THE PRICELESS POSSESSION
Horatio W. Dresser
Spiritual Health and Healing
DESPITE the impressiveness of such a transition in the spiritual life as the one we have considered in the foregoing, onlookers have not as yet been persuaded to follow as far as one could wish. The reasons for this conservatism are worth noting before we turn to a restatement of the central principles.
To the average observer this new interest has meant little more than discovery of the power of thought and the hitherto concealed functions of the subconscious mind. We have all heard about suggestion by this time and have learned to make use of it in dealing with our fellow men. We know about the subconscious mind, and we take it into account when explaining experiences once attributed to mysterious forces outside the human personality. Whatever may be thought about mental healing as specific for all illnesses, we all acknowledge that our power over life has increased by the addition of this new interest. Here, however, the matter often ends, and the therapeutic movement is regarded as one more new cult assigned to its proper place.
The advocates of mental healing have been partly responsible for this. For much has been said and written about the utility of thought as a more direct way of securing success, as if success in material things were the chief end of life. Hence there has been a tendency to concentrate upon the psychology of success. The new interest could hardly mean more than this to people who had no genuine desire to alter their mode of life, who wanted to find a quicker way of being relieved of their ills while retaining most of their pleasures, habits and social occupations.
Then, too, there has been a tendency to regard the new spiritual science as a kind of absolutism admitting of no appeal. To make this claim in behalf of the authority of a text-book is of course to miss the whole point, that each soul has power to draw upon immanent divine sources according to need. Thus people have turned aside in favor of an organization which might have pressed forward to the new revelation of Christianity.
In all movements this is likely to be the case for a time. Only a few adopt a new master’s teaching with adequate seriousness. We have had leaders and visions enough in the history of our race to make us children of light. What the majority want is to be free from pain and misery due to their excesses, that they may be a little more prudent, and retain their old life as fully as possible. Consequently, when anyone comes forward with assurance that we can become unselfish friends of man and worthy sons of God we turn away as did the rich young man, mindful of our luxuries. Creatures of habit, imitative, conservative and envious, we refuse to adopt a plan of action which will reach to the uttermost confines of our social kingdom and summon us to be noblemen of the Spirit.
The simple truth is that all our illnesses, woes and vices are intimately related, and that really to be rid of one is to overcome all. It is not a question of gaining enough insight into the power of the human spirit to overcome a few maladies, and then disregard material things and laws as if they did not exist. The power of the spirit is not a half-way measure. It is not disclosed that we may do as we like. The real test of our spiritual faith is given us when we carry the spiritual life into every sphere of our natural and social interests. The power of our human spirit was given us to live by the Spirit. This Spirit has become manifest in this splendid world of space and time, objective in bodies and things, and the Spirit’s manifestations are not to be ignored.
Life is surrounded by conditions intended to call the human spirit into power. Our souls need to be tested to the full, and the tests are distributed along the line of life that we may meet them one by one, through divine guidance, and gradually grow into supremacy. The conditions we face and must conquer are from the self-same Spirit which gives us power to become victors. But these conditions seen in the divine light prove to be friendly. Life is indeed friendly through and through. There is no offsetting Power whose forces we must conquer in order to live the spiritual life. In our ignorance we have mistaken friends for foes, and acted toward nature as if matter were the product of some alien Energy striving to circumvent us, instead of a vehicle for the manifestation of Spirit. This is the whole problem of life as the new therapeutism regards it: to convert apparent enemies to friends and learn to live with nature in our well-ordered bodies as true children of Spirit.
The pioneers in this field were no more favored than other mortals. They had to work their way along year by year and prove the spiritual law for themselves. They did not come by their exceptional wisdom through “revelation.” Indeed the word revelation is illusory if we mean wisdom put into our minds apart from the spiritual growth which discloses and proves it. Human experience as a whole is a revelation to him who has eyes. Christianity came as the culminating clue to this experience which we all know. Its newness consisted not so much in its ideas as in the transfiguring life and works of the Master through whose service for humanity God became manifest in fulness.
We may say in brief that the one great reason why the world has not whole-heartedly adopted this new version of Christianity is found in the fact that this preliminary period was needed to bring us back to the Gospel. The pioneers cleared the way. They planted the new seed. Its fruitage was judged by appearances. Now we are learning that what seemed to be a mental device for winning people was in reality a call “to live the life.” The requisite change of thought from the old order to the new was only a beginning. The psychology of success was merely an aspect of spiritual truths including the whole of life. Behind it all there was a priceless possession which the few caught sight of and have been cherishing. What was that priceless possession? Can we put it into words?
It was the truth of the Inward Presence once more made known to men. It was the rediscovery, made ever and again in human history, that there is in man a God-sense or power of direct communion with heavenly realities, such that experience is the test and verification of all spiritual wisdom. In a practical way this means that any man at any time, whatever his need, may lift his problem into heavenly light and see it transfigured by the guidance he needs. It means further that this light may be admitted into our whole nature, that there is guidance for every need whatsoever. And the application of this guidance to healing was the special phase which this wisdom brought us at first, because this truth needed to be restored to the world. This truth brought back, it became possible to regard the Gospel in its fulness anew. Thus the way to “Live the life” again opened before men as they had not seen it for ages.
The experience of the first pioneer in this re-discovery shows that anyone might make the same discovery–guided by the Spirit. For the heavenly light is always shining. What was needed to bring men to knowledge of it through quest for healing was a method of meditation or silent realization. This method was acquired by our pioneers through the prior discovery that man has inner senses or intuitive power enabling him to discern spiritual reality. All men have evidences of such inward power, but only a few put the evidences together to see that our spiritual nature is adapted for manifold use when we need power in any field. What is needed is an experience sufficiently absorbing so that we will follow it through and find the Spirit within the human spirit, the Lord of life presiding over our human life.
Many of us arrive naturally enough at the point where prayer spontaneously takes expression on our lips, and we realize that the power of prayer has never reached its limits with us. There are many believers in the inward light as the direct witness of the Spirit, the true reason for worship. Every earnest Christian has some experience of inward piety akin to divine love. We all believe that “the pure in heart” shall see God. But there is a further step which seems almost as new, as if no one had the habit of prayer, none believed in the inward light or purity of heart. This step is into knowledge of the Inward Presence as power. It shows one how to enter into quickening Life through vivid realization of the love and the wisdom that are ours. It shows the way to a dynamic experience passing beyond mere meditation or worship. Realization is more detailed than prayer as most men know prayer. It enlists ideals made vivid and held before the mind. It is concerned with specific needs, with the conviction that the life made concrete through concentration will begin at once to take effect. Such realization becomes possible when the mind gives itself to the belief that our human spirit is rightfully an instrument of God, heir to divine wisdom, an immediate participant in the Inward Presence.
Such realization also differs from prayer because it implies an experienced contrast between the inner mind and the outer, between one plane of consciousness and another. We are all familiar with the contrast between the two voices or natures. Many of us know what it is to feel free or to feel conditioned. We know that there is a difference between an ideal and a mere process. In a way each of us has his two worlds of thought. But we have not all learned to bring these ideas together so that our inner world is a meeting-point between the spirit and a higher activity which can be utilized when there is need. We have not learned to break away from externalizing consciousness at will. We have no definite idea what the activity is within us which makes the change. We have not learned to be alone with God’s ideal.
It is fairly easy to acquire merely psychological knowledge of this contrast, Some effort is required to pass beyond all mental devices, penetrating behind all mental appearances to spiritual reality. The priceless possession is intimacy of relation through spiritual experience in which the Inward Presence becomes an immediate source of guidance and power. This experience means more than the coming of a vision or mystical ecstasy which the participant neither understands nor is able to recover. It may be the same in kind as the better sort of mystical experience, while calling for a much more intelligible interpretation.
This experience of the Inward Presence is recoverable through understanding of the conditions. Such understanding is accessible to everyone who is willing to entertain the idea of immediate experience of the presence of God in contrast with the tradition in the churches that only through zealously guarded authority can man approach God. It becomes possible when we take seriously the idea that man is spirit and is recipient of Life ready to make him in fulness a child of God in image and likeness.
This inward quest might lead to self-centeredness if it were not for the experienced contrast between the inner mind and the outer. To enter more deeply into one’s mere self is not to find the inner mind at all. The priceless possession is awareness of the Inward Presence by being in the sanctuary of the Spirit where a higher light is shining. The kingdom is “at hand,” it is “within,” it comes “without observation,” bearing its own evidences, summoning man to seek it first and last. The particular self making the quest is secondary. The essential is the great gift made to the self seeking the Presence in all sincerity and devotion.
According to the old order of thought life was a warfare. Hence the Gospel was put in negative form. It seemed necessary to begin by condemning and resisting, as if one were struggling with an alien Power. In the new order we find that a different attitude transforms the same forces once deemed hostile. The alleged enemy disappears in the divine light shining from above. There is only friendliness and peace, with a Life ever present that is working for health and freedom. Even the world seems to have faded for the moment. To have the world given back is to have it bestowed as God’s world.
To rise to the level of this higher light is to find oneself in a measure a spokesman of the Spirit speaking to the spirit in other men. Such speech is given us through pure disinterestedness, when love touches the heart and the human self interposes no obstacle. That is why one may venture to call this the voice of the living Christ, the healing Christ summoning others to come into the same communion with the Father. Not until the self thus becomes an instrument have we seen what the universal reign of the Gospel on earth might be. It is we who have been chosen, not that we attained the end by mere self-consciousness. Our part is to prepare the way as best we can for this consecration, with the hope that we may be chosen disciples of the living Lord.
The central principle is that there is but one Wisdom and all spiritual truth comes from this source, that there is guidance for each need, a wisdom which sees the state of the soul as it truly is. Our part is to lift the Spirit to the level of that Wisdom, that its guidance may become our light on the path, its leading the one we follow through every vicissitude. Otherwise put, there is one Love and all genuine devotion on our part is a sharing of its compassion, its tenderness and power to do good. There is love for each heart. Love is the great healing power, touching the soul, quickening, opening, stirring into strength, and making the soul a radiating centre.
No words can adequately tell what knowledge of this priceless possession means for the individual. He who would gain it must first entertain the idea of such unison with Life, then
see what leadings come, what there is in the self and in daily life to impede. It is not the idea but experience itself which gives the reality, when there is a need which opens the spirit to seek and find, to receive and give. What the printed word may do is to suggest the way. There is no formula that will unlock the inner secrets. The way of the heart is more interior. But affirmation will help us toward purity of heart and the guidance which leads into “the way.” If we had kept the open vision the way would immediately disclose itself. Experience is given us that we may regain this vision, learning anew to see things as they are, as the Spirit illuminates them.
There are moments when the Spirit seems to possess us, to imbue us with power and cast over our being its soft radiance. Cherishing these beatific moments when they come, never trying to control them, we find that the way is disclosed to the next experience. That way followed, the succeeding moments will appear, and all experience will seem in truth a divine revelation. Outward life as it unfolds from moment to moment will then assume its proper place as means of expression and means of testing what the Spirit has disclosed. It is everything to know that the real work is that of the Spirit in us, whatever part man appears to play. The human spirit is akin to the divine and can conform to the Spirit’s leadings. It is also within man’s power to be led into freedom in detail and at large, out of every anxiety, fear, friction, inertia, rebellion, or whatever the state may be that impedes. Spirit is ready to set us free when we say the word.
To see what this priceless possession means for those who believe in spiritual healing as a consequence of the spiritual life, we need to reconsider the Gospel in the light of the distinction widely accepted among disciples of this method, the distinction between Jesus and the Christ. This distinction meant everything to the pioneers, since the whole method of healing turned upon recognition of “the Christ within.” The contrast grew up around the idea of the inner self as immediately open to the Inward Presence which experience itself revealed. It was not a theoretical contrast. It is not meant to be a basis for theology or for creeds. Consequently one is asked to set doctrinal matters aside for the time being and turn to the Gospels with this clue from inner experience. There need be no loss in so doing, for a person may freely return to the idea of the Lord which has proved its value in the spiritual life. One is simply asked to follow where the living Christ may lead today, that the glorious message of the Comforter may be fully given to men. Those who have caught the new vision believe they have a priceless possession because they find it disclosing love, wisdom and power unknown even to those who accept the Gospel in full as a historical and doctrinal message, as the foundation of the Church. For they have caught a vision of the Church Universal over and above all sects and creeds. And in catching this vision they have found the test of its reality in “the life.”
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Spiritual Health and Healing
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