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Mountains Into Molehills

Analogies are wonderful; we really couldn’t get along without them. They are so important that an entire section of the Graduate Record Exam, which one must pass to be accepted into many graduate schools, is devoted to them. However, analogies are never one hundred percent perfect; at some point, they break down. To make the best use of them, we need to note where they cease to be useful and not ride them into the ground.

Similes and metaphors, along with other literary constructions, involve analogies. In case you forgot or just never learned, a simile involves the word like, as in "He was like a lion." A metaphor in the narrow sense omits the like: "He was a lion." In the broad sense, metaphor can mean similes, metaphors, synecdoches—you get the idea. We’re into the realm of figurative language, where we compare things to other things, let things stand for other things, or tell a story, all in order to make a point. In more ways than one, this isn’t rocket science, to use an analogy (chortle).

Figurative language is mostly imprecise, which is why they don’t use it in rocket science. It is therefore very useful for conveying ideas indirectly. It can also include a base that cannot be tampered with readily, which is why Jesus taught in parables. It also allowed him to pile up analogies to make a point from various perspectives, as in his descriptions of the kingdom of heaven.

Symbolic Bible interpretation, one of the jewels in New Thought’s crown, involves looking at the figurative language of the Bible, which was written in a part of the world that thrives on what W. S. Gilbert in The Mikado described as "merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative"— in other words, extravagant exaggeration or hyperbole. Trying to unpack or demythologize all of this is demanding enough, but in symbolic interpretation, one term can stand for several things, depending on the context. Take, for example, man and woman. Man can stand for the physical body, woman for the soul. Man can stand for the intellect, woman for the emotions. Mountain can be the place to which one goes for uplifted consciousness or perspective, like the mount of the Transfiguration, or it can be an obstacle that must be somehow overcome. Televangelist Robert H. Schuller is famous for his affirmation, "When faced with a mountain, I will not quit. I will keep striving until I climb over, find a pass through, tunnel underneath, or simply stay and turn the mountain into a gold mine, with God’s help." For more information on symbolic Bible interpretation, see www.websyte.com/alan/bible.htm

In a recent issue, I wrote an article, "New Thought and Armageddon", in which I described my research on Armageddon. Nobody could find a logical spot for a battle to take place in the mountains of Megiddo, since a battle would most likely take place on a plain. In any case, "the battle is the Lord’s", and we are supposed to just observe this battle of good and evil from above the fray. Here’s where the mountain multiple meanings come in: the mountain, the place of safety or uplifted state of consciousness, would be the perfect spot for observing the battle. On the other hand, the mountain as the symbol of a problem will be brought low, or turn into a plain.

Jesus regularly went up onto a mountain to pray, with the mountain symbolizing or actually being a place for feeling the presence of God, above and apart from the chaos of daily living. He also used the example of a mountain being removed and cast into the sea as a description of problem-solving by speaking the word of command while in a state of believing. Some wag has pointed out that Jesus said that faith could move mountains, but he didn’t say how long it would take! The elapsed time can be longer than we might like, especially if the mountain is a painful illness or financial situation such as a mountain of debt. But we "ought always to pray, and never to faint". In the early and sometimes lean years of Unity, someone commented to Myrtle Fillmore that they should pray that the money would hold out. "Oh, no!" she responded. "Let us pray that our faith holds out."

The first step in any sort of healing is to see God in place of the problem (Divine Science minister Emmet Fox’s Golden Key). To do this may involve unlearning a bunch of nonsense that we thought we knew about God: seeing him as keeping score on us like Santa Claus, believing that we have to merit blessings instead of expecting unmerited grace, expecting him to coerce us instead of persuade us. This involves the elevation in consciousness implied by the mountaintop.

The second step is to do as Jesus directed and speak to the mountain/problem: "Say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done" (Matt. 21:21). TV Pastor Joel Osteen says that if you don’t talk to your mountains, your mountains will talk to you with a bunch of negative thoughts. He further explains that when we speak words of faith, something happens in the unseen. Just before the statement about the mountain, Jesus had cursed a fig tree that had no figs, even though they were out of season. At first, nothing appeared different, but the next day, the tree had withered away. He did this to demonstrate to the disciples that our words have power when they are backed with faith—power for good or ill. The rest of the verse reads, "Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain....And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer [the uplifted consciousness], believing, ye shall receive."

Speaking is a form of action. Religious Science founder Ernest Holmes regularly addressed people, situations, and things that he felt could use the activity of God. William Hornaday tells a story of one occasion on which he and Holmes were in their office when a gardener came in with a spade, announcing that he had come to remove a dead tree. Immediately they all headed for the garden.

"Now hold on!" Ernest said, examined the tree and addressed it directly. "How will you ever find a better spot than a meditation garden?" he demanded, and proceeded to talk things over with the tree almost as if it were a heedless adolescent.
The gardener grinned in embarrassment.
"Did you plant it carefully?"
"Yes, sir, same as the others."
"Same food and water?"
"Yes, sir."
"Well, then, it’s going to be all right." He told the tree to count its blessings! There’s love here," he explained. "Everybody’s been pretty busy getting ready for the opening service, but you mustn’t think you aren’t admired." Then he made a long, silent affirmation. "It’ll do fine now," he assured the gardener. "Leave it alone."
We watched the tree closely, the gardener and I. As this is written, it is taller than the other two and every bit as healthy.

Emulate Jesus. Talk to trees, talk to mountains/problems of all sorts. And do it from an uplifted mountaintop consciousness.