength and vigor. An active and alert mental life, in other words mental activity, induces greater intellectual power. And under the same general law the same is true in regard to the development and the use of spiritual power. It, however, although the most important of all because it has to do more fundamentally with the life itself, we are most apt to neglect. The losses, moreover, resulting from this neglect are almost beyond calculation.
To establish one's center aright is to make all of life's activities and events and results flow from this center in orderly sequence. A modern writer of great insight has said: "The understanding that God is, and all there is, will establish you upon a foundation from which you can never be moved." To know that the power that is God is the power that works in us is knowledge of transcendent import.
To know that the spirit of Infinite wisdom and power which is the creating, the moving, and the sustaining force in all life, thinks and acts in and through us as our own very life, in the degree that we consciously and deliberately desire it to become the guiding and the animating force in our lives, and open ourselves fully to its leadings, and follow its leadings, is to attain to that state of conscious oneness with the Divine that Jesus realized, lived and revealed, and that he taught as the method of the natural and the normal life for all men.
We are so occupied with the matters of the sense-life that all unconsciously we become dominated, ruled by the things of the senses. Now in the real life there is the recognition of the fact that the springs of life are all from within, and that the inner always leads and rules the outer. Under the elemental law of Cause and Effect this is always done—whether we are conscious of it or not. But the difference lies here: The master of life consciously and definitely allies himself in mind and spirit with the great central Force and rules his world from within. The creature of circumstances, through lack of desire or through weakness of will, fails to do this, and, lacking guiding and directing force, drifts and becomes thereby the creature of circumstance.
One of deep insight has said: "That we do not spontaneously see and know God, as we see and know one another, and so manifest the God-nature as we do the sense-nature, is because that nature is yet latent, and in a sense slumbering within us. Yet the God-nature within us connects us as directly and vitally with the Being and Kingdom of God within, behind, and above the world, as does the sense-nature with the world external to us. Hence as the sense-consciousness was awakened and established by the recognition of and communication with the outward world through the senses, so the God-consciousness must be awakened by the corresponding recognition of, and communication with the Being and Kingdom of God through intuition—the spiritual sense of the inner man.... The true prayer—the prayer of silence—is the only door that opens the soul to the direct revelation of God, and brings thereby the realization of the God-nature in ourselves."
As the keynote to the world of sense is activity, so the keynote to spiritual light and power is quiet. The individual consciousness must be brought into harmony with the cosmic consciousness. Paul speaks of the "sons of God." And in a single sentence he describes what he means by the term—"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." An older prophet has said: "The Lord in the midst of thee is mighty." Jesus with his deep insight perceived the identity of his real life with the Divine life, the indwelling Wisdom and Power,—the "Father in me." The whole course of his ministry was his attempt "to show those who listened to him how he was related to the Father, and to teach them that they were related to the same Father in exactly the same way."
There is that within man that is illumined and energized through the touch of His spirit. We can bring our minds into rapport, into such harmony and connection with the infinite Divine mind that it speaks in us, directs us, and therefore acts through us as our own selves. Through this connection we become illumined by Divine wisdom and we become energized by Divine power. It is ours, then, to act under the guidance of this higher wisdom and in all forms of expression to act and to work augmented by this higher power. The finite spirit, with all its limitations, becomes at its very center in rapport with Infinite spirit, its Source. The finite thereby becomes the channel through which the Infinite can and does work.
To use an apt figure, it is the moving of the switch whereby we connect our wires as it were with the central dynamo which is the force that animates, that gives and sustains life in the universe. It is making actual the proposition that was enunciated by Emerson when he said: "Every soul is not only the inlet, but may become the outlet of all there is in God." Significant also in this connection is his statement: "The only sin is limitation." It is the actualizing of the fact that in Him we live and move and have our being, with its inevitable resultant that we become "strong in the Lord and in the power of His might." There is perhaps no more valuable way of realizing this end, than to adopt the practice of taking a period each day for being alone in the quiet, a half hour, even a quarter hour; stilling the bodily senses and making oneself receptive to the higher leadings of the spirit—receptive to the impulses of the soul. This is following the master's practice and example of communion with the Father. Things in this universe and in human life do not happen. All is law and sequence. The elemental law of cause and effect is universal and unvarying. In the realm of spirit law is as definite as in the realm of mechanics—in the realm of all material forces.
If we would have the leading of the spirit, if we would perceive the higher intuitions and be led intuitively, bringing the affairs of the daily life thereby into the Divine sequence, we must observe the conditions whereby these leadings can come to us, and in time become habitual.
The law of the spirit is quiet—to be followed by action—but quiet, the more readily to come into a state of harmony with the Infinite Intelligence that works through us, and that leads us as our own intelligence when through desire and through will, we are able to bring our subconscious minds into such attunement that it can act through us, and we are able to catch its messages and follow its direction. But to listen and to observe the conditions whereby we can listen is essential.
Jesus' own words as well as his practice apply here. After his admonition against public prayer, or prayer for show, or prayer of much speaking, he said: "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." Now there are millions of men, women, and children in the world who have no closets. There are great numbers of others who have no access to them sometimes for days, or weeks, or months at a time. It is evident, therefore, that in the word that has been rendered closet he meant—enter into the quiet recesses of your own soul that you may thus hold communion with the Father.
Now the value of prayer is not that God will change or order any laws or forces to suit the numerous and necessarily the diverse petitions of any. All things are through law, and law is fixed and inexorable. The value of prayer, of true prayer, is that through it one can so harmonize his life with the Divine order that intuitive perceptions of truth and a greater perception and knowledge of law becomes his possession. As has been said by an able contemporary thinker and writer: "We cannot form a passably thorough notion of man without saturating it through and through with the idea of a cosmic inflow from outside his world life—the inflow of God. Without a large consciousness of the universe beyond our knowledge, few men, if any, have done great things.
I shall always remember with great pleasure and profit a call a few days ago from Dr. Edward Emerson of Concord, Emerson's eldest son. Happily I asked him in regard to his father's methods of work—if he had any regular methods. He replied in substance: "It was my father's custom to go daily to the woods— to listen . He would remain there an hour or more in order to get whatever there might be for him that day. He would then come home and write into a little book—his 'day-book'—what he had gotten. Later on when it came time to write a book, he would transcribe from this, in their proper sequence and with their proper connections, these entrances of the preceding weeks or months. The completed book became virtually a ledger formed or posted from his day-books."
The prophet is he who so orders his life that he can adequately listen to the voice, the revelations of the over soul, and who truthfully transcribes what he hears or senses. He is not a follower of custom or of tradition. He can never become and can never be made the subservient tool of an organization. His aim and his mission is rather to free men from ignorance, superstition, credulity, from half truths, by leading them into a continually larger understanding of truth, of law—and therefore of righteousness.
It was more than a mere poetic idea that Lowell gave utterance to when he said:
The thing we long for, that we are
For one transcendent moment.
To establish this connection, to actualize this God-consciousness, that it may not be for one transcendent moment, but that it may become constant and habitual, so that every thought arises, and so that every act goes forth from this center, is the greatest good that can come into the possession of man. There is nothing greater. It is none other than the realization of Jesus' injunction—"Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." It is then that he said—Do not worry about your life. Your mind and your will are under the guidance of the Divine mind; your every act goes out under this direction and all things pertaining to your life will fall into their proper places. Therefore do not worry about your life.
When a man finds his center, when he becomes centered in the Infinite, then redemption takes place. He is redeemed from the bondage of the senses. He lives thereafter under the guidance of the spirit, and this is salvation. It is a new life that he has entered into. He lives in a new world, because his outlook is entirely new. He is living now in the Kingdom of Heaven. Heaven means harmony. He has brought his own personal mind and life into harmony with the Divine mind and life. He becomes a coworker with God.
It is through such men and women that God's plans and purposes are carried out. They not only hear but they interpret for others God's voice. They are the prophets of our time and the prophets of all time. They are doing God's work in the world, and in so doing they are finding their own supreme satisfaction and happiness. They are not looking forward to the Eternal life. They realize that they are now in the Eternal life, and that there is no such thing as eternal life if this life that we are now in is not it. When the time comes for them to stop their labors here, they look forward without fear and with anticipation to the change, the transition to the other form of life—but not to any other life. The words of Whitman embody a spirit of anticipation and of adventure for them:
Joy, Shipmate, joy!
(Pleas'd to my soul at death I cry)
One life is closed, one life begun,
The long, long anchorage we leave,
The ship is clear at last, she leaps.
Joy, Shipmate, joy!
They have an abiding faith that they will take up the other form of life exactly where they left it off here. Being in heaven now they will be in heaven when they awake to the continuing beauties of the life subsequent to their transition. Such we might also say is the teaching of Jesus regarding the highest there is in life here and the best there is in the life hereafter.
More Articles by This Author Ralph Waldo Trine
- Lived from September 6th, 1866 to February, 22nd 1958
- Born in Mt. Morris, Illinois
- Most popular book is In Tune With the Infinite
- Was an early leader in the New Thought movement.