TRUE SPIRITUAL SCIENCE
Horatio W. Dresser
Spiritual Health and Healing
“AND ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. . . . If the Son . . . shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”– John viii, 32, 36.
What is the Christ or universal wisdom taught by the Master in the Gospels, and how does it differ from other sciences? It is a higher science pertaining to the inner life of man as part of the whole mission of Jesus in making known the kingdom of God on earth. It does not start with the discovery and observation of external facts, then work up to knowledge of natural laws through inference and criticism, as we proceed when fostering such a science as physics or biology; it begins with a certain appeal to the heart of man in behalf of an invisible realm of being in which he has his real existence. The test of its power or truth is not in its mere law or rational consistency, in the ability of man to think it out to the end and defend it against all objections; but in its application to human needs, through the works accomplished by it. Hence its first appeal is to the individual to live by it, see its truth for himself, become free himself, that he may be quickened to carry the liberating message to others. It is the divine wisdom descending into the human spirit and proving itself practical, workable, concrete; then working out into social life and the physical organism, that it may be shown in all its completeness or objectivity. This divine science therefore proves itself by taking shape in the concrete deeds of men, the word made flesh in thought, in will and in life, when it becomes a fact; whereas the natural sciences value facts first and only by laborious thinking arrive at universals.
It might of course be said that from the first Jesus has the social aim in view, that his one great interest is brotherhood or service. But since it is the individual doing his true work who stands for the social ideal, we find Jesus everywhere beginning with individual men and summoning them to a life of wholeness or all-round health. Jesus addresses individuals whose needs are typical, meanwhile setting forth principles which enable us to see what is the true panacea. The standard of health as we thus find it taught point by point involves three great essentials. First, there must be integrity within the self oneness of purpose between head and heart, constancy in serving one master, with all that this unity implies by way of purity of motive, courage and persistence in pursuing the one ideal. This means loving the Father above all men and above the world, believing in the divine way of life with its provisions for daily welfare; and carrying this faith into the little affairs which even more than the great contests of life show what we truly believe. In the second place, there should be love of the neighbor expressed in concrete service proving its truth and reality by deeds, with the love of Christ first in order, whatever may be the love for father, mother, brother; a losing of selfish or lesser nature to find the unselfish or greater. And, in the third place, there should be outward or physical health proving that a man lives by the Christ in fulness or integrity, instead of limiting his interests to a narrow field or a special theory.
In seeking these ends Jesus strikes at the root of every life not founded on this unity within the self. He singles out hypocrisy and self-righteousness as typical of the wrong mode of life in general. Why does he single out these two? Because they stand for appearances contrary to man’s real inner life. Until a man begins to display in outward conduct what he truly is within, as little as he may have actually attained, he is unable to begin the constructive life, there is war between forces within him, and he slips back in one direction while striving to make headway in another. The hypocrite may, for example, pretend to be living a pure upright life as regards matters in the social world while seeking self-gratification in other ways usually thrown out of account. The self-righteous man may deem himself spiritual, therefore “saved,” because he believes what Christ is said to teach concerning salvation by those who separate between sin and the problems of health. But the Master combines and teaches that which followers have separated. When he heals or forgives he uses essentially the same language: “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” or, “Arise and walk.” That is to say, disease, whatever its external conditions or occasions, arises from disordered life. There is no permanent cure save through purification within the life of every desire or activity, from lust to self-centredness in its most refined forms, which interferes with the free expression of the divine image of health.
Sin, whatever the ostensible motives and social consequences, arises from disordered life. There is no salvation save through cleansing the entire “inside of the cup,” including those conditions which make for disease. To have sins “forgiven,” or to be made whole of one’s disease, is to begin to live in such a way that neither the germs of sin nor conditions that invite disease shall find fertile soil. The one is the other so far as the inner life is concerned. For the Master is not talking about symptoms, nor is he referring to the outward occasions of disease or the semblances of sin. He is speaking of causes, hence of the mode of life which shall cleanse man through and through. This has been a hard saying for the world. Men have wanted to believe with their lips for the sake of the soul’s future welfare, while living as they liked in the world and attributing their illnesses and sorrows, their unhappiness and miseries to outward things not supposed to be important.
We observe that Jesus does not apply his science by taking away the effects of sin or outward manifestations of disease, as if this sufficed to save the soul. He strikes at the root of the tree and bids his followers emulate him, despite all the pretenses of the hypocritical and self- righteous. We note, for example, that he seeks faith on the part of both individuals and groups,
that he goes where faith prevails, commends men and women displaying faith, and tells what faith will accomplish. “According to your faith, be it unto you,” or “Thy faith hath made thee whole,” is his general mode of expression. By faith he plainly means much more than intellectual acceptance, dependence on the divine providence or trust for the future. He calls for a mode of life in the living present which makes for wholeness. Such faith is constructive, it implies the affirmative attitude with its emphasis on life and what life brings. To have faith is “to enter into life,” and to enter into life is to turn each of those elements in our nature whereby we oppose the divine incoming life into elements of harmony and oneness. To have faith is to believe in the divine image and likeness, and to do one’s best to live by it in the little passing thoughts, the minor motives or sentiments. True faith springs “out of the abundance of the heart,” in openness of spirit.
Again, we note that in applying this science Jesus seeks the needy, “the poor in spirit,” the afflicted, the lost sheep; and that he readily associates with publicans and sinners, sitting at meat with them, and meeting their needs as individuals. “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” This outreaching in behalf of those who most need help leads one to believe that the test of spiritual science is its ability to solve difficult questions, which the world gives up on the ground that man is selfish and sensuous, burdened with fleshly appetites. If we are not to draw any such circle about the difficult and sinful, it must follow that we are not to condemn the sinner as a human spirit; but to summon him to the same fulness of life which is everywhere the resource of the Gospel.
Man’s response to his physical appetites is in accordance with his affections or love. If he loves self first, he will seek those pleasures which spring from selfishness and his sins and the diseases springing from them will disclose self-love. To love others above self will be to seek those activities which express the true, full self through service. Thus everything depends in the last analysis on what man loves. Consequently Jesus addresses the affections and summons man to be his better, nobler self, “to go and sin no more,” to take up his bed and walk, to be “every whit whole.”
In the third place, we note that in carrying out this spiritual science Jesus not only seeks faith and turns first and last to those most in need, but seeks disciples who will go forth and labor in the vineyard as he has labored by meeting the world where it is. Jesus gave the disciples “power against unclean spirits to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.” The Christ does not merely bring the truth which sets them free, as if individual freedom were the goal of life. It does not simply teach men to pray, to preach, to discern the spirits of people, singling out those who are like houses divided against themselves; but quickens them with an efficient stirring love, and by making them “free indeed” inspires them to be active agents for the Christ wisdom. The power bestowed upon the disciple is not the power which he attains by himself through the practice of meditation, concentration or inner control; it does not spring from silence or receptivity alone; nor does it come through spiritual understanding apart by itself, as a product of study or the training of interior faculties. This power is like a gift, although universal in type–that is, a power bestowed by the Giver of life sending the disciple forth to give as freely as he has received.
Almost paradoxically this science bids man begin with himself and yet do anything rather than start with himself as if he could merely by taking thought become a Christ. The great truth that in and of himself man is naught and can accomplish nothing is so great, so deep, and far-reaching, that he who sees it has every reason in the world to anticipate profound consequences in his experience. Naturally then a large part of the Gospel is devoted to telling man how to begin with himself. Having begun to forgive, to cast out the beams that are in his own eye, to overcome anxiety and fear, to “let the dead bury their dead,” man may acquire true receptivity. Having learned that both sin and sickness, so far as they spring from the life within him, have the same root, he would next ask, What then is my true self, when I am whole? If sickness be separate- ness, and sin be separateness, what part of me is not sick, what remains intact when I sin? This must be my inner selfhood or spirit, the child of God made in the divine image and likeness. I may say with confidence that my heavenly Father intended me to be sound and sane in all respects, and that in all my thinking and willing I should take this heavenly pattern as my standard, dwelling on the divine ideal. In my true self I am a child of light, a recipient of divine wisdom, open to divine love. This is the real source of health and of virtue. This source is within me, within every human soul, awaiting recognition and co-operation. The science of the Christ is above all the science of the true self.
What shall we say concerning inherited and external conditions which do not correspond with inner reality? What shall we do about manifestations of disease and sin which men minister to in the world? Shall we combat them too? Not in the same way by any means, if we understand the method of Christ. That method has been misinterpreted throughout the ages. It has been taken to mean the practice of the negative virtues, especially meekness, or non-resistance. But when we read the Gospels with open eyes, we find the Master taught a higher resistance, overcoming hate through loving our enemies, returning good for what is termed evil, the expression of righteous judgments in place of condemnation, and the outdoing of so-called virtuous people by freely giving as we would have others give unto us in times of equal need. Hence denial of the self does not mean self-sacrifice or the mortification of the flesh. The spirit indeed is willing while the flesh is weak, and there are manifold temptations to guard against. There are reasons for sacrifice on occasion. The great idea, however, is the conquering of the nature in us which inclines toward selfishness. The mastery of self is not by any means a negative consideration.
The Master does not turn into by-paths of endless discussion by contrasting the real with the unreal and developing a metaphysics founded on this contrast. He leaves this for those who care more for mere theory. Always he brings to man the condition, “If thou wilt enter into life,” then do thus and so. The rest is death and need not be considered. His science turns upon truths which make for life. The way out of spiritual death is to have one Master, truth, or way; and to pursue this ideal with entire consecration. If thou wilt not enter into life, then receive the consequences of allegiance to riches, the world, self. For there is action and reaction whereby each man draws to himself what he loves. It is because what man loves is more central than what he thinks that Jesus directs attention to two great types of love. Thus it is borne in upon us with great conviction that the science which Jesus taught is the science of love to God and man.
It is hard for man to see that the way of the world is not the way of life, to see that intellectual rule may mean spiritual death, and that even when man has commanded all the forces of his natural environment which make for health he will not be truly sound and sane. Most men put the primary emphasis upon outward things, or if not they put it upon heredity, racial evil, human nature, or some other scapegoat. The Gospel bids man look to himself so decisively that he will never wish to turn his eyes anywhere else in the world.
The critic objects to this position, however. In an ideal world man might conquer his spirit, so it is said; under other conditions he might be unselfish, or truly free and wholly sound. But as matters are now we are all bound up with one another in ills and tribulations which we never bargained for, the innocent suffer with the guilty, and the individual can do little save to look out for himself, taking a little pleasure as he goes.
No, our science insists, it is not primarily a question of heredity or environment, of handicaps or social relationships into which we are born. It is a question of the great eternal truth that man is a spirit born to mastery through divine love and wisdom in whose image and likeness he exists. There is no heredity so powerful as “our heredity from God.” There is no environment equalling that of the divine resources more intimately at hand than anyone knows. There is no condition so adverse that the spirit cannot begin forthwith to triumph over it. For the world exists for the sake of Spirit, the human spirit is clothed with a bodily organism as by a garment, and all things favor the man who lives by this great truth. We must start with the Spirit, think and live for the Christ, regarding the outward life as a sphere for the expression of spiritual things, if we would realize the full force of this science.
This is spiritual rather than mental science, because, having led the way to the inner life, it does not stop with mental attitudes, beliefs, anticipations and suggestions; but presses forward to the central statement that man’s entire existence is involved, hence that if he would “enter into life” he must overcome everything in his nature that makes for selfishness with all its fruits in sins and illnesses. It is understood of course that as members of the human family we are all inter-related, so that we suffer with one another. It is understood that true health is social, and true life is social. But instead of postponing until some future period the direct effort to change adverse social matters, the Gospel bids each man who would “enter into life” to begin to act, live, think and love today as a member of the spiritual order, starting first with the power of the spirit to conquer the flesh.
We answer the question then, How does the spiritual science of Jesus differ from other sciences? by saying that it must be proved by each individual before he can prove it to another. In these four brief records called the Gospels are set down all the points needed to disclose the way to the perfect life for all who make effort to apply the Christ to the conditions at hand, shirking nothing, making no pretense, giving all to one Master. The way is narrow and strait, if you please,–and few are found entering upon it. So, too, the harvest is plenteous but the laborers few. In the case of those who turn aside there is a radical misunderstanding, namely, that one can obtain more happiness and greater freedom by going some other way. This is in very truth the way of the fulness of life which we all love whether we admit it or not. Each of us has the power to make the effort. The forces flowing hitherward from the divine centre are all tending that way. We are so constituted as to be able to walk in the way which the Master summoned us by setting the example. The true science of life is precisely this spiritual science of the Christ. There is no opposing power. The Gospel summons man to the perfect life. It summons him to freedom, health, happiness; therefore to fellowship with his brother man in this life of happiness, health and true freedom.
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Spiritual Health and Healing
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