THE SECRET PLACE
Horatio W. Dresser
Spiritual Health and Healing
LOOKING back over the ground we have attained in the preceding chapters, we realize that while in spirit those who believe in healing by the Christ-method may be in accord, their understanding of the method and the process may be very different. If we begin by declaring that the real self is never disturbed in spirit but ever remains true to the image and likeness of God, it would seem plain that the one course to pursue is to break from any impeding consciousness, affirm that the self is in perfect peace and health, and deny any alleged trouble. This is the simple method by which many have helped themselves and others. This process seems so successful that the tendency is to put all matters in the present tense, to claim as already true everything we aspire to be and will to realize. Hence it has become matter of habit with many to choose new affirmations for each week or month but always to phrase them as if the ideals they suggest were realized now.
On the other hand, if we agree that our troubles and diseases regarded in the light of their relation to character and the soul’s welfare have spiritual causes which must be acknowledged and removed, to deny might be to gloss over and to procrastinate. Healing does not pass beyond the merely mental plane and become spiritual until it has to do with our real attitude or prevailing love. Morally speaking, there is no substitute for coming to judgment in utter sincerity. What we need is to see the self and see it whole, with open eye. This self is indeed the spirit whose perfection we constantly affirm. This self is always a child of God, in His image and likeness, untouched in the inmost region. Yet why should we ever have reason to affirm its sanctity or deny the power of any influence to thwart it unless there were a problem needing solution and a difficulty to be overcome?
It would seem well then to pass from the affirmative to the intuitive method as soon as we can, and begin thorough study of the hidden self. From the heights of theoretical affirmation there is bound to be a fall sooner or later. Why not come down as quickly as possible and adopt the attitude and the pace which we can maintain throughout the years? Surely we must do this if we are to pass beyond interest in merely mental health and healing to spiritual health and healing. It will then become a question of that greater truth of the Christ-spirit which sets men permanently free.
Moreover, if we accept the idea of the Divine presence as an influx tending to produce changes calling for co-operation on our part from stage to stage, we must admit that much still remains to be attained. We not only do not find people possessing the open vision in large degree, responsive in mind and body to the tide of the Spirit, but very few indeed who even have the idea of any such relationship. To gain an insight into this glorious possibility is to realize that one could hardly claim to possess such union with God unless one were to pretend to be the Christ in fulness. Instead of any sort of claim there is a prayer that, having had a glimpse of what this union may be, one may be progressively led into it.
To endeavor to move forward with the influent Life, in order to give that Life full and free expression, bringing mind and body into line stage by stage, is to be prepared in the first place to learn everything one can from any source concerning the present obstructions, that one may see where to begin. What we ought to know is the present or actual state of development, the needs just now at hand, together with the wisdom to meet those needs and see the way to take the next step in spiritual evolution. To discover these needs one must be in the attitude of frank acknowledgment, of willingness to learn and to be led. Thus one adopts the view that there is such a wealth of wisdom to be disclosed to us that it can only be given progressively.
At the same time there is that other aspect of the truth, namely, that the self already is potentially what it presently becomes in actual expression, so that all growth is realization. If we place too much stress on the affirmation of “our oneness with God,” we tend to lose sight of the soul’s progress through changing conditions from lower to higher. But if we put too much emphasis on tile conditions, we lose sight of the ideal. There is a point of view which includes these two truths. “So build we up the being that we are,” says the poet. All progress is realization. Yet the conditions of growth are no less necessary. The hidden self already is what it would be. We cannot make the self over. We cannot reform our neighbors. In a sense the self never changes. Yet only through change does life continue.
There is, in short, a course which the incoming Life takes through us in its age-long revelation of eternal truth and its continuous creation of the human spirit into perfection. What we need is a way of thinking which is faithful to actual experience as a progressive revelation, and a method of response to the Spirit which makes us mindful of our present opportunities. We shall not be bound or limited by present conditions if we regard these as means which the Spirit takes to its high end.
It is easy to lapse into the idea that the process of life through which we are passing is itself the whole reality. To break from this tendency we need a way to lift the spirit into renewed vision of the ideal. Hence we need to remind ourselves again and again that there is a secret place within the soul where we may always commune with God. Our sometime absorption in processes and conditions need never be taken to imply that the whole spirit is absorbed. Hence we may dwell for the time being on that other half of the truth that is too great for words, namely, that in spirit we are never disturbed, however great our alienation in consciousness from the Father.
It is never given us in our imperfect human speech to say precisely where God in wise and loving presence with us ceases, where man in his uplift of heart and will begins. But what language cannot directly say a scriptural passage may impressively suggest. Hence we say to ourselves, as if speaking for that Presence: “Be still, and know that I am God,” endeavoring to be genuinely still as we repeat the passage: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.” “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” These sayings bring us into the secret place as an experience, and that is what we need.
When we are in need of help we naturally concentrate upon the ideal, reminding ourselves that despite any appearance there is an inmost region of the spirit which remains untouched, in intimate relation with the heavenly influx. This is the side of our nature we wish to concentrate upon to gain a fresh impetus to turn once more to the experience of meeting the obstacles that lie in our path. When we turn toward the secret place in thought, we realize that with the overcoming of friction at the centre there will be a change throughout the organism. Hence we desire that touch with the renewing Life which shall send a thrill throughout our being comparable to that which comes when we are deeply touched by familiar music after having been long deprived of it. In the moment of detaching our consciousness from outward things to renew the ideal in the secret place, we may well yield ourselves to the experience as if nothing else were true, as if nothing else existed.
To avoid the pitfalls of self-absorption and abstraction in which some find themselves at this point, we need a clearer way of thinking about the human spirit or self in contrast with the mind and the body. By the human spirit we mean both the immortal part of us, the soul or son of God created in His image and likeness, already dwelling in the spiritual world, and the being who is conscious and self-conscious In the successive phases of natural existence. That is to say, the spirit potentially is far nobler in quality and greater in power than in any actual experience we yet know. The spirit is in part an ideal or purpose. But the spirit is also the self or soul already aware of an ideal in contrast with the conditions of life round about us in the natural world. The spirit is the distinctive individual, the permanent identity or ego surviving any sort of change. Yet we are learning to know ourselves here in this world through changes. The human spirit in ideal is one, is a consistent harmony of all its elements or dualities enduring through any vicissitudes. Yet in present experience we find ourselves far from this unity.
It is untrue to declare, as some affirm, that whatever is true of God as Infinite Spirit is true of us as finite spirits; for God as infinite, uncreated, is all-encompassing Life, while we are recipients, each with his place and his gifts. The secret place is not the point of “blending” but the region where we may attain adjustment and unison leading to co-operation, God and man remaining distinct. The secret place is a sphere of attainment, not of relapse, resignation or absorption. It would have no meaning for us at all unless it disclosed to us “the flying perfect” ever leading us on toward the goal of social realization which we call the kingdom of heaven. Forth from our renewed experience of the ideal there ought always to proceed clearer thinking, as we turn from spirit to mind, from mind to body.
By the term “mind” we mean the whole complexity and variety of activities taking place within us, from sensation to intuition in its highest moments. We mean, further, the different levels or planes of consciousness, the differences between inner and outer conditions, interior and exterior states, the subjective and the objective, and all those contrasts which we know as duality of self or conflict of voices. The mind is in close relation with the brain and through the brain with the whole body. But the spirit’s most intimate relation is with God, without whose constant presence there would not be one moment of being.
When we try to give full meaning to the intermediate term “mind,” hence by contrast to know the secret places of the spirit, it is helpful to make the transition in thought from outward things to the inmost sanctuary. The starting-point of the mind in this process is with sensation. Sensations give us “things,” with color, light, heat, sound, touch, and the rest. Then come emotions and feelings associating themselves with sensation, such as fear or pleasure. Desires arise, too, in this association with things around us in the world. By “will” we mean the more interior element of our mental life through which we select between desires, eliminating some, overcoming and using others, and transfiguring those that are most eligible. Will possesses a freedom which desires could never have, hence will springs from within and at its best expresses the heart. Then, too, there is thought, the intellect or understanding. What me will to do and to be depends not alone upon the selection between desires but upon analysis, interpretation, and reasoning. All these qualities of our inner life pertain to “mind.”
What is it that possesses mind, that feels, thinks and wills? The human spirit. When does the spirit act from within in contrast with its responsiveness to interests from without? When it possesses “the understanding heart.” The spirit thinks and wills from within when it thinks from enlightenment and from the Divine love. The various mental elements whereby the spirit expresses itself in action then become like obedient servants doing the will of a wise master. The spirit is the real master. Mind might be a faithful servant in each of us if we understood and had learned to control all the mental elements. It is the spirit that controls. It is the mind that is brought into order.
So far each of us may confirm the description by experience. By “the secret place” we mean something more than the self-consciousness which shows us the difference between mind and spirit. For self-consciousness, we know, is often an interference, and when we would be receptive we try too hard to be still, or permit our thought to suggest too many ideas. Consciousness does not follow into the secret place to tell us just when God is present there with His guiding wisdom and sustaining love. But consciousness does yield the great contrast between our lesser and our larger moments.
What figure of speech shall we choose to express the ineffable union of God and man in the secret place? Let us keep to the imagery which the term “life” suggests. Life, we know, moves forward, brings changes. Its inflow is like that of a stream with its current and its waves or rhythms. It moves harmoniously in a ready channel. It struggles against any obstacle. If impeded, its flow is affected by the obstacle, often seriously so.
Far more truly than in the case of a river impeded by obstructions in its course, the life-current within us depends upon our response. The secret place in the inmost of the spirit is the region of intimate relationship between guiding life and recipient soul, ready or not to be guided as the case may he. Life comes as pure essence. It is received by the heart through affection and will as love. It is then received by the understanding as light. The understanding heart is quickened by heavenly love and wisdom. Thus quickened in willingness to be guided, responding to love as Divine, to wisdom as Divine, taking no credit to itself, the human spirit is prompted from within in the secret place, and the understanding ”thinks with the spirit” instead of thinking merely with the brain. The whole inner life may then be prompted from the secret place, mind as a whole may respond, and the brain as a whole will become obedient.
Sometimes this relationship of God and man is thought of merely in the light of receptivity. But as important as receptivity may be, it is only the beginning. The secret place is indeed the place of worship, the place for listening, waiting humility. Our help is indeed solely in the Lord. Yet we have our whole mental life to bring into play, and unless we enlist thought and will, feeling and the sense of effort in activities springing from the Lord these mental elements will find some other outlet. The spirit is not alone a recipient of Life but also able to assimilate and co-operate. The secret place is the place for beginning to do things. Our great need is to return there for fresh quickening, a new touch with Life, then outgoing activity expressing Life in our human activities. It is the place of conjunction between the Divine and the human. The ideal of this union is the Divine-human, the Christ. The place is the region of the incarnation of the heavenly Heart in the human heart.
Incarnation means, for the individual, response according to need, purpose and capacity, leading to concrete or practical action. We are most likely to be quickened in large measure by an individual need when we seek the quietude of the secret place in order to serve another. We are uplifted by the idea of the Divine purpose for us when we realize that through the secret place we may be led to act more wisely than we know, may be led to do just our work in the world. That it is a question of capacity we see clearly when we note how greatly individuals differ in talents or gifts. What our own capacity for receiving may be we never learn save so far as we pass far beyond receptivity to effective expression. What the Divine purpose is for us we learn in large part by experience, not by theorizing. What we most need we ourselves seldom know, but we may seek the inner silence in readiness to be filled according to need,
Humility is a word seldom used nowadays by those who have reacted against the old theology. It seems now to be solely a question of self-reliance and self-realization. Yet something like humility we always need when likely to express self-love, pride, mere learning or self- righteousness. There will always be tendencies into side issues and temptations so long as we are human. Humility is the corrective of self-assertiveness. One might under-estimate the self, hence fail to stand upright in the secret place. But most of us are likely to err the other way.
What we need above all, on the human side, is enlightenment to the effect that there is a movement of Life outward from the secret place into the understanding or intellectual life, hence throughout the mind and into the body. We need to think of life as dynamic, with us to achieve and to achieve with energy. We need to think of this dynamic Life as achieving by taking a certain direction, pursuing an end. Our part is very far from merely passive adjustment. Our part is responsive movement forward with Life. Life is creative. So must our response be.
In our ordinary thinking we are apt to limit creative genius to the poet, composer or sculptor, that is, to the lover of Beauty. But far more truly the lover of Truth is a creative recipient of Life. The Spirit is with us to attain creative expression through us in behalf of Beauty, Truth, and Goodness, the eternal Ideas. These are the three great ends. There is one Spirit with diversity of gifts making toward the eternal values or ideas. If we are not artists or philosophers, we may be servants of goodness, and the Good is as genuinely and surely creative as Truth and Beauty. Indeed, creative goodness pertains to each of us as an individual, as a child of God. Life is with us to carry forward our creation in His image and likeness.
The highest gift of intuition as quickened from the secret place is creative insight into the nature and powers of the individual. At times we are so fortunate as to be given this insight into another’s soul. Seeing the ideal latent there we do what we can to summon it into power. We encourage, we advise, we point out opportunities. We show that the soul tends to “make circumstance,” to find its creative opportunity. But better still we show that just as we have become somewhat acquainted with the secret place and begun to learn at home, so the soul we are creatively advising can learn to go to direct sources and be guided from within. Thus it may be given us to summon the soul from knowing to doing, from discipleship into leadership. The true spiritual leader has this creative touch with Life. To say this is not to claim that man as such is a creator or giver of life. There is but one Creator, one source of life. But there is a creative relation to the human spirit in the secret place. It would not be a “secret” place if we knew just why and how. Suffice it that experience itself discloses this creative presence of Life.
If you would think with the spirit, instead of merely working your brain, turn from outward things in renewed consecration to Life, lifting your problem into spiritual light to receive the heavenly guidance you may need. Give yourself time to listen, to meditate, but also give yourself time to assimilate from Life and time to grow. Remember that there is a movement from within outward, from heart to understanding. Seek, therefore, both the impetus of heart from Love and the light which shines from Wisdom. In other words, let your “leading” develop, expect it to develop in detail and become complete, just as a composer expects to develop and complete his theme till his symphony is finished. The secret place is the place of essences intuitively apprehended. What the understanding does is to work out the essence. By an “essence” one means the pure leading, the intuitively perceived whole, like the composer’s theme. It may be compared to pure light. The light tends to distribute itself into even the darkest corner of the mind. Following the light and trying faithfully to live by it, we grasp the meaning al our experiences little by little, we see laws, understand principles, think from causes to effects.
With utmost confidence then one may believe in the secret place, endeavoring to live from it, to be guided by its light. All the power we once put into self-assertion we may now put into creative sell-expression through this Wisdom. All the rebellion we may have felt can become harmony. All negative attitudes can give place to the positive responsiveness which makes for spiritual service. Quiet and free, open and poised at the centre, we may think and will, feel and act from the enlightened centre, with Life imbuing our life. Open at the centre, we may grow into greater responsiveness through our daily conduct, not only overcoming the nervous wear and tear, the tensions and strains which impede, but also the external activities not yet in correspondence. The ideal throughout is harmony between inner and outer, correspondence between the eternal life and the ideal in the secret place. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” “Be still, and know that I am God.”
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Spiritual Health and Healing
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