By James Allen
It was the very early morning, and I climbed to the summit of a familiar hill to engage in my usual morning meditation. In the distance the ocean stretched placidly out before me like a giant at rest; below me lay the sleeping town; no wind stirred; there was no murmur in the trees; all nature was at rest.
The day previous I had heard a preacher say to his people, "You cannot overcome your sins; you are powerless to break your chains," and the subject which I had selected for meditation was Self-reliance. Soon the outer world faded away, and I was lost in that train of analytical and dispassionate thought by means of which alone Truth can be distinguished from error.
I looked back upon my past. I saw my hour of imaginary strength, followed by its hour of unutterable weakness, and I knew why the preacher said those words to his people. I remembered my prayer of anguish in that prostrate hour; remembered how pitiless the sky looked, as it gave back no answering echo; and I knew that the preacher had not sounded the depths; knew that he had not prayed the unanswerable prayer. And I also remembered the new and real strength that was born of Will and of Searching; the strength that conquered despair, that subdued sin, and that dissolved temptation, and I knew that the preacher had not scaled the Heights, knew that he had not reached the Unconquerable Silence.
I came back to the outer world. Something at my feet arrested my attention. It was a small, black grub. For the time being, that grub became my teacher. It had a lesson for me necessary to the completion of my meditation.
The grub was about one inch in length. It was wriggling upon the dry earth and amongst the small pieces of broken rock at my feet. Presently it crawled upon a piece of smooth slanting rock, and rolled down it upon the ground. Then I saw that it was without legs, and therefore could not maintain a foothold. It continued to wriggle round and round, in and out, first in one direction, then another, to all appearances, aimlessly, travelling at the rate of about three feet in fifteen minutes. I inspected it closer; the grub was eyeless. A short distance away grew the sweet herbs which were its very life, and without which it would quickly perish. That limbless, sightless thing—that inch of frail, animated pulp knew that somewhere the life-giving, delectable herbs waited to appease its hunger, and that without effort it would perish; and it continued to wriggle on with unabated faith and energy. I watched it. I learned and rejoiced. It reached the herbs at last. Then I exclaimed, "'Go to the ant, thou sluggard’; go also to the worm, the gnat, the grub, thou spiritual sluggard, and know that by Will thou canst rise, and by searching thou canst find; that by thine own effort only canst thou break the chains that bind thee; that thou canst conquer sin, canst overcome every obstacle, and find the delectable spiritual sustenance!"
The town below me was still asleep.
Then I knew that the preacher did not understand.
The sun shone brightly over the Eastern hills. I looked again towards the sea; the white wavelets were beginning to play: a refreshing breeze fanned me: the grasses were whispering: a murmur was rising in the trees: the Eternal Energy was awake.
And the town below slept on.