Chapter 18 – Not According to Appearances

Chapter XVIII
W. John Murray
The Realm of Reality
Divine Science Publishing Assoc.
New York, 1922.

“Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
–John 7:24

[211] It has been asserted that the end and aim of all religions is so to elevate the mind above the plane of the senses that the truly religious man will be able to walk more intelligently by faith than the material man walks by sight. When Jesus said that we were to judge not according to appearances he was speaking from the standpoint of scientific wisdom as well as from that of spiritual necessity.

Today, after all the centuries of scientific investigation, the most thoughtful men of the race know what a foolish thing it is to base one’s assertions on observed phenomena.

Looking at that which is now termed “the envelope of the globe,” or what most people call the sky, one would imagine that he saw a beautiful, blue canopy, or covering, over the earth. At one time, we are told, this sky was considered solid. But today every school child knows that what appears to be a solid substance, in which the stars [212] are stuck like so many diamond pins in a blue cushion, is nothing more or less than an appearance which the atmosphere assumes at a certain distance from the earth.

The child may think that a rainbow is a solid arch of rich colors, but the tutored adult knows that it is an optical illusion resulting from atmospheric changes. There are times when the clouds move between us and the moon, so that we could swear that the moon is moving if we did not know better. Judging after appearances men have assumed that when the sun rose in the morning, the moon and the stars went off to do service on some other planet; whereas now we know that they are merely eclipsed by the stronger light of the sun. It is as when the candle, which has given light during the night, is scarcely observed when the shutters are thrown open and the light of day streams into the room. The greater obscures the lesser, but does not destroy it.

As Science advances it learns to discredit the senses because of their proven unreliability. That which we call the sky may still appear as solid as ever, but we know there is no such entity, and we are neither disturbed nor deceived by it. The earth upon which we are walking and sleeping is whirling through endless space with inconceivable speed, yet we would never know it from anything that our senses tell us. It seems to be immovable, but we know that it is traveling at greater speed than the fastest express train. We know this, however, not because of sense observation, but [213] because of scientific investigation. It is because of all this that Jesus cautioned humanity not to judge after appearances, and to some extent we have heeded the admonition.

We are now perfectly willing to admit that our senses are unreliable witnesses. They may tell us that there is a moon, but they cannot tell us the distance of that moon from our earth, neither can they tell us its size. If we wish to know these facts, it is to mathematics and astronomy we must turn for information, and hence it is that we have come to distrust our senses. Our eyes deceive us, and no matter how old we grow in years, if we do not unfold in wisdom, they will continue to deceive us. If I sit in a train with a little child waiting for that train to start, and a train pulls in on the next track, it is as difficult for me as it is for the child to tell whether it is that train or the one upon which we are sitting that is moving. We seem never to outgrow these illusions; we merely learn that they are illusions and refuse to be disconcerted by them.

This attitude of mind should serve as a useful hint in the more vital things of life. It is very important for us to know what is, and what is not, real, in order that we spend as little time as possible bothering about non-essentials. It might help us then at this point to know how the real is defined by our best lexicons, lest we be accused of placing a fantastic interpretation upon the word to suit our own philosophical purposes. The word “real” is defined in the Standard Dictionary as [214] “The existent as opposed to the non-existent; being something as opposed to nothing; that which is permanent, unconditioned, unrelated, absolute; hence, opposed to phenomenal; having attributes apart from appearances to which they give rise.” According to this definition it would seem as if that only is real which is eternal and invisible to our senses, and this fits in exactly with the declaration of Paul the Apostle: “The things which are seen (observed with senses) are carnal and temporal, the things which are not seen are spiritual and eternal.”

Does this mean that we shall despise the things that are seen, simply because they are carnal and temporal? Or does it mean that we shall see them in their true light and treat them accordingly? It is a rapidly growing conviction with many very sane people that the whole visible world is a sort of moving picture show, a representation to our senses of something that is “real” and permanent back of it all, and that it is this reality and permanence that is most worthy of our consideration. The materialist who sees the visible world as a system of realities has what he calls real pleasure; but he also has what he calls real pains. He lives in a world which is a strange admixture of beauty and deformity, success and failure, and living in such a world he swings like a pendulum between these extremes. Like the man in the Scriptures, he feels, even when he does not say, “In the midst of life, we are in [215] death.” In the full possession of the greatest blessings, he secretly fears that he may one day lose them all. Not understanding what are the true riches, he dreads the loss of his spurious ones, whereas if he understood what are the “gifts of God,” he might keep both.

When we say that the real world is the world of Ideas, it does not signify that we lose our appreciation of those symbols of beauty which we see in what men call visible nature. The rose does not become less beautiful to us because we perceive it to be, not the real rose, but a good counterfeit. A good reproduction in the world of art may not be as valuable or as acceptable as the original, but it ought not, for this reason, to be despised or destroyed; all we need to know about it is that it is not the original. It then takes on a new significance for us, for while it does not deceive us, it nevertheless charms us with its excellent resemblance to the real work of art.

The connoisseur is not, unless he is very affected, distressed by the fact that he has to live in a world made up so largely of imitations. If he has a little common sense in addition to his capacity to detect the real from the imitation, he is grateful that there are so many excellent imitations for us common people to enjoy. It should not distress us when we are told that the visible world, with all its joys and sorrows, is only a poor representation to our senses of that invisible [216] world of the Spirit which is ever striving to manifest itself through us, but which can do so only as we roll up the shades before the windows of our souls.

When God said, “Let there be light,” it was not that light had not yet come into being, but that the window-shades of ignorance were causing the race to sit in “great darkness,” and this same command is issuing today from that Supreme Intelligence which beholds nothing but the beauty of Its own creations. If the light that is in us is darkness, how great is that darkness! If all we know of creation is that which we see of it on the plane of the senses, then we are mistaking the apparent for the real, and disappointment will be our experience.

Man, on the plane of the intellectual, derives his information from two sources, the interior and the exterior. The exterior suggests the finite and the perishable, the interior the infinite and the imperishable, and he is wise who draws more upon the interior than upon the exterior, for such a man, like Jesus, may live in two worlds at once. When the soul opens itself to the light of Truth, it enters a world in which there is neither “sorrow nor sighing,” disease nor dying, but wherein are joy and gladness, for the former things have passed away in the light of Love’s eternal radiance. It is when the intellect begins to materialize everything, and to regard the material world as real as the spiritual universe, that trouble begins. Any attempt to interpret Life from a physical [217] standpoint, instead of from a spiritual one, is bound to produce confusion.

Inspecting reality from the standpoint of the senses, all things become inverted, as when one looks through a photographic camera and sees everything before it upside down, and the right side on the left. God, seen through the camera of the so-called human mind, appears to be a personality afar off, instead of an everpresent and immanent Life Principle working in and through Its all-harmonious system of ideas. Through this same camera, man appears to be the ever-erring son of Adam, instead of the never-erring Son of God, and the universe of God’s creating appears as a world of trouble and tumult, instead of an orderly cosmos, wherein all things co-operate and nothing collides.

As human thought turns from the contemplation of creation as its Creator sees it, the element of confusion enters in; complexity takes the place of simplicity, and bewilderment destroys that certainty which alone can make for rest of soul and health of body. Once accept the definition of “real” as “that which is permanent, unconditioned, unrelated, and absolute,” and you see at once that it refers only to God, and the things of God, and this brings us to the point of what is referred to by Jesus as “righteous judgment.”

In order to pass judgment upon anything, we must be conversant with all the facts concerning that thing, otherwise it is “snap judgment” and as such it is worthless. The case before the Court [218] of Spiritual Inquiry is the case of evil’s supposed right to dominate the individual. It is asserted that evil is as real as Good, and if we judge according to appearances it would seem as if it were more so. Judging appearances, we say, with Paul, “When I would do good I find evil present within me,” but taking a more rational and idealistic view we say, with him, when he was in a more exalted state, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

It is through idealism, then, that we are to distinguish between the Real and the apparent; therefore, the senses can afford us no aid, and hence it were folly to look to them for guidance. Idealism is not a word which implies a star-gazing attitude of mind, wholly impractical, and sometimes foolish, for idealism is back of all that is creative and inventive, even on the physical plane. Bronson Alcott says: “The idealist is the true realist, grasping the substance and not its shadow. The man of sense is the visionary or illusionist, fancying things as permanencies, and thoughts as fleeting phantoms.” It was the idealism of Jesus which made of him the Redeemer of men and the Healer of their diseases. If Jesus had judged after appearances, he would have cast the first stone at the adulterous woman; but he judged righteous judgment and said to her, when her accusers, whom he had shamed, had slunk away: “Go thy way, I will not condemn thee.” If Jesus had judged after appearances in the [219] cases of the palsied and the leprous, he would have admonished them to make the best of a bad and a so-called incurable situation, but instead he said, “Arise,” to the one, and to the other, “Be thou clean.”

Judging righteous judgment, Jesus could not be tempted into believing that the apparent was the Real, and so he said to the apparent, “Get thee hence, satan.” There are, however, degrees of the apparent; that is, some phases of it are more acceptable than others; but this is on the principle that some counterfeit works of art are better than others, and not because the best counterfeit in the world can ever become the real thing. If I should tell you that the best physical health in the world, which is based more upon what men call a sound constitution than upon a sound comprehension of God as Health, is only an imitation of the real thing, it might surprise you. But when you see for yourself what a trifle it takes to convert a sturdy athlete into a confirmed invalid you are aware how carnal and temporal mere physical health is.

Only that health is enduring which is the consequence of communing often with the Source of health. Health which is merely the result of a sound constitution is apt to be abused. It is like inherited money, which is easily squandered. We all know how transient a thing apparent prosperity is, and yet if we are told it is not Real we smile indulgently and declare we would like to take our chances on more of the [220] same kind of counterfeit. But with all the money in the world, and no sense of what constitutes enduring Substance, we should only be holding a shadow that might escape us at any moment, as shadows have a habit of doing. It is as true today as it ever was that if a man fain the whole world and lose his own soul (sense of what constitutes Reality) he profiteth nothing. The most priceless possession in the world is that of spiritual understanding, for included in this is everything else that is worthwhile. It is through spiritual understanding that we are able to separate the wheat from the tares, and to discriminate between that which is and that which is not.

Unwilling to admit that the apparent is only the apparent and not the Real, some declare that what we call evil is only more or less Good in the making, and in this way they can still cling to the statement that “All is Good; there is no evil.” There is more sophistry than Science in this statement, it seems to me. Would it not be more in line with Truth to say that what we call Good in this world of appearances is only more or less bad? Good, or God, alone is Absolute or Real; evil is the relative and the unreal, and it is because it is relative and unreal that man has dominion over it, when he knows that it is relative and unreal. All that is not of the Father is of the world, and “the world passeth away,” for the simple reason that it is merely what Schopenhauer said of it when he wrote: “The world is my presentation or mental picture–it is what I [221] represent it to be; it agrees with my thoughts; it is my thought.”

To reduce this abstract philosophy to practical purposes, for it is of little real value unless it is so treated, we must, when confronted with conditions that are not calculated to increase our mental, moral, physical, and financial efficiency, ask ourselves in the silence of our closets of prayer if these conditions are Real or apparent, that is, if they are of God, they are Real and there is no remedy for them, since that which God creates must stand forever. But if they are not of God, and certainly no evil is of God, then they are only apparent, and man, knowing this, at once becomes superior to them. So long as we view our difficulties and diseases as real, we shall never overcome them, for the Real is the Absolute, Unconditioned, and Indestructible.

It is for us then to decide, in view of all that has been said, what we shall accept as the Real and eternal, and, abiding by our decision, enter into the enjoyment of those Realities which God hath prepared for us from before the foundation of the world of sense, with all its manifold delusions. If it is true that man’s real being is spiritual, then it is by virtue of its spirituality divine and immortal, and as such it is exempt from disease. When this is understood disease becomes to the spiritually awakened man a false seeming, a dream from which he has awakened, [222] an illusion which has lost its power to terrify. Once this is accepted, we become loosed from our infirmities.

Remember, then, that the only Realities are those which God has created, and these are acceptable because they are good; all else is apparent and therefore unreal, no matter how real it seems to be. Just as you know there is no sky, but only the upper regions of the atmosphere which take on the appearance of a solid body, so you must know there is no disease, but only the appearance of a disturbed mental state registering on the body. Correct this mental state by knowing that you are the child of God, from Whom no evil and no error proceeds, and when this is done, the offending cause of disease will be destroyed, and the bodily manifestation will disappear as certainly as the reflection of anything in a mirror will vanish when that object is removed from the range of vision.

Chapter 19

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