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The Philosopher's Stone
Newsletter - 2012

January 3, 2012

Kinds of Power

I try to encourage the Philosopher to stay out on the Stone in the fresh air and not track dirt all over the house, but he gets in now and then anyway. For the second week in a row, he is taking over the column, for which I had planned a discussion of kinds of power. What the Philosopher has to say is, as always, totally germane, and we will use it as a launching pad for the discussion that I had planned, which next week will touch base with Henry and continue into Process New Thought. For now, enjoy the Philosopher while I go and look for the dustpan and broom.

*****

Power is the ability to make a difference in a situation. It comes in two varieties, compulsory and advisory (which might be called hard and soft). Compulsory power is the power to force some outcome by pushing from behind, whereas advisory power is the power that lures by pulling from ahead.

Most commonly, God is assumed to be the consummate example of compulsory or coercive power. However, increasing numbers of thinkers have come to recognize that God is the ultimately loving, luring, encouraging reality who presides over everything, the ultimate example of persuasive, advisory power.

In political theory, power is identified with sovereignty, the complete legal secular power of a state (originally a royal sovereign) that exists within the boundaries of the state. The term is most associated with Jean Bodin (1530-1596). Until the United States Constitution was devised in 1787, sovereignty had been considered to be indissoluble. Largely because of defects of the Articles of Confederation (which was a loose collection of the states that declared themselves to be independent states in the Declaration of Independence), the drafters of the Constitution devised a federal system in which sovereignty is divided between the central, national, "Federal" government and the states. To emphasize this, the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment provides: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Over the past century, court decisions regrettably have reduced the sharpness of this division, but repeatedly there have arisen people who have re-emphasized the powers of the states. Most recently this has been emphasized by the grassroots movement known as the "Tea Party."

Although I find politics fascinating and of enormous importance (and earned degrees in political science and law before earning my doctorate in philosophy), my interest in this writing is the even more important division of power throughout all existence. God is not a divine dictator; God is "the Poet of the Universe" and supervisor of the creative advance into novelty that characterizes the nature of the creative process. God knew long before he got around to co-creating any flies that more of his proposed creation could be attracted by the also-not-yet-existing honey or repelled by the visualized vinegar. Psalm 90 tells us that "a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past and as a watch in the night." The periods of time since the Big Bang (if there was one) are practically unimaginable, but God obviously is unimaginably patient. While this is true in relation to cosmic epochs, it is equally true with regard to each of us. Although there may be some truth in the old adage that to spare the rod is to spoil the child, God constantly spares the rod in offering to us innumerable opportunities to begin again. There is a song that advises that when you fall down, you should "pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again." This is said on what could be a macroscopic level of organized human beings, but it is equally true on a microscopic level of the simplest units of all that is. To explain this would require volumes to approach adequacy. God’s patience permits him to have more faith in us, in the long run, than we often have in him. This makes him the initiator/encourager/orchestrator, not the dominator. In short, God’s power is soft rather than hard.

*****

At this point, I shooed the Philosopher back outside to the Stone. We shall continue our discussion of power next week. Meanwhile, happy new year!

 

January 10, 2012

Kinds of Power (2)

As promised, I am continuing with a discussion of kinds of power and how they relate to our view of God and our approach to relating to him. The Philosopher got us started last week with compulsory (coercive) power vs. advisory (persuasive) power, which he refers to as hard vs. soft. Traditionally, most people have thought of God’s power as coercive, which is to say, confounded with an anthropomorphic view of God as an ill-tempered potentate on a throne in the sky hurling thunderbolts while his finger hovers over the SMITE button of his anachronistic computer. But, as the Philosopher points out, the Process New Thought view of God is "the ultimately loving, luring, encouraging reality who presides over everything, the ultimate example of persuasive advisory power".

Another approach to power can be classified as push/pull, which the Philosopher alludes to briefly. Push power is pretty much coercive, even if we are pushing ourselves to do things. Pull power is far more respectful of our individual free will; it lures us onwards. This is Whitehead’s famous description of God: our lure to greater good. Author Robert Fritz refers to the difference between push and pull power in his books, The Path of Least Resistance, Creating, and Your Life as Art. This is systems thinking applied to the creative process. Successful creating depends upon a structure that is advancing rather than oscillating (such as a rocking chair, which gets you nowhere). An advancing structure pulls you toward your goal; an attempt to push you ahead leaves you oscillating, whether it is you pushing yourself or someone else pushing you.

To stay in touch with classical New Thought, let’s go back to our Henry, writing in the chapter "Direct Revelation" in God’s Image in Man (1892):

As God is waiting to reveal Himself to man, there is no bar to reconciliation and unison but man’s unreadiness. Humanity is unqualified for such Deific intimacy because of ignorance and blindness. The sun is not limited nor partial with his rays; and so God is waiting to fill every vacancy in the soul which we will make for Him. He will not force Himself into the human consciousness, but wait to be made welcome, because man’s spiritual freedom is sacred. A coerced development would not be growth, for all growth must be voluntary and from within. (Page 58)

God, the perfect gentleman, though everywhere present and available, does not force himself upon us. He is gambling that we will eventually turn willingly to him, that his love will win out in the end. Yet his laws remain inexorably in place, helping to keep us on the path to the higher good. Read Francis Thompson’s famous poem, "The Hound of Heaven".

Moving forward, let us touch briefly on the difference between power and control. Control theory is systems theory, according to systems expert Norbert Wiener. When psychiatrist William Glasser was looking for a theoretical explanation for the success of his simple approach to behavioral change, Reality Therapy, friends led him to a classic book by physicist William Powers, Behavior: The Control of Perception. Glasser, in consultation with Powers, then wrote Stations of the Mind, in which he explains the difference between a power system and a control system. All living creatures function as control systems. Control is how a control system does what it does, and it hates being controlled. If you sit in your car with the engine running and push down on the accelerator, you are part of a control system. The accelerator controls the rate at which fuel is fed to the engine, the source of power. If you get out behind your nonoperating car and push, you are part of a power system. You can readily see which is easier on you.

We are constantly comparing what we want with what we presently have. When there is a discrepancy, our internal control system turns on the power of our behavioral system in an attempt to make the two match up, to control our incoming perception of what we have and make it agree with the reference perception of what we want.

God, who came up with the ideas for the whole thing, knows all this and acts accordingly, luring or pulling us in the direction of our highest good, which he offers to us moment by moment. He honors us as individuals, but gives us all a level playing field in the form of a lawful universe. We are still quite free to mess up, and also free to seek forgiveness and change course.

Finally, let’s look at the difference between omnipotence and pantocrator. Omnipotence (all-powerful) is a bad Latin translation of the good Greek word pantocrator (all-sufficient). God has all the power that it makes any logical sense for God to have. Free will is a power. We have free will; therefore, God does not have absolutely all the power there is. You do God and yourself no favors when you blithely refuse to make distinctions. For a more scholarly look at this, see process philosopher Charles Hartshorne’s essay, "Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes" in his book of the same name.

"Sufficient is thine arm alone

And our defense is sure."

 

January 17, 2012

Still More Power (3)

Terry McBride is a New Thoughter who to an extraordinary degree practiced what we preach. Now he travels around teaching others how to do what he did. As a young, athletic man of 22 with a wife and child and his entire future ahead of him, Terry suddenly found himself facing a possibly shortened life in a wheelchair with a seemingly incurable E-coli bacterial infection following surgery for an unexpected back injury on the job. He has documented in his book, The Hell I Can’t! the horrors of the dozens of surgeries, the failures, the pain, and the torment he endured from "helpers" who just wanted him to give up his dream of getting his body back to normal.

Terry has incredible powers of concentration and intention. He studied all the self-help literature he could lay his hands on and consulted anyone he thought might have good advice, from his Uncle Larry to Maxwell Maltz. Gradually answers came, beginning with the importance of commitment. Someone sent him the famous quotation from the Scottish Himalayan Expedition, "The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred." Terry remarks, "I was studying the tools of choice that would allow me to commit to anything I wanted, and Providence would move to support and help me in that commitment, whatever it was." He mentally lined up his tools of choice: "First I could use goal setting, not as a way of beating myself up for what I didn’t have or wasn’t getting, but simply as a way of choosing what outcome I was focusing on." His second tool was the choice of actions to take to accomplish his goal. He would keep on toward his goal, and like Winston Churchill, "never, never, never give up". His third tool was choosing his mental environment, controlling his self-talk, learning to "choose my thoughts so they would support the outcomes I wanted". His fourth tool was creative imagination and visualization.

But was this enough? "Would the actions I could take and the thoughts and beliefs I could choose really be the key to creating the health I wanted when the consensus of opinion was that I needed a miracle? . . . I needed to beat million-to-one odds, and to me that would require more than just a positive attitude. As I studied, I began to think I might be leaving something out of the equation." Miracles, Terry read, were only possible because of "God power". He was a practicing Christian, but he had never "actively tried to make the ‘Divine’ part of my everyday existence". He talked it over with his Uncle Larry, who told him that, since he needed a miracle, "if I was you, I’d read the Bible!" Why? "If you’re laying in your hospital bed some night praying and God does show up, you know how authors are, the first question He’ll ask you is ‘Have you read my book?’" After they finished laughing, his uncle told him he should probably "study God and how that stuff works. . . . In almost every other study, there’s a striving for new and better ways to understand a problem or a solution." He told Terry that he needed to figure all that out for himself, keep an open mind, and ask God for help. So Terry started studying the Bible:

I saw many similarities between the great spiritual teachings and the ideas that consciousness creates reality and the power of belief. In their own way, the materials I was studying spoke about power. Some were about the power of goals and goal-directed action; others were about the power of self-talk, consciousness, or belief. Some spoke to the power of imagination and others to the power of God. As I saw it, my task was to integrate these magnificent concepts so I could regain my health. There was a power that was available to everybody—all the material agreed on that. I just wasn’t quite sure how to tie it all together so I could use that power to get what I wanted—my health back. But through it all, I began to understand: power is centered around choice. (Pages 136-7)

It was a long, hard road. The doctors had given up, and Terry’s "I can" attitude "got lost in anger and resentment". Terry continued his disciplines, but how could he move from possibilities into probability? What was "enough" of something to get him what he wanted? "Was I the creator of the movie I called my life, or was I in bondage to the limiting beliefs I had been taught? As I studied more and more, ‘the hell I can’t!’ slowly eroded to ‘hell, I don’t know anymore’". The hospital packed him off to a psychiatrist, who tried to convince him that he was in denial about his condition and gave him Reinhold Neibuhr’s Serenity Prayer. Terry says, "I did find one fairly consistent idea throughout my studies: the peace and acceptance I should seek through my prayer and meditation did not mix with my dogged determination to get well."

Then Terry got two breaks. The first was a doctor who was truly supportive and open minded. The second was when a teenager who had been in a terrible car wreck was in a coma, and Terry loaned his well-marked Bible to her, telling her, "In here it says all things are possible, and we should never give up hope." Five days later, the mother, radiant with happiness, came in to thank him: "You had all the right passages marked. I can’t thank you enough. I know my boy is going to get well and with God’s help, he will have a full recovery." Terry of course was glad for the boy and his mother, but why had his own prayers gone unanswered?

Finally, Terry realized that he was not just mad at the psychiatrist or the minister who told him God’s plan for him was life in a wheelchair, but he was also angry with God . Then the insight came: he was a committed seeker. "And I understood that as long as I was committed to seeking, I would not be able to find, because if I ever found the answer that I was looking for, I wouldn’t be able to seek any more. And I realized my commitment was not to finding, my commitment had been to seeking!" He then addressed God:

God, I demand to find the answer. This book says that if I ask, it shall be given, and I now demand that it be given. This book says that if I seek, I shall find, and I now demand that I shall find. This book says that if I knock on a door, it will be opened, and I now demand that door be opened." (Page 192)

Terry was changing his commitment from seeking to finding, and expecting Providence itself to assist him in finding what he was looking for, and for material assistance to come to him and guide him in this new direction. He then randomly opened the Bible. On that page, he had only marked one short phrase, "Thy faith hath made thee whole." It was the story about the woman with the bloody issue who believed that she need only touch Jesus’ garment to be healed, and she was. In Luke’s version, it mentions that she was healed even before Jesus turned around, and Terry had only read it in Matthew before. Terry comments, "Luke’s version of that story is the only healing in the New Testament where Jesus doesn’t do something first." Everywhere else, it seemed that the power to heal was outside of the individual needing the healing.

Consciousness does create reality. God always says "yes". If I believed in sickness, in lack, and in problems, then the Infinite Power of Creation Itself would back up my belief, and I would get sickness, lack and problems. If I believed that I was involved in a great fight in which I could not win, then my life would become a great fight that I could not win. . . . And even within that perspective, the severity of my disease would only be there because of my belief about it. How many times had I witnessed people in the hospital with the same problem? And yet some got well and some did not, It seemed the outcomes always revolved around their beliefs! Again I was reminded, "You have a choice." Truly it came down to the idea that Providence Itself, or the Divine Essence of Life, said, "You pick the game and I will play with you there. . . . I had found the answer at last. This human aspect of me called my belief system controlled the power of Creation Itself. (Pages 196-7)

This changed the whole game for Terry: "I began to move into the process of creating reality, filled with wonder." It still took a long time to change his consciousness and keep it changed. His book details the process of changing his thinking and how his thoughts evolved. He used his tools, particularly imagination, to gain the cooperation of the doctors and get them to try new and different approaches to healing him. "I could tailor the ideas of choice any way I needed to so I could make them work for me."

After eleven years, twenty-seven major surgeries, and 281 days in the hospital, Terry was well again:  "At the writing of this book, I am just days away from turning sixty, and I do not have a bad back, I am not recovering from a bad back and I have none of the limitations, pain or complications the experts said I would have."

No power short of God’s power could have accomplished this: "Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me." (Isaiah 45:11). Terry had indeed commanded the power of God.

 

January 24, 2012

Command, Control, and Canute (Power 4)

For the past three weeks, we have been investigating power, comparing and contrasting kinds of power such as persuasion vs. coercion, compulsory vs. advisory, or command and control. Last week we discussed Terry McBride’s discovery that he, a weak and suffering human being, could command the power of almighty God: "Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me." (Isaiah 45:11). We have looked at the important point in process theology that it is a theological mistake to consider God as omnipotent, literally having all the power that there is, because that leaves us without free will. We have also pointed out repeatedly that pantheism of any sort brings one to the same point: if God is all there is, or all there is, is God, what happens to our power, to our free will? Let us then look at the flip side of this, and see how much command or control we actually have. This makes me think of Great King Canute of England, Denmark, and Norway in the eleventh century. As the story goes, he became weary of fawning courtiers telling him how great and powerful he was, so he had his golden throne carried right down to the water’s edge of the sea, just as the tide was coming in. To demonstrate his great power that could even control the waves of the sea, he then commanded the tide to come no higher, so that the king’s feet would remain dry. Of course, the tide went right on doing its thing, and the king’s feet got soaked.

All creation is co-creation, shared between us and God, as the Senior Partner. Yes, we have considerable power, including the power and freedom to do considerable messing up. With whatever wisdom we have managed to accrue, we need to turn to our Senior Partner for advice and consent. Our longings, our preferences, and our present stage of development can be taken into account, but part of having free will is having a neutral playing field so that others can also exercise their free will. Those waves are going to keep right on coming.

Some things have to be earned, such as trust. Skill must be earned by constant practice, and this is true of mental skills as well as the physical ones. Relationships, including our relationship with God, must be carefully built and nourished. Author Stephen Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People speaks of an emotional bank account that each of us has with one another. On bad days on which we break faith in various ways, we are making withdrawals from that account; on good days, we are making deposits by being trustworthy, courageous, loving, etc. God has more patience and tolerance than we human beings do, so we don’t get overdrawn with God so easily, but we still have to take the consequences of our actions. We enhance our power to control each other by building up those emotional bank accounts, but with God, we gain the power to command and control by obeying the laws that God has set up for the universe.

Command and control are both indirect powers, unlike being part of a power system and getting behind the car and pushing. Brute force is not effective in obtaining these indirect powers. On the other hand, even a seemingly helpless invalid can exert an amazing amount of commanding and controlling power under certain circumstances. This can be good or bad, depending on the circumstances.

I’ll give our Henry, Henry Wood (1834-1909) the last word on the subject of power. Terry McBride was seeking to command the power of God in order to obtain healing in a situation in which man’s best efforts had failed. Psychological and spiritual leaders had told him to just accept "the will of God" for him in his situation, regardless of his own desires. What does Henry have to say about that?

When the Founder of Christianity gave his great commission, "Preach the gospel and heal the sick," did he not mean all that he said? Is the power of Truth partial, local, and limited to a single age? If God be infinitely good, unchangeable, and orderly in His manifestations, could He withdraw powers and privileges that had been already bestowed? If divine law is not suspended nor violated, the same "gifts of healing" that have once been exercised must be operative to-day, under corresponding spiritual conditions. (Ideal Suggestion, page 18)

Lagniappe: The editorial from the Autumn issue of New Thought is now available on this site. Just click on the New Thought Editorials tab; the latest is on top.

 

January 31, 2012

Unanswered Prayers

Whaaat? In this year of all years, this time of all times, I’m talking about unanswered prayers? What a downer! Where is chirpy cheerfulness when we need it?

But wait a minute. Isn’t that the elephant in the living room: the great fear that our prayers will not be answered, so we don’t dare to pray for anything very big? Isn’t that what leads people to scoff at prayer, let alone at the belief in a loving, omnipresent, all-sufficient God who always answers prayers? This just reminds us of the old saying: sometimes the answer is no. Not very uplifting.

Last September 20, the newsletter dealt with Napoleon Hill’s new book, Outwitting the Devil, written in 1938 but only published last year. (It’s still down there; just search or scroll to it.) Hill has the Devil describe himself as consisting of "negative energy, and I live in the minds of people who fear me." Hill then asks, "If you only occupy one-half of energy and matter, who occupies the other half?" The Devil replies, "The other half is occupied by my opposition [God]." He goes on to explain, "It is my business to represent the negative side of everything, including the thoughts of you earthbound people. How else could I control people? My opposition controls positive thought. I control negative thought." When Hill asks him to describe his clever tricks, the Devil replies, "One of my cleverest devices for mind control is fear. I plant the seed of fear in the minds of people, and as these seeds germinate and grow, through use, I control the space they occupy." Later, the Devil tells Hill, "I am powerless to influence or control you because you have found the secret approach to my kingdom. You know that I exist only in the minds of people who have fears. You know that I control only the drifters who neglect to use their own minds. You know that my hell is here on earth and not in the world that comes after death."

Hill, whose decades of research into the reasons for people’s success led him to New Thought principles and practices (thought not identified as such), has the Devil give him a list of steps to take to protect one against drifting. These include analyzing temporary defeat and extracting from it "the seed of an equivalent advantage". The Devil advises (and Hill has forced him to be truthful and accurate), "Never accept from life anything you do not want. If that which you do not want is temporarily forced upon you, you can refuse, in your own mind, to accept it and it will make way for the thing you do want." What you do not do is give up and say that this stuff doesn’t work. This should remind us of Terry McBride.

Author, teacher, and one-time New Thought minister Lynn Woodland has some very helpful insight into why prayers are not answered—and her life’s work is in what gives rise to miracles and how to live so that miracles become "not just possible, but natural". In Making Miracles: Create New Realities for Your Life and Our World, she states, "Clearly I’m a believer in the power of prayer, but I also believe there’s an art and science to it that make some prayers more potent than others." She goes on to explain that all too often we are into "desperation, micromanaging, and pitiful bargaining", which "aren’t the most successful strategies for eliciting help from the people in our lives, and they don’t work any better with God. These prayers are less a reflection of our trust in a benevolent universe and more an affirmation of our own powerlessness." So we’re praying from fear and a lack of trust in God.

Lynn quotes Jesus (Matt. 7:7), "Ask and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." She understands this as "spiritual law, not religious metaphor", and the secret to its always working is "that to be truly effective, our request needs to offer up—to give unconditionally—a bit of what we’re asking for . . . . we give God our joy now, in absolute trust that whatever happens next will be just fine, whether it’s as we envision or not." Instead of sending out "a vibration of powerlessness. When our attention is filled with wishing for what we don’t have, we send out a message of scarcity. . . . When we dwell on our worries, we feed our fears. . . . we are choosing pain over peace.", she recommends "replacing disempowered wishing with gratitude by giving thanks for unanswered prayers as though they’ve already been fulfilled. . . . personal power may not be enough to get us through, but Higher Power is."

Our Henry, who has written about "the world, the flesh, and the evil", also comments, "Illusions of evil are ‘works of the Devil,’ which are dispelled and destroyed by the Christ-mind. My cure is the natural unfolding into outward expression of the soul’s divine life, health, harmony, joy, and peace". In other words, picture what you truly want, and joyfully give thanks in advance for receiving it in whatever means, shape, and timing is for the highest good of all concerned.

 

February 7, 2012

"I am Safe." I WILL FEAR NO EVIL

Recently, I have been rereading Lynn Woodland’s Making Miracles: Create New Realities for Your Life and Our World during my morning quiet time. I have also been rereading Ideal Suggestion, about which I have written exhaustively in the last year or so, it being perhaps the best-known work by Henry Wood (1834-1909), best known as our Henry.

My reading in Woodland the other day was a chapter titled "Creating Safety". It concerned one’s physical safety even in the midst of scary surroundings and circumstances, the ability to "recognize and release the habit of fear" , which "frees us to hear inner guidance about when and where we’re safe and when we’re not". She explains, "The more we simply relax and cultivate the inner experience of safety and love, the more we tap the Zero Point Field and access the unlimited power of God". The author recounts her own experience in which she could have become quite fearful, but she remembered the exercise that she had been working on and that she included in the chapter. As she was leaving a class she had been teaching at night, usually the last to leave, she had a flat tire. But there was one group member behind her that night, and he was able to change her tire. As she was driving on home happily reflecting on her good fortune, the other tire went flat on the highway. This time, there was no one around, and she didn’t even have a spare now. Then she realized that she was only a few yards from the only exit with a filling station just off it. She slowly "klunked" her way to it and was able to leave it there for service the next day and ride home with a Good Samaritan who, seeing her situation, offered her a ride, which her intuition told her to accept. Her housemate drove her back the next day, and she lost a total of thirty-five minutes. She had put off replacing the two bald tires because she had lacked the time to shop for new ones. She notes, "Through this whole experience, except for those seconds of panic on the highway, I felt peaceful, protected, and safe." I noted that she wasted no time or energy on beating herself up for not using her best judgement on timely replacement of her tires!

The exercise, "Creating Inner Safety", involves reminding oneself many times a day that one is safe, saying silently or aloud, "I am safe". Woodland observes, "It is not necessary that you believe these words. ‘I am safe’ is the belief you are creating, not necessarily the belief you hold." The exercise also includes a beautiful visualization and "a heartfelt intention that we all now walk in a vibration of peace that keeps each of us safe and ripples peace to the world around us. Instead of merely being protected from the danger of the world, we are now drawing the world into a peaceful vibration with us."

From this, I turned to my next reading in Ideal Suggestion. To my amazement, it turned out to be our Henry’s Ideal Suggestion #9, "I WILL FEAR NO EVIL". Cue the Twilight Zone! I first wrote about this on November 16, 2010, if you want to go back to it. The phrase, of course, comes from the Twenty-Third Psalm, one of the most peaceful and reassuring affirmations ever written. "Fear", Henry points out, "is a recoil from the view of mental false images". He also reminds us, "The roots of illness have their rise in conscious or unconscious fear". He concludes his meditation by noting, "Those words of Jesus, so often repeated and emphasized, FEAR NOT, are deeply significant. They are religious, and also scientific."

If evil is, as New Thought teaches, the absence of good, as darkness is the absence of light, or cold is the absence of heat, then evil is literally no-thing. The problem is not the evil, which Henry calls "the ‘growing pains’ of good"; the problem is the fear, the FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL, as some wit has described it. It is fear that turns our brains to mush and causes us to act stupidly, making things worse. Our faith and utter trust in God can displace that fear and let our wits return. The Bible is full of stories of people in a pickle such as Lynn Woodland’s two flat tires on a lonely road at night, who came through unscathed or even benefitted. "Fear knocked at the door. Faith opened it, and there was no one there." "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee."

 

February 14, 2012

Dualism and Dualism

Do I have you seeing double? Sorry about that, but a lot of people, many of whom ought to know better, are seeing double on dualism. Let’s set the record straight, and for Valentine’s Day, have two or more hearts that beat as one at least on this issue.

Many words have different meanings in different universes of discourse (Uh, oh, I am going to hear about it from the Philosopher, who thinks that there is only one universe or total of all things; and that we should use a different word, such as areas, disciplines, or even worlds, instead of universes). There are pop meanings for words such as materialism and idealism that are quite different from their philosophical, metaphysical meanings. So we always need to politely inquire, "To what universe of discourse are you referring when you say dualism?" Unfortunately, that usually ends the conversation right there, and we switch to discussing crop rotation or the latest rotten TV show. But we shall persevere.

Merriam-Webster’s tenth Collegiate shows the term dualism as going back to 1794. The first definition is "a theory that considers reality to consist of two irreducible elements or modes". This is classical metaphysical dualism, metaphysics being the branch of philosophy that tries to answer the question, "What is real?" It is sometimes called Cartesian dualism because it was put forth by Descartes long before 1794. Descartes decided that mind and matter were both equally real; you couldn’t reduce one to the other. That form of fence-sitting was appealing to people who couldn’t make up their minds whether mind or matter was really real. Sadly, most of traditional Christianity has been dualistic, including its Titans such as Aquinas, who predates Descartes by a few centuries.

The biggest problem with dualism is explaining how the two equally real but different elements can interact. Nobody has ever come up with a satisfactory explanation; it usually goes off into the mists of mystery on the order of "God can do anything". Descartes thought he had it all figured out: they interact in the pineal gland, but he wasn’t able to say exactly how. Process philosopher David Ray Griffin concludes that we must choose between materialism (only matter or physical stuff is real) and an updated view of mind known as panexperientialism , the process view that the single irreducible kind of elements or modes of reality is occasions of experience; we can’t have it both ways. He also thoroughly demolishes materialism as untenable, just to point us in the right direction.

The second Webster definition of dualism is "the quality or state of being dual or having a dual nature". This is out of the realm of philosophy and into the realm of daily life, so unless we are interested in dual exhausts or combining motherhood with a career, we’ll keep moving.

The third Webster definition of dualism is "a doctrine that the universe is under the dominion of two opposing principles one of which is good and the other evil". Aha! This is known as ethical dualism, and it is very different from metaphysical dualism. This is the source of the popular New Thought affirmation, "There is but one Presence and one Power in the universe: God, the Good, omnipotent". This affirmation implies the denial of the existence of an organized power of evil, an evil entity, a.k.a. the devil, no matter where he supposedly came from.

But the devil dies hard. It’s so convenient to say, "The devil made me do it", and not have to take responsibility for one’s actions. We remove the horns, the tail, and the red suit; and re-present the devil as the ego, or Malicious Animal Magnetism. This just sets up something else to do battle with, and distracts from the real source of the difficulty, which is our thinking. Ego is the Latin word for I, and Freud used the German word for I, ich. Your ego is your executive power, and without it, you are a shell of a human being, a pitiful state to be in. A diseased, inflated ego may need to be straightened out, but it still isn’t the devil.

Our Henry explains:

The lower ego sees evil in the light of an entity, and even in the form of a malignant Personality; and therefore the consciousness, from pre-occupation, has no room for the spiritual allness of Infinite Good. There is an appearance of two great opposing principles, and therefore a divided allegiance. This delusion is reflected outward in all directions. Reaching the altitude of the understanding that spirit is the only vital reality, man can be absent from the discords and illusions of the world of sense, even though yet in the midst of them. (God’s Image in Man, page 186)

In an essay, "The Meaning of Evil", in The Symphony of Life, he launches into a full-blown discussion of theodicy, the attempt to explain evil in a world with a good God:

While the belief in a great adverse Personality having a general headship has weakened, the case is not much improved, if, in human consciousness and belief, an impersonal and all-powerful cosmic principle of the same diabolical character takes his place. A careful study of the psychology of man shows that belief, fear and pessimism, when seated in the human consciousness, can to their subject clothe even unreality with dynamic realism. "If you keep painting the devil on the walls, he will by and by appear to you," says the French proverb.
No means of reconciliation between good and evil has been found by philosophy, science, or logic, and an elastic supernaturalism has not been more successful. All have been confronted by an unfathomable and essential dualism. The universe has been made twain, or in reality divided against itself. The term, supernaturalism, is here employed only to denote what some mistakenly believe to be beyond the realm of orderly law. But the spiritual—for which the term is often used—is as natural (normal) as that which is material. Dualism being in its very nature an insurmountable barrier in the direction of any solution of the problem of evil, the only alternative is monism. A still further and deeper study will reveal that this monism must include, not only good and evil, but also what are known as spirit and matter. These are not separate and antagonistic powers and entities, but varying aspects and concepts of the unitary order. (Pages 116-117)

Which is a nice setup for a discussion of monism next week. Stay tuned.

 

February 21, 2012

Making No Bones about Monism

Monism is a term that, ironically enough, polarizes people into lovers and haters of it. Fortunately, it’s not that simple. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Despite what many people think, it isn’t simple at all.

Monism is a metaphysical (philosophical) position that says that there is only one kind of reality. If one believed that the whole world, not just the moon, were made of green cheese, that would be a monistic view. Some ancient Greeks believed in four kinds of reality: earth, air, fire, and water; but that view died out long ago. So unless you’re a dualist and believe in two kinds of reality (see last week), you are some sort of monist.

But here’s the complication: monism itself comes in two flavors: kind and number. Is there only one gi-normous green cheese, seemingly splintered into bits; or are there a whole bunch of little green cheeses, independent of one another, but unmistakably green cheese in kind?

In traditional Christianity, which is dualist (believing that mind and matter are equally real), monism is a dirty word. If there is only one kind of reality, it had better not be matter, or you just did away with God. But if it is just God, if "God is all there is", or "all there is, is God", you just did away with the physical world. You also just did away with yourself as anything but a puppet or lump of God, with no free will or independence. That’s pantheism. We call that qualitative (kind) AND quantitative (number) monism, because there is only one kind of reality AND there is only one of it, one humongous green cheese, as it were. In terms of green cheese, the silliness of it is readily apparent; in terms of God, a lot of people still don’t get it. The Philosopher and I have already written a lot about God as personal but not anthropomorphic, a Creator who is distinct from but never separated from his creation (see December 27, 2011).

Let’s move away from green cheese and back to choosing between mind and matter as real. Materialists believe that only matter is real, but they don’t believe in one huge lump of matter. So they are qualitative monists, but quantitative pluralists. All there is, is matter, lots of separate bits of it. But materialists do away with God, and materialism has other problems as well.

That leaves mind as the only reality, another monist view, which is classical idealism. This is the view that New Thought has always held. Sadly, many New Thoughters are pantheists, and pantheism violates hard-core common sense. According to process philosopher David Ray Griffin, there are two kinds of common sense: hard-core and soft-core. Soft-core common sense involves things that "everybody knows" but that get periodically revised by the findings of science, ideas such as the flat earth and the geocentric universe. "Everybody knew" that the sun revolved around the earth, until we learned that it didn’t. Hard-core common sense, on the other hand involves principles found in every time and culture, things we can’t deny even if we say we don’t believe in them. Even if we really don’t believe in them, our behavior contradicts what we say. This Griffin calls a performative self-contradiction, which is philosopherese for shooting yourself in the foot. We simply can’t avoid these hard-core presuppositions.

Process New Thought differs from materialist views in that we hold that there is only mind (qualitative monism), but there are many minds (quantitative pluralism). (With respect to God, don’t get this backwards, or we’re back on top of Mount Olympus!) God, the Ultimate Reality, is the Ultimate Mind and has a body of his own, a.k.a. the universe. Then what about matter? It is a dense or slow-moving sort of mind, but it is still mind, mental in nature. So Process New Thoughters—and some traditional New Thoughters—are idealists, but ours is an updated form of idealism known as panexperientialism (all is experiences). This takes into account Whitehead’s teaching that the basic building blocks of the universe—what is real—are occasions of experience (actual entities). He also teaches that these actual entities are living (he goes from "nature lifeless" to "nature alive"), even though whatever they go together to make up may not be alive. Imagine all those little actual entities composing a steel beam, each of them with its tiny bit of freedom to choose, but the steel beam itself is as dead as a doornail. If we then segue to a quantum-physics view of the world, and we picture a series of collections of experience, with those particles expanding to reveal the space in between them, and we note that space is not empty, but consists of the Zero Point Field (God’s energy or activity), we begin to understand how God can be "closer than breathing, nearer than hands and feet", prehending us as we prehend him, yet still be the Ultimate Person, the Governing Mind of the universe.

But there never was a good idea that somebody didn’t come along and take too far. There is something called neutral monism, a sort of Rubik’s Cube for philosophers, to keep them busy and off the streets. It’s yet another reductionist philosophy. Serious philosophers, including William James, don’t think much of it. So we won’t go there. We can stick to our qualitative monism/quantitative pluralism and provide plenty of entertainment.

Lagniappe: Here are the lyrics to a song I wrote a few years ago but have never published.

Hard-Core Common Sense

Words and Music by Deb Whitehouse

With Apologies to David Ray Griffin

Com-mon sense is un-com-mon;

We all know that is true,

But what you hav-en’t heard a-bout com-mon sense

Is that there ain’t just one; there’s two.

Com-mon sense, that "ev-‘ry-bod-y knows"

Is SOFT, right to the core,

But in-ev-it-a-ble pre-sup-po-si-tions, age to age

Are HARD for-ev-er-more.

Soft-core com-mon sense said the earth was flat

Until sci-ence set it right;

Hard-core com-mon sense says the things we can’t de-ny

Tho’ we try with all our might.

Head screwed on, down to earth—

Our smarts need no de-fense;

Our log-ic’s sound, feet on the ground;

We got hard-core com-mon sense,

I said hard-core com-mon sense,

I mean hard-core com-mon sense!

 

February 28, 2012

Divine Exuberance

"The divine exuberance fills every space not closed against it", says our Henry in his meditation accompanying Ideal Suggestion #3, GOD IS MY LIFE. What could be better on a dreary February day than a little divine exuberance? Maybe a lot of divine exuberance, to get us going again and enthusiastic. We first discussed Suggestion #3 on October 4, 2010; if you want to read it, you can scroll down to it.

My tenth-edition Merriam Webster’s Collegiate says that exuberant comes from the Latin exuberare, to be abundant. Divine exuberance, then, would seem to fit the second definition: "joyously unrestrained and enthusiastic". Enthusiastic comes from en theos, inspired (theos is the Greek word for God). Apparently even God can be full of himself, which is no bad way to be! Don’t overlook the abundance: God wants us to have life, and have it abundantly. He wants us to experience "good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over", as Jesus puts it (Luke 6:38). But our minds have to be open to receive it, not turned inward on visions of lack and limitation in ourselves or in our surroundings. The space that needs to be "not closed" against the divine exuberance is the space between our ears. With an abundance of lemons, we can make lemonade. With a pile of manure on Christmas morning, we can start looking around for the pony. It is when things appear the worst that we need to be the most upbeat. If in all things—even the seemingly rotten ones—we give thanks (Eph. 5:20, I Th. 5:18), the subconscious then goes to work to find some plausible reason for our gratitude; and when it does, we very often attract the good, whether it be in the form of health, wealth, or happiness.

This does not mean that we have to start out over-the-top exuberant. Hope is a tiny pilot light that ignites the full flame of faith, and if "faith as a grain of mustard seed" (Mt. 17:20) will do the job, that pilot light can be tiny indeed. The Napoleon Hill Foundation used to send out a cartoon of a dejected-looking character, collar turned up, rain dripping off his hat, wearing a mournful expression. The caption was "Joy to the World", and just looking at it cracked me up. The point is just to get slowly, creakingly started, overcoming inertia. It may be February now, but June is coming. Our imaginations need to look ahead to a happier, more abundant future. When Jesus said to his disciples, "Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest" (John 4:35), their response—which is unrecorded—was probably the Aramaic equivalent of "Are you out of your mind? It’s only February!" Yet that looking ahead is exactly what we are to do.

Made in the image and likeness of God, we show the most spiritual growth when we try to emulate him. He’s exuberant, generous in his love and in his creation. Some years ago, Unity magazine quoted a passage from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity:

Looking at God’s creation, it is pretty clear that the creator itself [sic] did not know when to stop. There is not one pink flower, or even fifty pink flowers, but hundreds. Snowflakes, of course, are the ultimate exercise in sheer creative glee. No two alike. This creator looks suspiciously like someone who just might send us support for our creative ventures. (page 107)

Not only will God send us support, he believes in us far more than we often believe in ourselves. God looks past the mud covering us at the moment to see the gold beneath. He sees our potential, and why not? We are his children, chips off the old block. Small wonder he is what pastor Joel Osteen calls the God of second chances. He has placed us in a lawful neutral environment conducive to our free will, one in which we will have to take the consequences of our choices; but he continues to offer perfect possibilities, tailor-made just for us in our next moment of now. Seeing farther than we do, he sees our potential, our future learnings, our future triumphs. He has bet the farm on his own ability to lure us onward and upward. God is downright excited about his plans to give us greater abundance, greater good; and that gives rise to the divine exuberance.

Lagniappe: I have decided to put the lyrics of my song, "Hard-Core Common Sense", up as a lagniappe for last week’s newsletter. Scroll down to see. If you want to hear the music, call me up and I will sing it for you over the phone.

 

March 5, 2012

Bidden or Unbidden

Once upon a time, according to Wikipedia, there was an ancient Spartan proverb that ran, "Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit." I didn’t know that the ancient Spartans were fluent in Latin, and I have no idea which god they were referring to, but there you are. A millennium—give or take a few centuries—later, Desiderius Erasmus came across this little gem, and perhaps he translated it from Greek to Latin. Anyway, the great depth psychologist Carl Jung came across it in the writings of Erasmus and liked it so much that he had it inscribed over the door of his house and on his tomb. Somehow, it has stuck with me over the years: "Bidden or unbidden, God will be present."

It could be interpreted in more than one way, beginning with "Big Brother is Watching You". It could refer to Zeus, showing up unannounced and frequently in disguise, to seduce yet another charming female mortal or semi-mortal, much to the annoyance of Hera, his wife. A huge contingent of people who call themselves Christians (and seek to regulate what it means to be Christian, denying that label to anyone whose ideas they disagree with) have a view of the God whom Jesus called Father as an omnipotent being who showed up unbidden to keep track of the sins of human beings who were flawed before they were even born. Another huge contingent of people, most of whom would not choose to call themselves Christians, would interpret this proverb as referring to the notion of all-there-is, is-God or God-is- all-there-is. To these various groups, God is there (because there can’t be anything else to be there), whether you like it or not, and you quite possibly don’t like it.

There is a far more powerful and supportive interpretation possible, and I am fairly sure that it is what Jung found appealing. It necessitates belief in a God who is both immanent and transcendent, a God who is wholly good and sees all that he has created as good. This is a God of unchanging, dependable character who persuades but never coerces. This God is the ultimate source of wisdom and guidance, a God who orchestrates and mitigates, whose will is for the highest good of all concerned. This God I want present everywhere at all times, whether or not I remember to press the CALL button. God’s telephone number is Isaiah 65:24, "Before they call, I will answer, and while they are yet speaking, I will hear". This is a God of perfect possibilities, offered tailor-made to each occasion of experience, appropriately revised to fit the current circumstances. God is never at a loss, no matter who has messed up.

I like to define New Thought as "the practice of the presence of God for practical purposes". In order to practice the presence of God, one needs to be aware that God is present, to believe in the availability of God. All creation is co-creation, so we don’t get along very well unless we stay in touch with our Co-Creator. It is when we forget about the presence of God that we get bogged down in our fears and difficulties. Our Henry begins his list of Ideal Suggestions with GOD IS HERE. Rather like Brother Lawrence, he seeks to have us constantly in touch with God. Even St. Augustine, whose theology leaves a lot to be desired, wrote, "Thou has made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they repose in thee." Henry picks it up about there:

Thought must have an outlet, otherwise it stagnates. God is the great normal Reality for it to rest upon. Consciousness must be open to the divine harmony, else it becomes disorderly and abnormal. It takes on character from that to which it links itself,— God, if it be God; change and discord, if materiality. It is therefore easy to be outwardly and morally correct and yet be un-Godly. The highest human consciousness is that of God, and this is "Godliness which is great gain." To change from a controlling self-consciousness to a ruling God-consciousness, is to find harmony and health. The vision must be clarified so as to behold God everywhere, within and without, as all Life, all Love, and All in All. (Ideal Suggestion, page 110)

"Things go better with God":  what a great slogan! If God is going to be there, invited or uninvited, why don’t we make the best use of him and his perfect possibilities by saying yes to them? It seems so obvious, but it’s not, because God does not violate our free will by forcing himself into situations, even though we may just have forgotten to invite him. What God can do, God is already doing, without waiting to be asked, but we can block the flow of his blessings by inadvertently cutting off the channel through which they come.

Our understanding of God begins with the Bible, and so I will end there for now:

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. (Psalm 139, 7-12)

 

March 13, 2012

Pray Without Ceasing

I used to wonder how people went about praying without ceasing. Certainly they couldn’t remain on their knees 24/7, so it must be something like trying to qualify for the Guinness Book of Records in a dance contest, with designated breaks. Then I read about prayer wheels, and I thought perhaps that was how it was done, except one couldn’t spin a prayer wheel in one’s sleep. Of course, people can take turns manning a prayer station of some sort. There’s the Eastern practice of muttering "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon us" constantly, day and night. But what did Paul have in mind when he advocated it in his first epistle to the Thessalonians? It’s on a list of standing orders, beginning with "Rejoice evermore" and continuing, "In every thing give thanks".

Our Henry has as his twenty-third Suggestion, PRAYER IS ANSWERED. I first addressed this topic on February 22, 2011, if you want to scroll down to it. In the accompanying meditation, Henry points out, "Infinite Love has already bestowed the best, though we may be unconscious of it. To expect a change on God’s part would imply that He is imperfect." So we aren’t trying to wear God down into changing his mind.

Then Henry answers our question: "The ruling desire of each soul is its prayer, therefore each one prays ‘without ceasing,’ wisely or unwisely." Now that’s a scary thought. One’s ruling desire is the thought that’s constantly on one’s mind, good or bad! That’s what we’re saying yes to, even if it’s the exact opposite of what we really want. So we have to make sure that we are aligned with the mind of God. As Henry puts it, "If ruling desire binds me to God, I shall receive what is God-like." We need to get ourselves linked to God and then put that link in the subconscious, on autopilot. Once that is accomplished, it is rather like nonstop prayer. There are assorted forms of what I have called "benign brainwashing" for getting us there, starting with Henry’s ideal suggestion through mental photography, which is also the title of his best-known book.

A very young child cannot process a negative statement. The thing that you distinctly tell him not to do, he will almost surely go right out and do. Then you get mad at him for disobeying you, but his little mind just never took in the "not". Adults aren’t really a great deal better, for we have to create an image of the undesired thing and then cross it out with one of those international symbols used in road signs for "no". Meanwhile, what were we thinking about all the time? The very thing we didn’t really want. We need to develop a mental obsession about the thing that we really do want. The Law of Attraction is very closely linked to the Law of Attention: what we give our attention to grows. What we feed, or water, grows.

Henry continues his discussion on prayer in The New Thought Simplified. We dealt with that, and with Suggestive Lesson Twelve (in the same book) on June 7, 2011. (Don’t confuse the Suggestions of 1893 with the Suggestive Lessons of 1903.) The chapter on the subject was titled "Scientific Prayer", which he defines as "a means for the spiritual growth of man" rather than a means of "Turning the divine order into our puny way of thinking". The ideal prayer, "the prayer without ceasing", he says, "is a life of earnest aspiration". He goes on to explain:

While "all things" are ours, our eyes are mainly set upon deficiency. It is this self-created leanness which makes us feel that God must be persuaded to change. The needed alteration is in our own consciousness. We must have a new vision from within, for it cannot be bestowed upon us from without. (page 108)

In the twelfth Suggestive Lesson, Henry returns to the notion of ruling desire:

If ruling desire binds me to God, I shall receive what is God-like. I link myself there, and not to dust. I pray to be whole, and on God’s part the answer is eternally complete. To pray is to lift the soul into unison with the Eternal Goodness." (page 194)

Prayer, then, reading between the lines, is a rise in consciousness to a higher outlook. It is we who change, not God, who is already giving without ceasing. We have only to align with that stream of glorious gifts of all sorts of goodness. Eventually, we do this automatically, subconsciously. And so, we have Henry’s twelfth Suggestive Lesson: UNDER the DIVINE LAW the HIGHER PRAYER PROVIDES for ITS OWN ANSWER, without ceasing.

 

March 20, 2012

Forgiving and Remembering

One of the most, if not the most, frequently misunderstood principles of Christian conduct is forgiveness. It has been so distorted that probably most of us have no idea what it involves or why. It seems to be an impossible—if not downright unfair—thing to ask of ourselves or others.

We can’t just ignore it. Jesus built it into the very heart of the Lord’s Prayer and made it crystal clear that we could not be forgiven for our own shortcomings if we did not first forgive others for theirs. Then when Peter asked if he should have to forgive someone as many as seven times for something, Jesus told him that he should forgive until seventy times seven, which seems to add insult to injury. Well, then, if God is good and just, why are we being asked to go along with something unjust and unfair? The answer is that we aren’t, because to forgive is the most beneficial thing that can happen to someone who has been wronged.

Let’s start with the dictionary definition of forgive: "to give up resentment of or claim to requital for; "to grant relief from payment of; "to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)". Notice that although all three of these are about something not to do, or to stop doing, there is not a word about not making an effort to prevent someone from continuing to harm one, or abolishing police departments, or allowing the offender back into one’s life or business.

Next, I propose to look at what Henry Wood (1834-1909) had to say about forgiveness, along with some ideas from Emmet Fox. Then I will supply some principles from my favorite book on forgiveness. None of this makes it any easier to forgive, but it does give us a track to run on and encourage us to get started. It’s definitely worth the effort.

Our Henry gets the ball rolling:

Forgiveness is not a remission of penalty, but a change of character; a substitution of the Christ Mind for the mind of the flesh. Real forgiveness has none of the aspects of a debit and credit transaction, and does not merely signify an escape from natural consequences. By the vital operation of a new life, which we call regeneration, salvation—which is forgiveness—comes as an invariable result. The overcoming power of the divine influx frees from the power of sin, and the resultant forgiveness consists in that very fact, so there is nothing supernatural in the process. (God’s Image in Man, page 66)

You will note that this applies equally to the person who has wronged you and to you yourself with respect to your own shortcomings, for which you need forgiveness. Henry has other observations to make about forgiveness in one very long paragraph:

Did Jesus forgive sins? "And Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven." What is the forgiveness of sin? Not the remission of penalty, nor a suspension of the law that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." It is rather the putting away of sin, and only by and through that means, an escape from penalty. All the sin of the world is eternally forgiven by God. Our sins are unforgiven—to us—when we are unconscious of such forgiveness. Any one who can bring his brother into a consciousness of the divine forgiveness—forgives—brings pardon into manifestation. Forgiveness is the loving interpretation of the divine Mind by the Son. The sense of forgiveness awakened in the sinner kindles new love and life, and this turns him away from his sins, or rather, from his love of sinning. Following in the footsteps of the Son of God, any son of God may announce the divine pardon; that is, forgive. If forgiveness were not an eternal act on God’s part, it would imply alteration in His Mind. So long as the human idea of God was that of a jealous Monarch, He was seen with human limitations. God is never less than perfect, so He cannot change His attitude. Our own imperfect states are reflected in the God of our consciousness, therefore we see what seems to be unforgiveness and even anger in Him. "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you." That temper of mind which forgives others their offences against us clarifies the spiritual vision so that God is seen in His true character of eternal Love and Pardon. The forgiving spirit characterizes the presence of the "Mind of Christ." The forgiveness of sin includes its abandonment. Not that we can, or would be rid of its penalty; for that is disciplinary, in fact, indispensable. Discipline is beneficent because it destroys the love of sin. It is divine to forgive without limit. (pages 120-122)

We have no evidence that Emmet Fox, who ministered in New York in the Thirties and Forties, ever read any of our Henry’s works, although he could have, very easily. Fox, in a collection of short pieces titled Find and Use Your Inner Power, advises, "Don’t resent. If wrong has been done, the Great Law will surely take care of it. Rise up in consciousness and set both yourself and the delinquent free. Forgiveness is the strongest medicine." This reminds me of the observation that the jailer is in reality just as restricted as the prisoner. In the same volume, Fox tells a memorable story that can apply to forgiveness:

I once read an anecdote of the Far West which carries a wonderful metaphysical lesson. It appears that a party of hunters, being called away from their camp by a sudden alarm, left the camp fire unattended, with a kettle of water boiling on it.
Presently an old bear crept out of the woods, attracted by the fire, and, seeing the kettle with its lid dancing about on top, promptly seized it. Naturally it burnt and scalded him badly; but instead of dropping it instantly, he proceeded to hug it tightly—this being Mr. Bruin’s only idea of defense. Of course, the tighter he hugged it the more it burnt him; and of course the more it burnt him the tighter he hugged it; and so on in a vicious circle, to the undoing of the bear.
This illustrates perfectly the way in which many people amplify their difficulties. They hug them to their bosoms by constantly rehearsing them to themselves and others, and by continually dwelling upon them in every possible manner, instead of dropping them once and for all so the wound would have a chance to heal.
Whenever you catch yourself thinking about your grievances, say to yourself sternly: "Bear hugs kettle," and think about God instead. You will be surprised how quickly some long-standing wounds will disappear under this treatment. (page 28)

This incorporates the famous Golden Key (think about God instead of the problem) and is the tightest description of the way out of the dilemma, but most of us need more of an explanation in addition to the description/prescription. Fox elaborates in his series, "GREAT MENTAL LAWS" in Make Your Life Worth While:

It is an unbreakable mental law that you have to forgive others if you want to demonstrate over your difficulties and to make any real spiritual progress.
The vital importance of forgiveness may not be obvious at first sight, but you may be sure that it is not by mere chance that every great spiritual teacher from Jesus Christ downward has insisted so strongly upon it.
You must forgive injuries, not just in words, or as a matter of form; but sincerely, in your heart—and that is the long and the short of it. You do this, not for the other person’s sake, but for your own sake. It will make no difference to him (unless he happens to set a value upon your forgiveness), but it will make a tremendous difference to you. Resentment, condemnation, anger, desire to see someone punished are things that rot your soul, no matter how cleverly you may be disguising them. Such things, because they have a much stronger emotional content than anyone suspects, fasten your troubles to you with rivets. They fetter you to may other problems which actually have nothing whatever to do with the original grievances themselves.
Forgiveness does not mean that you have to like the delinquent or want to meet him; but that you must wish him well. Of course you must not make a "door mat" of yourself. Of course you must not allow yourself to be imposed upon, or ill treated. You must fight your own battles and fight them with prayer, justice, and good will. It does not matter whether you can forget the injury or not, although if you cease to rehearse it you probably will—but you must forgive.
Now reconsider the Lord’s Prayer. (pages 28-29)

To be continued next week.

 

March 27, 2012

Forgiving and Remembering (2)

Last week, we began our study of forgiveness by noting the importance that Jesus placed on it by building it into the Lord’s Prayer. We looked at what our Henry and Emmet Fox had to say on the subject. But when one has been wronged and is seething with resentment and burning up with indignation at the injustice of it all, it’s next to impossible to forgive, especially with the misunderstanding of what forgiveness is all about.

First, forgiveness is a benefit for you, not a get-out-of-jail-free card for the person who wronged you. That person goes his merry way with no notion that you are smoldering with anger; your upset doesn’t harm him in the least, in most cases. If you are the person who did the harming, forgiveness is more obviously a benefit for you, if you can receive it from the person you harmed. It necessitates your making some sort of restitution, if only a change of attitude and behavior for the future. To forgive is to let loose, to release, to dismiss negative thoughts and feelings about the person who did the harm.

My favorite book on forgiveness is The Art of Forgiving: When You Need to Forgive and Don’t Know How (1996), by Lewis B. Smedes. Smedes lists three stages of forgiving that we all pass through: "We rediscover the humanity of the person who hurt us. We surrender our right to get even. We revise our feelings toward the person we forgive." He explains:

As we start on the miracle of forgiving, we begin to see our enemy through a cleaner lens, less smudged by hate. We begin to see a real person, a botched self, no doubt, a hodgepodge of meanness and decency, lies and truths, good and evil that not even the shadows of his soul can wholly hide. We see a bubble held aloft by the blowing of a divine breath. We see a human being created to be a child of God.
Forgiving our enemy does not turn him into a close friend or a promising husband or a trustworthy partner. We do not diminish the wrongness of what he did to us. We do not blind ourselves to the reality that he is perfectly capable of doing it again. But we take him back into our private world as a person who shares our faulty humanity, bruised like us, faulty like us, still thoroughly blamable for what he did to us. Yet, human like us. (page 6)

He then tells us that the line between justice and vengeance is "faint, unsteady, and fine", which is why we must give up our right to get even. "Vengeance", he says, "by its nature cannot bring resolution", which is what we really want. The apostle Paul reminds us of the Old Testament writings on the subject: "Vengeance is mind; I will repay, saith the Lord."

Smedes lists four sorts of things that we forgive: "We forgive persons, not institutions. We forgive persons for what they do, not for what they are. We forgive persons for what they do to seriously wound us. We forgive persons for what they do to wrong us when they wound us." He adds:

Forgiving is not meant for every pain people cause us. . . . When we forgive people for things that do not need forgiving we dilute the power, spoil the beauty, and interrupt the healing of forgiveness. But when we forgive the things forgiving is for, we copy God’s own art. God is the original, master forgiver. (page 21)

Smedes then tells us what forgiving is not: "Forgiving does not mean reunion. Forgiveness does not mean restoring." There are three requirements that qualify us for forgiving: "We need to bear the wounds ourselves. We need to know we have been wronged. We need to have an inner push to forgive." He elaborates: "Forgiving is an affair strictly between a victim and a victimizer. Everyone else should step aside." There is a difference between being hurt and being wronged: one is accidental, the other is a moral defect. "Forgiveness has to come from inside as a desire of the heart. Wanting to is the steam that pushes the forgiving engine." We get it by "being in touch with God".

We then look at why we forgive, at the case for and against forgiving. Smedes comments:

Forgiving does not balance the scales anymore than revenge does. . . . Forgiving is the only way for a victim to be fair to herself. . . . Forgiving is the only way for the victim to stop the grinding wheel of unfairness to herself. . . . The first and sometimes only person to get the benefits of forgiving is the person who does the forgiving. (pages 58-59)

He then goes on to explain, "We only forgive the ones we blame":

In sum, if he did it, intended to do it, and initiated the action, he as accountable for doing it. If what he did wounded and wronged you personally, you blame him. Only then do you consider forgiving him. You must remember that you might be wrong. It is always possible that he might be wholly innocent. So let no one rush to blame. My point is only that forgiving always comes with blame attached.

Forgiving is for the tough-minded. It is not for the soft-headed who cannot abide people who make judgments on other people’s action. If we dare not blame, we dare not forgive. Forgiving is for people who know their own faults but who recognize a wrong and dare to name it when they feel it done to them and have the wisdom and grace to forgive it. (page 85)

But what about Acts 2:38 in which Peter tells people that they must repent "so that your sins may be forgiven"? Doesn’t that mean that we should not forgive anyone unless he is sorry for what he did? Smedes clarifies:

First, we are dealing in this biblical passage with people who want to be forgiven. We are not dealing with people who need to do the forgiving. The question is whether anyone has a right to expect to be forgiven if he does not repent. The plain and simple answer is no: A person who wrongs God should not expect God to forgive her unless she is sorry for the wrong she did. . . Second, when people want to be forgiven by God, they want to be reunited with him at the same time. But God wants reunion with integrity. And repentance is nothing but simple honesty about what we did to break our connection with god. This is why a person cannot expect to be forgiven by God unless he first repents. (pages 92-93)

Turning to the subject of how God forgives, Smedes reviews Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. He tells us,

My issue is not with the faithful brother who needs no forgiveness [even though he whined about the unfairness of it all]. My focus is on the father who welcomed back the prodigal brother who did need to be forgiven. If we can get a notion of what was going on in the father’s mind when he forgave his son, we will get a hint of what goes on when God forgives us. (page 119)

Next week, we will look at five questions that Smedes asks about the father’s forgiving.

 

April 3, 2012

Forgiving and Remembering (3)

Lewis Smedes continues our study of forgiveness and his look at the parable of the Prodigal Son by asking "five questions about the father’s forgiving":

1. "What did the father forgive his son for?" It wasn’t about the money; the son only asked for what would have been his eventually anyway. It wasn’t the prodigality; at least the kid left home and tried to make it on his own, even if he messed up royally. "The prodigal did the worst thing a son could do to a Hebrew patriarch. . . .The family was the moral core of Hebrew life, and the father was the heart of the core. . . . He was not just leaving the family; he was revolting against it. . . . What this son did was the moral equivalent of patricide." What if the son had been a huge success and "came home in whooping triumph"? He still needs forgiveness. "Success abroad does not cancel out betrayal at home."

2. "When did the father forgive his son?" Somewhere in advance of his return. "Forgiving done, all that was left was for the father to welcome his rebel home."

3. "Why did the father forgive his son?" "He forgave his son because he loved him and wanted him back in the family, the only place for a Jewish son to be. He forgave his son for the son’s sake and the family’s sake. But for his own as well."

He had to do something to save himself. So, alone, he cleared the decks of his spirit for the reunion he was not sure would ever happen. The father was no fool. Would he not have had the sense to heal his own spirit even if [he] had no power to heal his son’s? (page 124)

4. "How did the father forgive his son?" There were three steps: "The first thing he did was to look beneath the offense into the reality of the offender. . . . With that look he rediscovered the humanity of his son and therewith took the first step of forgiving." "The second step was a decision not to demand the revenge that the law of Yahweh gave him a right to seek. . . . The instinct for judgment gave way to the impulse of love." "Now the third step. He longed for his son’s good . . . let him be blessed. This was the finale, the sure sign that the work of forgiveness had been done. . . . there could have been no happy ending unless the father’s forgiveness had done its healing work beforehand."

5. "Can we forgive each other the way the father forgave his son?" "We forgive as we rediscover the person behind the offense, as we surrender our right to revenge, and as we wish good things for the person who did bad things to us, just as the father did. . . . But when it comes to the happy endings, we can never be sure." Smedes elaborates:

There is something unfinished about forgiving someone who does not come back to you . . . . The ending of the story Jesus told is the ideal way for things to go. But where we live, we cannot count on happy endings. We may have to heal our pain without healing the breach.
The Bible pictures God going through the same three basic stages when he forgives us that we ourselves go through when we forgive someone. (page 125)
The flagship word of the gospel is grace. No wonder, for grace is shorthand for God wishing us well. The will of the forgiving father is for all to be well with us and for all of us to be well. (page 127)

Smedes then discusses the famous "seventy times seven" dialogue between Jesus and Peter. He comments:

Jesus refused to take Peter’s question seriously; he put Peter on a bit, saying, in effect, "If you want me to reduce forgiving to a numbers game, try these numbers for size: Forgive, not seven times or seven time seven times, but seventy times seven. Ask a silly question, get a silly answer." (page 158)

He repeats the "three fundamental facts of forgiving":

"Forgiving is not an obligation.

Forgiving is not about letting people get away with something.

Forgiving is not about staying with people who are hurting us." (page 159)

The question is never how many times we are supposed to forgive, but how many times we need to forgive. Forgiving is a gift, not a duty. It is meant to heal, not to obligate. So the only good answer to Peter’s question is: Use the gift as often as it takes to set you free from a miserable past you cannot shake." (page 162)

We need to "be patient’, to "expect some relapses", and to "stay angry" so the anger can "protect you from being a sucker for similar wounds in the future. Forgiving is not anti-anger, anymore than love is anti-anger. . . . The enemy of forgiving is hate, not anger."

Smedes’ final chapter is "Forgive and Remember":

Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future. (page 171)

There is a postscript, "Just Remember This". Here are my favorites from that list:

"We do our forgiving alone inside our hearts and minds; what happens to the people we forgive depends on them."

"Forgiving does not require us to reunite with the person who broke our trust."

"Forgiving someone who breaks a trust does not man that we give him his job back."

"Forgivers are not doormats; to forgive a person is not a signal that we are willing to put up with what he does."

To order this book from Amazon, click on the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/034541344X/ref=nosim/neweverymomen20

 

April 10, 2012

De-Chirping the Cheerfulness of New Thought

I first mentioned "chirpy cheerfulness" in these newsletters on March 8, 2010 and again on January 31, 2012. The phrase was coined back in 1994 by then-Notre-Dame philosophy professor Tom Morris, whose most stellar achievement was probably successfully making philosophers out of the Notre Dame football team. Morris, in his book True Success, emphasizes the importance of passion and commitment for success in any endeavor. He observes:

I don’t mean that a leader, or a person working toward success, needs to be always upbeat, manifestly energetic, ever cheerful. There are people whose forced enthusiasm overwhelms others in its expression, whose artificially energetic, chirpy cheerfulness is over the top and alienates as many people as it attracts. You don’t need to be always singing, whistling, or talking in a loud, fast-paced, and jolly voice about all the wonderful aspects of the day, the job, or the people around you. But you can clearly communicate positive emotion and care by your positive demeanor. Pleasantness is certainly better than grumpiness. A well-governed cheerfulness sensitive to the feelings of others is usually a good disposition to have. A positive, tactful, forgiving, understanding attitude of high expectations and confidence can work wonders. (page 185)

We all love people who can manage to see the humor in a bad situation, or find a reason to be hopeful when things are looking bleak, but they are not jolly loud-mouths, insensitive to what others are feeling. There are people whom you’d like to tell to cheer down. It reminds me of the old joke about the Christian Scientist in hell: "I’m not here!" We can be cheerful without being infernally cheerful!

On the other hand, as I like to put it, New Thought is all about what you say to yourself when things go wrong. It’s about shepherding your thoughts so they stay on the straight and narrow instead of running wild. It’s about choosing what to think about, what to direct your efforts toward. It requires an unwavering faith in the dependability of God and God’s will for the highest and best for all his children. With that kind of faith, we become filled with positive expectancy and optimism that overflow onto other people and help to buoy them up.

But we don’t need to fire-hose people with our "forced enthusiasm". Enthusiasm comes from en theos, in God, which is an inside job. We have to slowly fill up with that enthusiasm, like our Henry’s favorite cistern metaphor, where the cistern full of dirty water is gradually cleansed by a steady flow of clean water, until all there is, is clean water. In order to stop a team of runaway horses (which I will admit to not having tried recently), one first gets in step with them by galloping alongside in the same direction that they are heading, then swinging aboard the lead horse, grasping its bridle, and gradually bringing it to a standstill. This requires a well-disciplined mount of one’s own, plus considerable athletic ability coupled with nerves of steel. It’s a lot less demanding to first get in step with gloomy or discouraged people and then gradually cheer them up. One begins by acknowledging what they are currently feeling, which probably isn’t chirpy or cheerful. If I am the person who needs the cheering up, the same principles apply. I need to acknowledge how I feel, then gradually work to change it to a more God-aligned state, thought by thought. Henry notes:

The body manifests the erroneous and false thinking of the past and also the depressions of the race consciousness in general. The accumulated rubbish must be cast out. We need to make spiritual uplift habitual in order to get acquainted with the higher self and increasingly to identify the ego with it. It must be brought into firm but harmonious rule [just like those runaway horses!]. The trained thought-forces make themselves more and more felt in everyday life. (The New Old Healing, page 16)

"Spiritual uplift" works a lot better than "chirpy cheerfulness".

Henry continues:

That about which we think most strongly and continuously, we become or grow like. Remaining always on the lowlands, we shall know of nothing else. Thought is creative. Under the working of a beautiful law, it changes our point of view and makes ideal things realizable.
Positive affirmation and ideal suggestion are especially efficacious in all nervous and chronic disorders of every grade and type. Their potency is also wonderful in the emancipation of humanity from every kind of slavery to the animal selfhood. Imperious appetites, passions and morbid impulses of every kind which ordinarily are incurable are brought under control and their energy transmuted, uplifted and made a positive blessing. (pages 16-17)

So ailments of mind as well as of body can be transmuted by habitual thought, without a single chirp.

Unity minister Hypatia Hasbrouck wrote an entire book on the subject of positive prayer, Handbook of Positive Prayer. She states:

Positive prayer is not new. It is at least as ancient as Judaism, which nurtured the spiritual life of Jesus from infancy to manhood. It is the form of prayer taught and used by Jesus throughout His ministry . . . . It consists of statements . . . which acknowledge that God is already supplying whatever good thing we need. A person using positive prayer accepts the gift and gives thanks for it even before it has become apparent. A person using a more traditional kind of prayer may suggest that for some reason God is either withholding what is needed or does not know what is needed. Begging, or imploring, is often used in such a prayer. (pages 1-2)

The opposite of positive prayer, then, is attempting to change God’s mind by begging or imploring. We don’t replace it with chirpy cheerfulness, but with quiet reflection on the utter goodness of God, whose mind is not about to change. The earliest form of the Lord’s prayer was a simple series of positive affirmations. Jesus told us to ask and we would receive. Hasbrouck points out, "The requests express confidence that God provides the good we seek." She adds, "To believe in Jesus means more than to accept intellectually what He said; it means to base one’s behavior upon intellectual acceptance of His teaching." She shows us where this leads:

"The practice of positive prayer helps us develop mental habits which constitute a state very like constant prayer—one in which we, like Brother Lawrence, practice the presence of God." Finally, "Since we are in the presence of God at all times and in all places, every thought can be a prayer."

We may well become cheerful, but we don’t need to chirp.

 

April 17, 2012

"Has Mental Healing a Valid Scientific and Religious Basis?"

You Bet It Does!

The newsletter for March 1, 2011 dealt with the last of our Henry’s 25 Ideal Suggestions through Mental Photography for getting wellness ideas into one’s subconscious mind. In the process, I discussed the beginning of a paper Henry read "by invitation before the clergymen’s ‘Monday Club’ (Unitarian Ministers of Boston and vicinity) at the Channing Building, Boston, June 3, 1895". Henry saw fit to include the "substance" of this paper in his Studies in the Thought World or Practical Mind Art, published in the following year. For the earlier Newsletter, I mined a few precious gems from the beginning of the paper, which is 34 pages long, so there is much more to be gained from it. You can scroll down to the March 1, 2011 newsletter and read it, then come back here to continue to "listen" to Henry’s talk to the liberal clergy.

I concluded, "Many people listened to Henry. Now that we have process thought, which includes the discoveries of quantum physics, it is even easier to see the validity of his position that this somewhat mystical, spiritual approach to healing is scientific; and that science and religion can indeed come together." This lands us squarely in the heart of New Thought, which began as a "mystical, spiritual approach to healing" with the work of healer P. P. Quimby. Today, attempts to use prayer—let alone mind power—for healing are few and far between, consisting mostly of an attempt to hold up the hands of the surgeon or pharmacist, rather like Aaron and Hur supporting the hands of Moses in Exodus 17:12.

Henry is at great pains to convince his audience that he has not only benefitted from these new ideas, but that he has looked into their scientific basis as well as the testimonies he has received from other people as to their efficacy. He admits up front that his topic is "somewhat unconventional", and adds, "Have we in mental therapeutics a great principle, capable of wide application, that is so near that we have looked right through and beyond it? Are there orderly forces in the realm of mind, the utilization of which is more important to mankind than those recently harnessed in the electrical domain?" He insists on the importance of "accurate definitions":

The broader science of mental and physical healing, through the potencies of mind, is not distinctively Christian Science, or Faith Healing, nor is it merely another therapeutic system added to the various "pathies" now extant. . . . The distinctive philosophy known as Faith Cure is also quite different from the normal and broader principles that are in accord with law. Faith Cure, proper, presumes upon special divine interposition in answer to prayer. This must involve a suspension or violation of orderly law. As a matter of fact, owing to the working of subtle mental forces, many remarkable cures take place under its administration, only the modus operandi being misunderstood. . . . This new philosophy of life—which in its essence is broad, free, and impersonal—is vastly more than merely a new therapeutic competitor, which will strive for a place among existing systems. Its province is quite distinct, and its healing efficacy is only incidental and expressive. Its motive is compliance with orderly law, and it contains no elements which are magical or supernatural. While believing that there are many objective aids to the interpretation of truth, it recognizes no external authority as located in person or text-book. It is a development from within rather than a system; a life rather than a doctrine; a new consciousness rather than a new philosophy; a spiritual optimism rather than a material or pessimistic realism. Its business is to bring inner ideals into outward actualized expression. It has to do with the intuition as well as the intellect, and it recognizes that the inner and real nature of man is in most intimate relation with the Universal Mind and Wholeness. (pages 117-118)

Henry realizes that these new ideas will upset quite a few apple carts among those referred to by Quimby as "the priests and the doctors":

The full recognition of mental causation for all outward phenomena will necessitate a re-examination of systems which are dignified by hoary antiquity and eminent respectability. Institutions that have exercised unquestioned authority, that are intrenched behind barriers of intellectual scholasticism, and that possess social and financial supremacy, instinctively feel that their infallibility is called in question. Piles of ponderous, dusty tomes thereby become mere relics of bygone speculation. But mental causation for physical conditions is in substantial harmony with the highest and best thought of the seers and philosophers, from Plato down to the present time. (page 119)

It’s so convenient to blame someone or something else rather than do the demanding work of riding herd on our own stream of thoughts. Henry notes that people are quick to pounce on the failures of "the new practice" without noting "the numerous cures of those who had previously exhausted the ‘regular’ systems"; but they do not question or criticize the fact that "thousands of young and robust people die under conventional treatment every week, after short illnesses".

But New Thought is not magic:

Many expect sudden and magical improvement, and therefore, being disappointed, abandon the treatment before a sufficient period has elapsed for the legitimate results to appear. Some are unconsciously non-receptive because of a mental resolution that nothing shall in the least disturb their favorite creed, opinion, or philosophy. In this way their door is unwittingly barred against their own improvement. Some are harboring secret sin, or giving place to currents of thought colored with selfishness, envy, sensuality, jealousy, or avarice; and, though unaware of the difficulty, their minds are closed against the truth which could set them free. . . . Limitations can be overcome, but patient effort is required. It is easy to float with the tide, but to break away from environment demands courage and persistence. The all-enveloping thought currents are powerful. Even the Great Exemplar in some places "could not do many mighty works" because of prevailing unbelief. (pages 120-121)

Henry then explains that it is natural for people to distrust mental practitioners because of their "lack of conventional study, especially in pathology". But, he adds, "A study of pathology is a pursuit of abnormity." In mental healing, "pathological research would not only be useless, but perhaps harmful".

The uniform and only diagnosis of the mental healer must be health, HEALTH, HEALTH, really, potentially, and inwardly, even though not yet outwardly actualized. He may divine the particular location of the lack of wholeness, but all the more he sees and emphasizes the potential and inner perfection of that special part or organ. The patient at length comes into at-one-ment. Thoughts are outlines to be filled in; and they must be drawn upon the lines of the pure, the true, and the beautiful. (page 122)

We have heard more than once that our bodies reflect our past thoughts, at work moment by moment. It takes tremendous and ongoing discipline to shepherd our thoughts, to choose which ones to entertain and which to release instantly before they can linger and do harm, and to seek out positive and constructive thoughts. Anyone who thinks that mind cure is the easy way out has never attempted it. A large part of the reason for the difficulty is the prevalence of materialism (belief in a world of stuff rather than a world of thoughts), leading to belief in the need for the study of pathology rather than a study of one’s own thoughts.

We and the Unitarian clergy will continue to listen to Henry’s address next week.

 

April 24, 2012

"Has Mental Healing a Valid Scientific and Religious Basis?"

You Bet It Does! (2)

We and the Unitarian Ministers of Boston and vicinity are listening to a paper read by invitation by Henry Wood (1834-1909) at the clergymen’s "Monday Club" on June 3, 1895. Our Henry is supplying the facts about mental cure/New Thought, how it differs from "faith healing", and why the common criticisms of it are without foundation:

If mental and physical deviation from the normal were steadily diminishing under conventional applications, there would be little reason for a search for anything better. On the contrary, we find that disorders are steadily growing more subtle and complex. Specialists grow more numerous, and each finds just what he looks for. Physicians are increasing in number in much greater proportion than the population, and diseases and remedies multiply. The more human abnormity is held up and analyzed, the more its various phases and complications manifest themselves. As our civilization recedes from Nature, and artificialism in all directions grows more pronounced, we become hyper-sensitive to discord and morbidity. Insanity, insomnia, and nervous degeneration are increasingly prevalent; and even the physical senses, more than ever before, require artificial aids and props. We are depending upon the Without rather than the Within.
Why expect new advances in electricity and the physical sciences, and at the same time, in a far more important realm, look for nothing better than the universal discord and disorder of the past? (pages 122-123)

Those are very powerful arguments, and things are no better today, more than a hundred years later. We give no thought to metaphysics (in the original, philosophical sense), but continue to believe in the world of the five physical senses. We flout the principles of wellness, eat denatured food, neglect rest and balance, saturate our minds with bad news and negative thoughts and emotions, and then wonder why we get sick; or we blame our illness on some bug, rather than on the environment that we provide for the bug. Henry points out that "a false theology" can mess up even those of "beautiful and lovable character", as can "a belief that suffering and disease are normal, therefore irremediable. One may be a model in character and conduct, and still entirely fail to mentally assert a rightful rule over his physical organism." He adds, We often unwittingly create our own limitations, and then with the best of intentions actually consecrate them."

Henry then goes on to correct the assumption "that there is a correspondence between food and drugs":

Not so. One is normal, the other abnormal; one contains nourishment, the other does not; one furnishes natural material for the life-forces to grasp and build up, the other proposes to alter and correct the life-forces themselves. Can they ever be wrong? They are the divine energy in humanity, and never need correction. This vital force, being immutably accurate, only requires that we remove obstructions and come into at-one-ment with it, in order that it may have free course. No drug by mysterious magic can remove penalty. Food meets a normal demand, not to add more life, but to furnish material for life’s outward expression. (page 124)

What about broken bones? "Get the best surgeon that is available", advises Henry. "The surgeon is a mechanical expert who with skill adjusts the parts, and then the divine recuperative forces vitalize the work. Without these forces all the surgeons in the world could not heal the smallest cut." But, he adds, "there are many ‘operations’ undertaken which in reality are unwise, unnecessary, and hazardous". Would he "rely on mental forces alone" in cases of "acute and very serious illness"? No, says Henry. He then describes what later became known as the placebo response, and concludes: "But absolute prevention, rather than any kind of cure, is the ideal for the future. When men generally learn to make a scientific application of the divine energies that are stored up within,—through the creative power of thought,—the mental healer will be as thoroughly superfluous as the dispenser of drugs."

Now Henry turns to "basic principles":

If primary causes for mental and physical ills are resident in the clay of the body, there is no warrant whatever for healing through mind. If, on the other hand, causative forces are located in the mental realm, there is no logical basis, per se, for anything else. We are in bondage to the seen, and constantly speak of mere occasions as causes. . . . Occasions are always without; causes within. This is proved by unlike results in different individuals. (page 126)

Not everyone who is exposed to a bug comes down with it.

What is man?

Is he a bundle of living matter, having a diluted something called soul? Or is he soul having material expression? Although he has a theological opinion that he has a soul, he practically feels that he is now body. But he is as much soul as he ever will be. . . . Materialism is his radical mistake. No man has ever seen his friend or himself. If soul were only a property of bodily organization ,there would be no warrant for existence after the laying aside of the form. There is but one real world for any one, and that is his thought world. (page 127)

Henry insists here as elsewhere that the mind must rule the body. "With the man in full command, the body is a graceful complement. If otherwise, it is a tyrant. In the proportion that a spiritual self-consciousness is cultivated, there is a growing sense of command of the visible instrument." Matter, being plastic, "is picked up by mind or life, and gradually shaped to perfect conformity." "Material science and materia medica deal with forms, symptoms, and results. Materialistic evolution does the same. True evolution is entirely in ascending qualities of mind, and these suitably clothe and express themselves visibly."

To be continued.

 

May 1, 2012

"Has Mental Healing a Valid Scientific and Religious Basis?"

You Bet It Does! (3)

Like Harry Potter in the Pensieve, we are sitting invisibly next to the Unitarian Ministers of Boston on June 3, 1895, listening to our Henry read his paper on mental healing. He lists "some illustrations of the power of concentrated thought or suggestion upon bodily conditions", including "the well-known effects of fear, anger, envy, anxiety, and the other passions and emotions upon the physical organism", and he mentions that all sorts of negative emotions "press for external bodily expression". He adds, "Even false philosophies and limited and untrue concepts of the Deity make their unwholesome influence felt in every bodily tissue. By infallible law mental states are mirrored upon the body; but because the process is gradual and complex, we fail to observe the connection. Mind translates itself into flesh and blood." This of course reminds me of P. P. Quimby’s healing work, which revolved around DE-hypnotizing people from false beliefs. All this information has been around and available to us for more than 100 years, but we still can’t quite believe it.

Henry then continues by describing numerous accounts of "miraculous healings", cures at Lourdes and other places, and even stigmata. He tells us, "The possible intensity of mental energy is shown in many of the phenomena of hypnotic suggestion." As the pièce de résistance, "as if to heap up evidence, ‘Ossa on Pelion,’ come the latest developments of physical science in confirmation", and goes on to describe the work of Elmer Gates chemically demonstrating mental causation. Henry points out, "Man fails to study the laws of his own being, and gives all his attention to external conditions", and as he critically analyzes one thing after another, "so soon as one hostile element is vanquished, another, yet more subtle, is found concealed in ambush behind it." He waxes poetic about bacteriology, adding: "Human pride flatters itself that the causes of its ills are outside. It would avoid responsibility." He reminds us, "There is no mistake in the cosmic plan. Hygiene builds a great dam to stay the current of threatening evils; but in vain, for it rises and soon flows over. It is built higher, and the leaks patched; but it yields, for its foundation is upon the quicksand." Yes, "hygienic observance is rational" and "we must destroy adverse bacteria", but "The creative forces of thought must be brought under intelligent control, until emancipation from the distortions of sense-perception is accomplished".

Next, Henry wants to "briefly touch upon the practical application of the healing-power of one mind as exerted upon another." As he explains it:

Certain persons of highly trained and concentrative power can gradually induce a new quality of consciousness in the receptive mentality of others. A degree of passivity and harmony of purpose in the recipient is necessary. Soon the invalid begins to think differently of himself. The better thought seems to be entirely his own; but in reality he has been assisted. There is no hypnotic imposition, but only the calm, concentrated working of two minds for one result. A re-enforcement, or thought ministration, is sent to where it is most needed. The healer has no power in his own personality; but his projected ideal, for which he is only a kind of channel, is the working force. With a clear and clean mind of his own, he looks through and beyond the adverse external appearances of the other, striving to awaken a perfect ideal that may at length be brought into expression. He penetrates to where influences are radiated outwards. Gradually, visible sequence and manifestation fall into line.
The patient is like a discordant instrument which needs tuning. A successful healer must be an overflowing fountain of love and good-will. He makes ideal conditions present. The patient’s mental background is like a sensitive plate, upon which will gradually appear outlines of health and harmony as positively presented.
This is no mere narrow professionalism. All can exert healing influence in some degree. Every one should project thought-ministrations of wholesome and perfect ideals into other minds. We are thinking, not for ourselves, but for the world. Thoughts are positive forces. (pages 137-8)

From here, we move to self-development. "Beginning on the lowest plane, what can one do for one’s own physical ailments? . . . If thought energy be so great and vital, the most important question for each one is, How can I control and direct it?" We all have "skeletons in our closets": "fears, spectres, imaginings, forebodings, and morbid depressions". Now we learn that

these mental tenants, besides being generally disagreeable, are actually engaged in pulling down the physical organism. How shall we be rid of them? They cannot be forced out by mere wishing, any more than darkness can be driven from a room. But as light will dissipate darkness, so truth and ideals will displace error. But even in these seeming evils there is a beneficent purpose . . . . They come to goad the consciousness, and make it uncomfortable in the dark, damp basement of its nature, in order that it may be induced to mount to the upper and sunny apartments. (pages 139-40)

Back to the sunny apartments again: we displace the negative thoughts with carefully chosen affirmations as blueprints, which Henry calls ideals. And then we have the cistern metaphor again: "The great reservoir of sub-conscious mind automatically impresses its quality upon the physical organism. But its contents can be gradually changed by the introduction of the little rill of conscious thought of a different kind." Henry goes on to describe his system of being alone in the silence daily and going over the ideals to displace the unwanted thoughts in the subconscious mind:

The results of a six months’ trial of pure scientific mental gymnastics will be both a surprise and a delight. It will be a veritable revelation to victims of insomnia, dyspepsia, nervous prostration, and pessimistic depression, not to mention numerous other mental and physical infelicities. It is an accessible realm to rich and poor. It costs only earnest effort. (page 143)

Henry then notes

a few of the more distinctive religious aspects of this higher philosophy of life. Historically it is easy to see that it is in accord with revelation, and with the purest ideals of all religions. While rebuking scholastic and dogmatic systems on the one hand, and pseudo-scientific materialism on the other, it vitalizes and makes practical the principles of the Sermon on the Mount. The healing of to-day is the same in kind, though probably not equal in degree, to that of the primitive church. Jesus plainly recognized it as an act within, or a changed consciousness. His definite and repeated explanation was: "Thy faith hath made thee whole." (pages 143-144)

He adds:

Healing is in accord with spiritual law . . . As outward and practical attestation, it ought never to have dropped out of the church. The divine commission to preach the gospel and heal the sick includes two different sides of one whole. By what authority is one declared binding through the ages, and the other ignored? Who will assert that God is capricious, so that a boon for one era should be withdrawn from another? "These signs shall follow them that believe." Are such limited to time, race, or location? As ecclesiasticism and materialism crept into the early church, and it became allied with the state, notably in the time of Constantine, and personal ambitions and worldly policies sapped its vitality, spiritual transparency and brotherly love faded out, and with them went the power, or rather the recognition of the power, to heal. (page 144)

Always trying to reunite science and religion, Henry then states:

Both science and dogmatic theology, not yet recognizing the universal beneficence of law, infer that negative or so-called evil tendencies in man may keep on growing indefinitely. Materialism logically leads to pessimism. But the evolutionary trend is forward. As a disciplinary and educational process, evil, which may be defined as distorted thinking, does continue for a while; but it meets with an ever-increasing friction which the divine beneficence has fixed in the established order. (page 145)

He concludes:

Man is a secondary creator, and a boundless quantity of unmanifested good encompasses him on every side. There is a profusion of health, strength, beauty, opulence, harmony, and courage heaped up about him waiting for appropriation. The higher consciousness is the channel through which they may be embodied. Through positive formative thought we gain the title-deeds to invaluable possessions. With the wand of affirmation we project them into expression and actuality. Vitality is pressing upon us on every side in the attempt to break through our false limitations. There is no loss and no decay, and every perfection stands patiently waiting for our nod of recognition.
The physicist has ever been searching for the great secret of matter, but it ever eludes pursuit. No scalpel will ever penetrate deeply enough to touch it, nor microscope be powerful enough to bring it into the field of vision. O sensuous man! why continue your quest for the "living among the dead"? Why expect to measure the great overflowing universal vitality with your puny balances and chemical tests? And why expect, through material panaceas, to add to the fulness of that Life which is already universal and omnipresent?
. . . So far as [man] has been faithful over a few things, he will become ruler over many. By faith he will be able to remove mountains of doubt and fear, and cast them into the sea of oblivion. Through a knowledge of being, he will subdue kingdoms and work righteousness. (pages 146-7)

 

May 8, 2012

The Metaphysical Club

Recently I found myself doing some research on the Metaphysical Club of Boston, which the Philosopher played a major role in keeping open for the last five years or more of its existence. The Club’s history is recounted in Horatio W. Dresser’s A History of the New Thought Movement (1919). Since Dresser was one of the founders, he ought to know what he’s talking about. He states flatly, "The organizing of the Metaphysical Club was the chief event in the history of the New Thought in Boston. The Club brought together some of the leaders of the mental-science period . . . It helped to bring into formulation the larger tendencies of the New Thought as expressed, for example, by Henry Wood, Mr. [Charles Brodie] Patterson, Mr. [Ralph Waldo] Trine and others." He goes on to explain:

The mental-science meetings had come to an end, there was no magazine devoted to mental healing published in Boston, and there was need of further effort in spreading the New Thought at the time the Club was called into being. Realizing the need for such a society, several of the leaders new and old called a meeting in behalf of the New Thought movement . . . in January, 1895. (page 181)

Dresser himself was not present at the first meeting, but our Henry was there with bells on: "Mr. Wood outlined a plan for organizing a metaphysical club, bringing forward cogent reasons for the existence of a society for the sake of popularizing the progressive thought of the day." (At that time, the term progressive had not acquired the political overtones that it possesses today.) A week later, all but two of that first group met again and were joined by a dozen other people, including Dresser and his mother, Annetta, author of The Philosophy of P. P. Quimby. Rev. L. B. Macdonald, a Unitarian minister, was chosen as president. Dresser continues:

The purpose of the Club was stated as follows: "To promote interest in and the practice of a true spiritual philosophy of life and happiness; to show that through right thinking one’s loftiest ideas may be brought into perfect realization; to advance the intelligent and systematic treatment of disease by mental methods." (page 182)

The Journal of Practical Metaphysics was established in October, 1896, with Dresser as its editor, "to represent the Club and its larger interests". In that first issue was published a statement:

The Metaphysical Club, while it has no dogma to urge and no sectarian basis to maintain, is doing a work which is positive and progressive. It seeks truth and the unity and harmony which come from the understanding of truth. It sees no rival in the field, because the success of every organization with allied aims is recognized as a triumph of the great principles for which the Club stands. It does not ignore the marked and helpful developments resulting from the scientific study of the physical world, but aims to discover and utilize the harmony of laws and action between it and the metaphysical. It seeks the spark of infinitude in the seemingly finite, and seeks to fan it into a blaze that shall be the light of the world. It is therefore striving to bring into hearty cooperation all the individual potencies that have tended toward the high end which it has in view, believing that thus a resistless impulse might be given to the development of life on the highest attainable plane. (pages 186-7)

Dresser adds:

It will be observed that this statement takes one out into the open, in contrast with the tendency of Mr. [Warren Felt] Evans’s later subjectivism. In contrast with Christian Science, it admits the existence of the natural world and sees value in the scientific study of nature. It implies the philosophy of evolution, spiritually interpreted. This acceptance of the law of evolution was characteristic of Mr. Wood, who was for the most part the author of the above statement. In this acceptance the leaders of the Club concurred. (pages 187-8)

He notes:

The organization of the Metaphysical Club, then, marks the enlargement of the mental-healing movement from the more local interests of mental science to the effort to extend the movement and make it national. Mental healing was still the chief interest. It was what gave the Club its being, and in the years when too many other subjects were introduced the Club was not so successful. The New Thought came directly from mental science, and hence it is explicable by the movement which went before and which dated from Quimby’s pioneer work in Maine. But interest in mental healing gave the disciples of the New Thought a point of view, a way of approaching all questions, a way of looking at life as a whole; it gave an impetus toward individualism, toward freedom; it implied religious liberalism; it implied idealism as a working or practical philosophy. Hence the special interest is related with all other interests, and we find the disciples of the New Thought advocating it as an all-inclusive program. If they sometimes made their work too broad and so lacked definiteness, if they sometimes claimed too much for their special interest, it was because their first desire was to gain recognition for their point of view, with sufficient emphasis to achieve results. The devotees were eager to show that the New Thought not only stands for a method of healing but for a philosophy, a positive or affirmative idealism; hence for a religion, applied Christianity, the rediscovery of the gospel of healing. In the course of time, the New Thought as thus conceived became sufficiently known and recognized to make possible the successful representative movement of today. (pages 189-191)

Dresser describes our Henry as New Thought’s first philanthropist, partly for seeing to it that there was a room set aside at the Club headquarters for silence. On the wall (according to the Philosopher, who has seen it and retains photographs of it) was a magnificent gilded depiction of the ancient Egyptian winged globe. Above it, gilt letters read: GOD is here and everywhere. "In Him we live and move and have our being." On the feathers of the wings are single words and brief affirmations, most of which you would readily recognize as coming from Henry’s ideal suggestions. He wanted people to be able to sit in the silence and find something to meditate on. I am looking at a black and white photo of it as I write. It is part of Henry’s ongoing legacy to all of us.

Dresser includes a lengthy quotation from a paper read by Henry before the Club, titled "To What Extent is Self-Healing Practicable?" It begins, "A thought in any direction makes it easier for the next one to follow it. Like a meadow brook, thinking wears channels. When concentrated, it wears them rapidly." It is Dresser the psychologist who claims that our Henry "suffered from a nervous breakdown and was pronounced incurable by the best physicians", which led to his being "treated with success by several mental healers". He quotes Henry as saying, "I have found something which the world needs and I must give it out", which he did indeed do for the last twenty years of his life.

 

May 15, 2012

The Winged Globe

In the Metaphysical Club of Boston was a room that according to Horatio Dresser was "known as the ‘silence room’, where one could sit ‘in quietness and confidence’ contemplating a painting on the opposite wall symbolizing spiritual truth, with various ideal suggestions to be chosen by the devotee according to need". This was the fulfillment of our Henry’s vision of a place where one could practice "ideal suggestion", as outlined in his book of the same name, published in 1893. The painting was of a winged globe, an ancient religious symbol, with gilt lettering on the feathers. Above the winged globe, gilt letters read GOD is Here and Everywhere, "In Him we live and move and have our being".

A brief Internet perusal reveals that some religious leaders got their shorts in a knot over any Christian group’s use of a winged globe, which they regarded as Satanic. Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore was fond of the winged globe, which he considered a Christian symbol illustrating "the relation existing between Spirit, soul and body"; and Unity used it for many years. The Unity church of North Carolina has an interesting article on Unity’s use of the winged globe, with quotations from Charles Fillmore at http://www.unitync.net/Wings.html . I also found that winged globes come in assorted flavors, some having visible bones such as a real bird would have; others, such as the one from the Metaphysical Club, being more abstract. Henry’s globe appears to have far more feathers than Fillmore’s, probably to provide more opportunities for ideal suggestions. I have no idea whether Henry got the idea of using the winged globe from Fillmore or came up with it independently. In any event, here, from Ideal Suggestion (pp. 70-71), is the rationale Henry was using:

Thought discipline and control is the key which unlocks spiritual storehouses of strength and attainment; and earnest desire and aspiration—which is "prayer without ceasing"— is the motor which furnishes power and intensity. Whenever the thought is not occupied with one’s daily duty or profession, it should be sent aloft into the spiritual atmosphere. There are quiet leisure moments by day, and wakeful hours at night, when this wholesome and delightful exercise may be engaged in to great advantage. . . . At such favorable seasons the outside world, with all its current of daily events, is barred out, and one goes into the silent sanctuary of the inner temple of soul to commune and aspire. The spiritual hearing becomes delicately sensitive, so that the "still, small voice" is audible, the tumultuous waves of external sense are hushed, and there is a great calm. The ego gradually becomes conscious that it is face to face with the Divine Presence; that mighty, healing loving, Fatherly life which is nearer to us than we are to ourselves. This is "the secret place of the Most High," and here we receive tokens from the One "in whom we live, and move, and have our being."

Wings are very Biblical, being found prolifically in both Old and New Testaments. The first reference is Exodus 19:4, where God says, "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself." Winged cherubim are around in abundance. The Psalms are full of wings, for example, 17:8, "Hide me under the shadow of thy wings; 36:7, "trust under the shadow of thy wings", and my favorite, 91:4, "He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust". Then there’s Malachi 4:2, "But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings". Finally, there are the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:37, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (And the same passage in Luke 13:34). Somehow I missed the wonderful Isaiah 40:31, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

Let’s take a closer look at Henry’s feathers, with the aid of a good magnifying glass. There are three semicircular rows, the inside one being blank. The middle row reads, left to right: "Love never faileth, I absorb the good, I am full of faith, I have peace, I rule the body, Fear not, I am spirit, Be still, I listen, Truth lives, I rejoice, I can, I will, Peace, I am well, God is love, I am pure, I am free, I am healed, I am happy, Heal the sick, The body is a temple, Feel the presence, Christ is within."

The outside row of feathers consists of long ones at the ends of the row and short ones in the middle, reading: "Spiritual force sweeps through me, Thy faith hath made thee whole, I am strong in the Lord, These signs shall follow, All things are yours, I make harmony, Peace, Love, Joy, Joy [a second time], Life, Faith, God is my life, Demand brings supply, Thought is formative, Love thinketh no evil, I love God and all humanity, According to thy faith be it unto thee."

As a focus for concentration, this winged globe is superb. It is a great aid to climbing into Henry’s "sunny apartments", even if one is starting from the basement.

 

May 22, 2012

The Presence of God

Most people don’t turn to New Thought or any other spiritual practice when the sky is blue, the sun is shining, and things are going well. It’s when we are up to our ankles in alligators that we ask some version of the old question, "Is there anyone up there?" (regardless of which way is up). If we decide that the answer is yes, we get busy begging and pleading for assistance in getting out of our present difficulties.

But this isn’t a good approach to anything. The time to have a fire drill is not when there is a fire; it’s well in advance, when things are calm and we are teachable. Still, as in the old joke, one first has to get the mule’s attention. God does not send difficulties, but he certainly makes use of them to draw us back to himself. Even St. Augustine, one of my least favorite theologians, wrote, "Thou has made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee."

Our Henry, as regular readers of this newsletter/column know, had his share of challenges, despite having been a prosperous businessman. His business survived a terrible fire a few years before the Great Fire of Chicago. He lost two children, one in infancy, one at age 11. And he suffered what Horatio Dresser calls "a nervous breakdown" and had to retire early from business. Doctors and other healers here and abroad were unable to cure him. He then was "treated with success by several mental healers", according to Dresser; and devoted the remaining twenty years of his life to spreading the word about the spiritual practices that worked for him when all else failed.

New Thought leader R. C. Douglass says of Henry:

Most truly, we live at the dawning of a philosophic age, and Henry Wood is a prophet heralding its coming. . . . He makes it clear that the teachings of Jesus Christ and his wonderful healings rest on the fundamental basis of a spiritual philosophy. The clear province of the New Thought school of writers and teachers is not the abrogation of any Christian principles, but rather to give a better interpretation of those principles, consonant with truth, righteousness and health . . . That man is a noble spiritual being may be set down as Mr. Wood’s major premise. (Dresser, A History of the New Thought Movement, page 170)

According to Dresser, Henry was "deeply religious by nature", but this had evidently not sufficed to heal him. Although "dependent to some extent" on previously published works on mental science, he ended up "using his own terms and putting the matter as it appealed directly to him." Dresser elaborates:

He once told me that the first great thought that came to him, as a means of verifying the therapeutic principle for himself was the affirmation, "God is here." That electrical sentence disclosed a new world for him. Profiting by its power over him, and seeing the advantage of concentration upon a single definite thought, he wrote his book [Ideal Suggestion]. (page 170)

"God is here" is the first Ideal Suggestion. It was written in gilt above the winged globe in the Metaphysical Club headquarters, as we have seen in the past couple of weeks. Now we can understand why Henry gave it so much importance. Most traditional Christianity has described God as transcendent, distant. Here is God immanent: "God is here". Over the winged globe is added "and everywhere", for God is also transcendent. Below that is Acts 17:28, "In him we live and move and have our being".

What may have rendered this idea, "God is here", so instantaneously powerful for Henry as a devout Christian is Psalm 139: 7-11, written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus Christ:Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.

This applies to all of us, no matter how sick, broke, or out of harmony we may be. In a flash of grace it came to Henry: yes, even here, in this seemingly hopeless situation, God is here, fully present and available, doing all that God can do. That changes our consciousness, which in turn changes everything else.

This, however, like the fire drill, works best if we rehearse it well in advance of need. It requires daily practice to become aware of the Presence of God when we most need it. In process terms, God is supplying moment by moment the perfect possibilities for each experience, but we have to say yes to them, to notice them and accept them. As Henry puts it, "The vision must be clarified so as to behold God everywhere, within and without, as all Life, all Love, and All in All." You no longer have access to the Silence Room of the Metaphysical Club, but you can download Ideal Suggestion from the Internet (find the link on our Henry Wood tab), or just write "God is Here"on a 3' x 5" card (and you don’t need to use gilt).

The whole idea is to have your thoughts automatically turn to God at the times when you most need him, and you achieve this by daily practice. It’s the principle now known as kaizen: Drop by drop, the new, clean ideas change the old ones in Henry’s cistern model, until one day, the cistern is clean again.

Years after Henry, New Thought author Emmet Fox wrote "The Golden Key", a short essay that he says he would have liked to reduce to a few lines. What it boils down to is, Think about God in place of the problem. Switch your attention from the difficulty to whatever you know about God. Fox says, "Scientific Prayer will enable you, sooner or later, to get yourself, or anyone else, out of any difficulty on the face of the earth. It is the Golden Key to harmony and happiness." Why? "In Scientific Prayer it is God who works, and not you, and so your particular limitations or weaknesses are of no account in the process. You are only the channel through which the Divine action takes place, and your treatment will really be just the getting of yourself out of the way."

I think Henry had already boiled that down to three words.

 

May 29, 2012

Roots of New Thought

The most recent shared-out-loud reading for the Philosopher and me is The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson, by David Barton. It exposes and explodes seven commonly circulated calumnies about Jefferson, some dating back to his first campaign for President of the United States. These are shocking, although it is satisfying to read the truth about them and clear the air. However, there are also two surprises. The first is Barton’s list of isms, five twentieth-century scholarly practices that have led directly to the perpetuation of these falsehoods. The second—and the one most closely associated with New Thought—is a pair of little-known teachings. The first is the philosophical background that Jefferson and many of the other Founders sprang from, as did P. P. Quimby; and of which there is no mention in standard New Thought works such as Braden, Judah, and even Dresser. The second is where Jefferson ended up after his lifelong search for spiritual growth.

Let’s start with the seven lies:

Lie #1: "Thomas Jefferson Fathered Sally Hemings’ Children". This charge was originally concocted by a Jefferson political opponent, James T. Callender, who was famous for his vicious and untrue attacks. In 1998, the results of some DNA testing were released and ballyhooed by the mainstream press, who completely failed to mention the retraction of the study a short time later. Further, there are eyewitness accounts of Jefferson’s habitual behavior at Monticello that refute the charge. One of these, not mentioned in Barton’s book, flatly states that Hemings was having an affair with the son of Jefferson’s old friend, taken under Jefferson’s wing when the friend died. This appears to have been well known to the family.

Lie #2: "Thomas Jefferson Founded a Secular University". The polar opposite is true and easily documented. He founded "America’s first trans- or nondenominational university" to ensure that "multiple Christian denominations would be an active part of university life and that Christian instruction and activities would definitely occur on campus".

Lie #3: Thomas Jefferson Wrote His Own Bible and Edited Out the Things He Didn’t Agree With". The facts are that he created (by cutting up two Bibles) "an abridgement of the New Testament for the use of the Indians" and he later similarly compiled "the moral teachings of Jesus for his own personal study and meditation". Both of these "included multiple references to the supernatural and miraculous". Jefferson owned numerous "Bibles that he personally used and studied", paid for the printing of Bibles, gave them as gifts to young members of his family, "and the Bible was openly used in institutions he helped start or direct".

Lie #4: "Thomas Jefferson Was a Racist Who Opposed Equality for Black Americans". To the contrary, he "was a lifelong unwavering advocate for emancipation." The laws of the State of Virginia interfered with his efforts, even preventing him from freeing his slaves at his death, as Washington had been able to do before the law was changed. "Jefferson referenced religious beliefs and teachings as the basis of his views on emancipation and equality, repeatedly declaring that because God was just, He would eventually bring slavery to an end in America, one way or another."

Lie #5: "Thomas Jefferson Advocated a Secular Public Square Through the Separation of Church and State". He "regularly incorporated religious activities into public settings", inaugurating Sunday services that he attended at the Capitol, the largest gathering in Washington, DC. "Separation of church and state" meant that "the government had no authority to stop, inhibit, or regulate public religious expressions", to ensure that there would be no established church such as the Church of England.

Lie #6: "Thomas Jefferson Detested the Clergy". He was disliked by the Federalist clergy, and he did denounce clergy "who participated in the unholy alliance of ‘kingcraft and priestcraft’" [New Thoughters will note a foreshadowing of P. P. Quimby’s denunciation of "priests" half a century later], and they weren’t too crazy about him, either. To the states’ rights clergy, on the other hand, he was a hero and a close friend of many of them. [Jefferson also supported the religious freedom of Roman Catholics, encouraging the construction of a Roman Catholic Church in Washington DC as well as supporting the famous Danbury Baptists.]

Lie #7: "Thomas Jefferson Was an Atheist and Not a Christian". Barton says flatly, "Jefferson was not a secularist, deist, or atheist. He never wavered from his belief that God actively intervened in the affairs of men. He thus regularly prayed, believing that God would answer his prayers for his family, his country, the unity of the Christian church, and the end of slavery."

Jefferson’s voluminous correspondence easily answers these seven points.

On to Surprise #1: How did these lies come into existence? According to Barton, "The reason that an investigation of Jefferson’s faith and morals was even necessary is the deplorable slip in accurate historical knowledge over the past half-century." Barton then lists "five modern tools of historical malpractice":

1. Deconstructionism "pours out a steady flow of negatives about traditional heroes, values, and institutions through sniping remarks, belittling criticism, and inaccurate portrayals."

2. Poststructuralism "rejects absolutes such as God or truth, instead asserting that each individual must interpret history for himself, basing its meanings on one’s personal views rather than on objective standards." This is moral relativism.

3. Modernism "examines historical incidents and persons as if they lived today rather than in the past, thereby separating history from its context and producing many flawed conclusions." One should always judge a person according to his lights.

4. Minimalism "unreasonably insists on oversimplicity and reducing everything to easy answers that don’t require thinking or analysis, condensing complex situations into one-line characterizations and squeezing historical individuals into preconceived, preshaped molds they do not fit." Think sound bite or political slogan.

5. Academic Collectivism "relies on the claims of ‘experts’ rather than original documents as the standard for truth. It advances an incestuous system of peer review as the measurement for whether a historical fact is accurate or errant."

Barton adds:

The countless errors resulting from these five historical malpractices have so thoroughly infused modern textbooks, the Web, and popular knowledge that it has now become difficult for the average citizen to even discern when history is being misrepresented. But recognition is the first step to avoidance; that is, once one knows what the five tools are, it becomes much easier to spot them and avoid being caught in their errors. (page 198)

He could also have quoted Proverbs 1:17, "Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird."

The military knows that "early detection helps defeat an enemy". Accordingly, Barton wants us to "recognize and avoid the traps of historical malpractice", and then expose and remove them "so that others will not be injured". The best way to do this, he says, is given in Romans 12:21: "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good". We’re back to our Henry’s cistern metaphor.

What we have covered here to date makes an appropriate Memorial Day observance. "Let us now praise famous men. . . . Their bodies are buried in peace, but their name liveth evermore." Jefferson was one of those who pledged "our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor" and lived up to it. Next week, we will examine the other surprise pair that the Philosopher and I delightedly came across in Barton’s book.

 

June 5, 2012

Roots of New Thought (2)

Last week I left you dangling in the midst of a description of what the Philosopher and I enjoyed about David Barton’s new book, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson. We looked at the seven lies and their refutations, then continued to Barton’s list of five isms, "five twentieth-century practices that have led directly to the perpetuation of these falsehoods". Now let’s explore the two promised surprises.

The first surprise for the Philosopher and me was the discovery that Jefferson and many of the other American Founders had been tutored in the Scottish Common Sense philosophy. This was a surprise to us because one does not often hear of it, but Scottish Common Sense philosophy is of great relevance to New Thoughters: Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, the father of New Thought, thought highly of it and drew heavily on it. In his "Editor’s Introduction to the Lecture Notes of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby", Ronald A. Hughes writes:

Quimby quotes from [Thomas Cogswell Upham and John Abercrombie] in his lecture notes, as well as from several others of what is known as the "Scottish School of Common Sense" or "Scottish Common-Sense Realism," primarily to offer alternative explanations of the phenomena found in their case studies. . . . Appropriate credit is given to John Abercrombie and Thomas Upham for their case studies . . . (Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: His Complete Writings and Beyond, page 38)

More information is available on Ron’s web site, www.ppquimby.com .

But the burning question of the moment is, how did Scottish Common Sense philosophy get into the training of Jefferson, Washington, Madison, and other Founders? David Barton comes up with the explanation: As an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary, Jefferson’s favorite instructor was Dr. William Small of Scotland. Barton adds:

Interestingly, many of the best instructors in early America were Scottish clergymen. As noted historian George Marsden affirmed, "[I]t is not much of an exaggeration to say that outside of New England, the Scots were the educators of eighteenth-century America." These Scottish instructors regularly tutored students in what was known as the Scottish Common Sense philosophy—a method under which not only Jefferson but also other notable Virginia Founding Fathers were trained . . . . (page 33)

Barton continues:

The Scottish Common Sense approach was developed by the Reverend Thomas Reid (1710-1796) to counter the skepticism of stridently secular European writers and philosophers such as Hume, Rousseau, Voltaire, and Malby. Reid’s approach argued that common sense should shape philosophy rather than philosophy shaping common sense. He asserted that normal, everyday language could express philosophical principles in a way that could be understood by ordinary individuals rather than just so-called elite thinkers and philosophers.
The principle [sic] tenets of Scottish Common Sense philosophy were straightforward:
1. There is a God
2. God placed into every individual a conscience—a moral sense written on his or her heart (cf. Jeremiah 31:33; Romans 2:14-15; Hebrews 8:10; 10:16, etc.)
3. God established "first principles" in areas such as law, government, education, politics, and economics, and these first principles could be discovered by the use of common sense
4. There is no conflict between reason and revelation. Both come directly from God, and revelation fortifies and clarifies reason (page 34)

We have all heard that New Thought could only have come into existence in the United States. Now we start to see why. In Blackstone’s Commentaries, "the manual of almost every student of law in the United States", including Jefferson, Blackstone "forcefully expounded on the four prime tenets of Scottish Common Sense philosophy". Jefferson also included them in the Declaration of Independence. We might also note that Jefferson was well-known for his interest in science as well as philosophy and religion.

On to the other surprise: "In his latter years Jefferson repeatedly wrote of the need to return to primitive Christianity and restore it to the time of Jesus and the Apostles." This primitive Christianity is also appealing to many in New Thought, but it is not as clear-cut as Scottish Common-Sense philosophy. Primitive Christianity/Revivalism attempts to remove the accretions added to the teachings of Jesus through the centuries and get back to a simple reliance on the Bible as the only guidebook. The problem is that people disagree in their interpretation of the Bible. Since "the word Trinity is not found in the Bible", this meant that many people embraced some form of unitarianism. They rejected denominationalism, which didn’t sit well with denominationalists. They stressed Christian unity, as did the Universalists, who also believed that eventually everyone would be "saved". They emphasized the Gospels, the teachings of Jesus; and they de-emphasized the Epistles and the Old Testament. They rejected "church hierarchical structure", favoring local churches with local control. And they were "anti-Calvinic [sic] almost to the point of loathing it", to the point that if Calvin had been in favor of something, that alone was enough for them to be against it. This much variety in beliefs starts to sound like New Thought! At any rate, Jefferson seems to have evolved in some of his beliefs in the course of his lifetime, as have many of us. New Thought has Universalist and Unitarian roots, and the description of those beliefs was very different in Jefferson’s day or Quimby’s day from what they are today. This brings us back to the need to avoid one of Barton’s list of academic malpractices: modernism, or examining historical incidents as they appear today rather than as they were in the past.

The Jefferson Lies is a fascinating book and well worth reading. You can order it by clicking on this link to Amazon:  www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1595554599/ref=nosim/neweverymomen20

Don’t be daunted by some negative reviews; many of the reviewers seem not to have read the book!

 

June 12, 2012

"All’s Love, yet all’s Law"

Henry Wood (1834-1909) and Horatio Dresser (1866-1954) constantly worked together in connection with the Metaphysical Club of Boston. They also worked together in connection with the magazine The Arena, for which Dresser was associate editor and our Henry a contributing author. Henry expanded "the substance" of three of his own articles from The Arena in 1892 into three chapters of his first New Thought nonfiction book, God’s Image in Man: Some Intuitive Perceptions of Truth, also published in 1892. This was the year before the publication of Henry’s flagship book, Ideal Suggestion, and some of his Suggestions are foreshadowed here and there. Let’s look at the first of our Henry’s three articles/chapters: "The Universality of Law".

Henry does not begin with the quotation from Browning; he begins with a quotation from Richard Hooker (1553-1600), which commences thus: "Of Law, there can be no less acknowledged than that her seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world . . ."

Henry jumps right in with a couple of definitions of law, rejecting them as "freighted with a cold, mechanical import which almost seems tinged with fatalism". He then proceeds to dismiss "the theologian" along with "atheists and materialists" before he supplies his own definition:

Law is the uniform and orderly methods of the Immanent God. Natural Law, which pervades the material, mental, and spiritual kingdoms, is God in manifestation. But a short time ago, and the most intelligent observers limited the province of law to the more apparent operations of external nature. . . . Scientists regarded everything immaterial as beyond the pale of law; theologians looked upon the spiritual domain as above law, or supernatural; and the world in general believed in special providences and in every-day suspensions and variations in trains of orderly sequence. The most intelligent and reverent thought of the present day concedes the omnipotence and omnipresence of Law. If it be but another name for God in orderly manifestation, any lesser concept would dishonor and limit Him by the implication that He was self-contradictory and lawless. (page 128)

Henry then launches into a beautiful description of the extent of law in nature, in the mind of man, in "institutions, governments, civilizations, and religions". He points out: "Pain, joy, blessing, and all other kinds of consciousness, are ordained by Law. Even signs, wonders, and miracles are within its all-embracing boundaries, though the keen search of science may yet have failed to discover their footsteps." But the truth that is not yet generally recognized, he says, is "the universal beneficence of Law. Law is infinitely intelligent, perfect, and beneficent." (The Philosopher is not happy with this personification of Law, but philosophers are allergic to metaphor. We’ll cut Henry some slack.) Henry elaborates:

Speaking exactly, Law itself cannot be broken. If we transgress it, the Law remains intact, but we are broken. It is best that it should be so. If Law could in any degree be bent to conform to our variable wishes or standards, the moral and physical universe would become chaos. Penalty is not calamitous and from without, but rather inherent, subjective, corrective, and therefore good. (pages 130-131)

Then here comes the first of our foreshadowings of the Ideal Suggestions:

Pain, whether physical, mental, or moral, is penalty, and comes from the bruises which we receive from avoidable collision with Law, but the Law itself sustains not the least fracture. It continues its smooth, harmonious course without deflection or interruption.
Pain appears like an armed and vindictive enemy, but it is really a friend in disguise. If we look beneath its mask and recognize and accept it, it takes us by the hand and gently leads us back from the thorny thicket through which we are plunging at the behest of passion, ignorance, or weakness, into the smooth path which Law has made perfect for our resistless progress. Law is our judge, and pain the judgment. The cure for suffering is the recognition of its friendly mission, which makes its judgment accepted and confessed. When its beneficence is understood, and its errand interpreted, it becomes transformed into an angel of mercy. (pages 131-132)

Henry then takes us straight to hell:

Judgment unheeded and defied at length becomes hell. While the old theological monstrosity of a God-made hell is a myth, we actually go to work and kindle hells of our own. When man’s nature becomes disordered and perverted, the Law kindly incites a hellish condition to goad him, so that he may turn, and not forever drift away from the harmony of God and Law, and thus destroy himself. Hell is a necessity. Its punitive flames are fanned by heavenly love and beneficent law, and not by the anger of a wrathful Deity. The "consuming fire" purifies. If sin did not inevitably carry penalty on its back, men would keep on sinning forever. The greater the distance that the prodigal sons of God get away from Him in consciousness, the more intense the self-inflicted penalty which will finally turn their faces back towards the Father’s house. (page 133)

He explains:

It is only when our selfishness and ignorance foolishly antagonize the Law that to our distorted vision it seems baneful. Through dark and superstitious periods in the past, beneficent Law seemed so unfriendly that men erected it into a great evil Personality, and cringed in terror before it.
We may make Law our infinitely powerful ally. The man who utilizes steam or electricity in accordance with their own laws multiplies his physical accomplishment a thousand-fold. On the contrary, if he disregard their orderly methods, and strive to impose his own notional theories upon them, he will receive the judgment of penalty. (page 134)

But what about natural laws that produce "earthquakes, tornadoes, and tempests"? They may blot us out physically, but we are not our bodies. "Reasoning from the basis of the real, evils can only be evils from their subjective moral quality. A stroke of lightning deprives a man of bodily expression. The man is intact." Therefore such natural laws do not disprove the beneficence of Law.

Plagues and pestilences result from violations of Law, or rather from the lack of recognition of the power and utility of higher laws with which man can ally himself to overcome and banish such calamities. While Natural Law is never suspended, there are mental and spiritual laws which rule and neutralize the power of those which are below, and man’s divine sonship gives him dominion in the subordinate realm. . . . Spiritual laws occupy the highest rank in beneficence and potentiality, and therefore, are primary and supreme among causative forces. . . . Matter has no laws of its own. It merely expresses the quality and shaping of what is back of and superior to itself. (pages 137-138)

So the law of gravitation can be overcome by the law of heavier-than-air flight, even though Henry would have to wait a few years for that. And you will have to wait until next week to hear more of what Henry has to say about the universality of law.

 

June 19, 2012

"All’s Love, yet all’s Law" (2)

We are continuing to peruse our Henry’s article from The Arena, expanded and reprinted under the title "The Universality of Law" in Henry’s book, God’s Image in Man: Some Intuitive Perceptions of Truth (1892). According to Henry:

Man must discern the fact that he is a sharer and an heir of the Divine Nature, and that with such an heritage he may assert his birthright of authority over the economies around and below him. He learns to govern, mould, and give quality to his own nature, and also to grasp and utilize the forces of the spiritual world from whence the innumerable lines of Law radiate and gather their potentiality. This knowledge, of itself, constitutes such a wonderful acquisition that the Christ affirmed that he that is least in the kingdom of heaven—the understanding of spiritual law—is greater than John the Baptist, who represented prophecy and morality [Matt. 11:11]. Even the least in the domain of the Real is of far more value than great accomplishment of inferior quality. (pages 138-9)

We are to use God’s laws, then, make use of them as the gift that they are. If we are to have free will, we must live in a neutral environment, a lawful environment that raineth on the just and the unjust alike: "Providence is within the limits of Law, and there can be no special providences unless there be special and capricious laws", observes Henry. But there’s nothing to stop us from studying God’s laws and making use of them for our benefit, so long as we first abide by the greatest two laws of all, the two Great Commandments given by Jesus: to love God, and our neighbors as ourselves. That means win/win, guided by our loving Father. "Law is not only supremely powerful, but it is ever waiting to serve us."

Stephen Covey wrote in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, "Principles are like lighthouses. They are natural laws that cannot be broken. As Cecil B. deMille observed of the principles contained in his monumental movie, The Ten Commandments, ‘It is impossible for us to break the law. We can only break ourselves against the law.’" (The Philosopher once observed that what Covey called natural laws are really moral laws, but they’re just as unbreakable.) Either way, we make use of them, just as we make use of a lighthouse, to guide us.

Then why pray, if God isn’t ever going to break his own laws because he’s not capricious and doesn’t change his mind? Henry is ready for that one:

Is there, then, no place for prayer? Yes; for "prayer without ceasing". Prayer is communion, aspiration, oneness of spirit. It is soul-contact with the Parent-Mind, the reception of the Immanent God into the every-day consciousness. In its loftiest form it is a living recognition that the Infinite Love has already bestowed every possible gift, so that there is absolutely nothing to ask for. But there is unbounded utility in true prayer on the human side, to bring such a stupendous fact into our consciousness. As by such aspiration we come into oneness with God, we command a thousand-fold more blessing through spiritual law than would be possible if we possessed infinite power to bend the divine will, linked with our fallible wisdom to determine the manner of bestowment. (page 141)

In process terms, we repeatedly say yes to God’s perfect possibilities for us, building up the pattern of the past until, "first the blade and then the ear", those possibilities manifest.

Henry then illustrates:

In proportion as men feel themselves to be "sons of God," they can wield divine forces and legally make them ministries of blessing. Take a case of physical ailment, for the recovery of which there are two possible forms of prayer. One, that God in answer to petition would change on His part so as to send forth a special influx of healing power. Such a response would imply changeableness, improvement, and existing imperfection on the part of God which our importunity would correct. The second, recognition that Unchangeable Good has already done everything necessary, and that it remains for us to come so close to Him as to be able to bring the divine ideal into outward expression, through and in accord with Law. A knowledge that physical wholeness is natural—as the external manifestation of spiritual forces already at our disposal—would powerfully aid in bringing lawful and potential wholeness into actuality. As "sons of God" we may learn to command orderly supernal powers, and through them to make visible such complete demonstrations as shall show answers to prayer from a Deity who is "without variableness or shadow of turning." Every possible prayer for what is truly the best is eternally answered, and the result is in readiness for us to bring into conscious manifestation. We need not beg good of a Father who is Infinite Love, but we must open our souls and quicken our spiritual vision to the perception of the infinitude of lawful gifts already our own. The grand mission of prayer is to bring us subjectively into harmony with God by the recognition of His presence in the soul. It is not a form of words, though it may be audibly expressed. In its essence it is loving intercourse with the Presence which besets our spirits "behind and before." (pages 141-3)

In other words, what God can do, God is already doing, if we will only let him in. I once had a cassette tape in which Unity minister Martha Giudici pointed out that the child of a king doesn’t need to grovel and plead to the king. We are not "worms of the dust". We are not the children of some rotten Oriental potentate. Things improve as we work our way through the Old Testament views of God to the view provided by Jesus in the New Testament. The Jews understood the law part ("Oh, how I love thy law!") but didn’t quite grasp the God-of-love part. God "desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live". That kind of turning is called metanoia. Henry elaborates:

By infallible Law one grows into the likeness of his mental delineation of the Deity which he worships, for it forms his highest ideal of perfection. The more complete one’s concept of God, the more divinely shaped will be his standards and attainments. To instruct or implore a God who is susceptible to change or improvement reflects its vacillation and imperfection upon the petitioner. The prayer of communion and aspiration unfolds the divine selfhood, and reveals the road to the utilization of Law, and the apprehension of truth, that through them men may acquire dominion which is princely in its richness. Such spiritual wealth is the natural heritage of "sons". (page 143)

Jesus, our Elder Brother, taught us to pray, "OUR Father."

To be continued.

 

June 26, 2012

"All’s Love, yet all’s Law" (3)

This week we will conclude our look at our Henry’s article, "The Universality of Law". We have learned that Henry believes law to be a description of how God works. The Philosopher likes to define laws as descriptions of how things work, so they are in harmony. We are to "pray without ceasing" as a way of aligning ourselves with the will of God and with God’s laws. Now we shall see that it is "man’s high privilege and prerogative" to "discover the harmonious vibrations" of "the universal cosmos". Henry explains:

Paul knew this when he affirmed, "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." This was a reference, not merely to the historic Jesus, nor to any special bestowment of power, but to such a perception of God’s orderly methods as enabled him to command them. These constitute the essential Christ which Jesus outwardly manifested. (page 144)

And long before Paul, Isaiah wrote, "Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel . . . concerning the work of my hands command ye me." (45:11)

This reminds me yet again of New Thought author and lecturer Terry McBride’s great yet humbling and awe-inspiring discovery that he controlled the power of God. He had come across a quotation from Manly P. Hall: "In the human experience, suffering nearly always resolves itself into a question. This uncertainty inspires a larger effort to discover the rules governing human activity." But he didn’t want to just accept suffering, because "it took the possibility of miracles out of my control. There was still a power in the Universe that could create reality, a power that could do miracles. But who was I to think that I controlled this power or could influence it to get what I wanted?" He then demanded of God that he be shown the answer to his being healed of a horrible chronic condition. Since his Bible had passages that he found helpful carefully marked, he opened it at random. Only one passage was underlined on those two pages: "Thy faith hath made thee whole." It was the story of the woman who believed that if she could just touch even the hem of Jesus’ garment, she would be healed. She did, and she was. Terry had opened to the Lucan version of the story, which differs from Matthew’s version, which "did not mention that she was healed before Jesus turned around":

Luke’s version of that story is the only healing in the New Testament where Jesus doesn’t do something first. In all the rest of the miracles, he does something and then the healing takes place. It was as if the control of the power of the Universe was outside of the people who wanted to be healed . . . . Yet in the story in Luke, it didn’t say that this lady . . . forgave enough. It didn’t say that she let go enough. It didn’t say that she was willing enough. It didn’t say that she had accepted the struggle in her life enough. It said she believed that if she touched the hem of His garment, she would be made whole. And when she did what she believed, the healing occurred." (The Hell I Can’t, pages 195-6)

Henry comments, "The law of love reaches down, rules, and overcomes adverse laws which are below itself." He then goes on to discuss the laws of mental delineation:

"As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." One unconsciously grows into the likeness of his favorite mental specifications, and finally becomes the expression of his ruling thought. Evil, if brought near, examined, and analyzed, grows more realistic as it is dwelt upon; and this is true even when the sincere purpose is its opposition. As darkness is the mere absence of light, so evil displaced by good fades to its native nothingness. Good is positive because it is Godlike and lawful. The objective vitality of evil is gained from the reflection of subjective consciousness. If we had nothing wrong in ourselves as a correspondence, we could never recognize the same quality in others; and if such a condition were general, the Christly law of non-resistance would have unlimited sway. "Thinketh no evil," is to give it no breathing space. Pessimism is unwholesome because it multiplies bad conditions and galvanizes them into life. One always finds what he looks for. (page 145)

There we have New Thought in a nutshell. Henry adds, "Nature is optimistic, and as civilization recedes from natural standards towards artificialness it tends toward chaos and decay. We may reverently affirm that God is perfect and infinite Optimism." In line with his previous "pain is friendly" comments, he states:

The throes and penalties which appear inherent in the material nature of man are the necessary incidents, experiences, and goads in the great process of spiritual evolution. Intrinsic growth in the individual and in society is through pain and confusion, these being the effervescence of good and evil,—the conflict between the divinity and the animality in dual human nature. The maledictions of the imprecatory psalms of David were directed against the adverse forces of his own lower nature, and not against foes without." (pages 146-7)

He adds, "The human body being but a literal transcript of the mind, physical inharmonies can be rectified through mental and spiritual lawfulness; but as the process is complex and gradual, the correspondence is not superficially apparent." And we need to appreciate the "significant and well-defined laws which govern thought". Why? "Thoughts are powers, and even when unexpressed they go forth armed with influences for good or ill upon other minds." As Charles Fillmore remarked, we need to watch our thoughts at all times. Henry continues, "Large thought-space bestowed upon unworthy objects or propensities confers dominion upon them. Even an utter nonentity may thus crowd the whole field of vision, and be galvanized into supreme reality." Material things, inventions, even humanitarian efforts, intellectual achievements, don’t bring us "harmony and contentment":

When well-rounded spiritual and moral character becomes the goal of mankind, and the search for harmony is made within rather than without, ideal conditions will become manifest. By invariable Law the spiritual realm of man’s nature is serene and perfect, and the ego must climb into its delectable atmosphere in order to inhale the divine ozone. (page 150)

Ah, yes, the "sunny apartments"! We’re better off, says Henry, studying health than studying disease.

Religion teaches that Love is the sum total of the moral code, but science has yet to discover that Love is the grand focus where all the infinite lines of Law converge. It is already apparent to the spiritual vision of keen observers that Love is the highest Law; but the fact will gradually dawn upon humanity that in the kindgom [sic] of the Real, Love is the only Law. The law of attraction which is omnipresent in the material cosmos may be regarded as an exact correspondence of the universality of Love in the pure realm of all-embracing spirit. (pages 150-1)

Henry then quotes Tennyson: "One God, one law, one element,/ And one far-off, divine event, /To which the whole creation moves." He adds:

Love in its lower forms is educational. Personal, paternal, filial, and even conjugal loves are the training-schools of that broader, perfected, impersonal Law of Attraction. The grand climax of the welding of Law and Love will only be reached when it blossoms into universal recognition as the One Force of the Universe. Then will be realized the scientific exactness of the declaration that "God is Love."

And now we’re finally ready for Browning. In his poem, Saul, the young David plays his harp to soothe Saul in his madness, then has his own revelation:

‘Then the truth came upon me. No harp more—no song more! Outbroke—
I have gone the whole round of creation: I saw and I spoke:
I, a work of God’s hand for that purpose, received in my brain
And pronounced on the rest of his handwork—returned him again
His creation’s approval or censure; I spoke as I saw:
I report, as a man may of God’s work—all’s love, yet all’s law . . . ‘

Lagniappe: Hyatt Carter, a New Thoughter who is also interested in process thought, has digitized the 34 entries by Charles Hartshorne in the Encyclopedia of Religion edited by Vergilius Ferm. The entry on a personal God is particularly interesting. You can link directly to the collection of Hartshorne entries on Carter’s website by clicking the link below.

http://www.hycadventures.com/page110.php

 

July 3, 2012

Kalamazoo to Timbuktu

I have absolutely no idea how many readers of this newsletter we have in Timbuktu, nor am I really up to date on the political climate in Timbuktu. But the last time I looked, Kalamazoo was still in Michigan, and Michigan was still in the good old US of A, where one of the primary freedoms we enjoy is freedom of religion. The New Thought movement could only have come into existence in a country that allowed such freedom. Many, if not most, of the original colonists came here in order to have freedom to worship as they chose, and because of the difficulties so many had encountered—even in this New World—in the past, "the chains of the Constitution" were placed on the new federal government in order to ensure that it could not interfere with this freedom, although individual states were free to have an established religion, as seven of the original thirteen states had had at the time the Constitution was adopted.

The Founders may have differed considerably in their Christian beliefs, but they all strove to lead their lives according to Christian principles, with emphasis on good character. Judeo-Christian principles are woven into both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. On the eve of Independence Day, let’s take a look at the faith of some of the Founders, as stated in their own words.

In a 1790 letter to Ezra Stiles, president of Yale University, Benjamin Franklin wrote:

You desire to know something of my religion. It is the first time I have been questioned upon it. But I cannot take your curiosity amiss, and shall endeavor in a few words to gratify it. Here is my creed. I believe in one God, creator of the universe. That he governs it by his providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental principles of all sound religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever sect I meet with them.
As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see . . . . (Writings of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Smyth, 10:84)

George Washington requested that his army attend religious services and saw to it that there were services and chaplains available for them. In 1781, his General Orders included

While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian. The signal instances of providential goodness which we have experienced, and which have now almost crowned our labors with complete success, demand from us in a peculiar manner the warmest returns of gratitude and piety to the Supreme Author of all good. (The Writings of George Washington, ed. Fitzpatrick 11:342)

In his final Farewell Address in 1796, Washington stated:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? (Fitzpatrick 35:229)

Thomas Jefferson wrote, in 1816:

I have ever thought religion a concern purely between our God and our consciences, for which we were accountable to Him and not to the priests. I never told my own religion, nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert nor wished to change another’s creed. I have ever judged of the religion of others by their lives, . . . for it is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read. By the same test the world must judge me. (The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Bergh, 15:60)

And with obvious satisfaction, he wrote of the use made of the courthouse, a tax-supported building, by the churches near his home:

In our village of Charlottesville, there is a good degree of religion, with a small spice only of fanaticism. We have four sects, but without either church or meeting-house. The court-house is the common temple, one Sunday in the month to each. Here, Episcopalian and Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist, meet together, join in hymning their Maker, listen with attention and devotion to each others’ preachers, and all mix in society with perfect harmony. (Bergh, 15:404)

The basic religious principles outlined by Franklin were woven into both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. When the signers of the Declaration met on August 2 to actually put their signatures on the adopted version of the document, John Hancock (president of the Continental Congress), stated, "We must be unanimous; there must be no pulling different ways; we must all hang together." Franklin supposedly quipped, "Yes, we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately!" (Van Doren, Benjamin Franklin, 1938). These men had committed their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, and many of them forfeited lives and fortunes to this great cause. This year especially, when it is so important for all of us to stand shoulder to shoulder to emphasize the beliefs that we hold in common, many people are planning to celebrate Independence Day by reading aloud the Declaration and the Constitution. Happy Independence Day!

 

July 10, 2012

Interconnectedness

The second of three articles that Henry Wood (1834-1909) wrote for The Arena and later reprinted as chapters in God’s Image in Man is titled "The Solidarity of the Race". Race in this case refers to the human race. Our Henry begins with an analogy:

Conscious life consists of relations. The human economy is like a great tree, the branches and leaves of which—all springing from one root and nourished by the same sap—spread themselves forth that they may feel the glow of the sunlight. Life is a continuous divine communication. While it appears broken into a vast number of disjointed fragments, there is but One Life. It is the material and false sense of life which gives it the aspect of independent units. The true life is a derived, shared, and related consciousness. Without any loss of individual responsibility, each one belongs to the race, which as a whole would be incomplete without him. (page 153)

To ourselves we seem separate and distinct, "But life is so interwoven with life—or rather is so truly a part of the One Life—that an individual is like a bit of color in a great mosaic." Some people like to compare life to a flowing river coming from God, and we all are flooded with such a river. Process philosophy is often called process-relational philosophy. Whitehead called his philosophy "the philosophy of organism", picking up on the image of a grove of trees whose roots are so interwoven that it is impossible to tell one from another; they are literally one large organism. Process thought describes us as made up of numerous streams of occasions of experience, and the Philosopher likes to refer to our serial selfhood, rather like the Buddhist concept of a soul as one candle lighting another. Into each of these occasions of experience, God inserts his initial aim, his perfect possibilities tailored for that developing experience, based on his vision for what is eventually possible, his will for us. Another name for initial aim is "the mind of Christ". The Apostle Paul says that we all have the mind of Christ (I Cor 2:16); this is how. Process thought explains this in terms of the influence of the past on the developing occasion of experience: we combine some portion of the past with whatever part of God’s initial aims we choose to say yes to, in order to create the next experience. The Philosopher likes to call this the Creativity Formula: Past + Divine Offer + Choice = Co-Creation (New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality, revised edition, page 161).

Henry continues:

The ultimate acme of humanity is universal brotherhood. This will not be attained by means of any new departure in sociology, perfected legislation, nor ideal political economy, but from a higher consciousness which will fuse and unify heart and character. The current of spiritual life flows from the centre outwards, carrying on its bosom rich offerings of loving service and ministry. (page 154)

He believes that we are "submerged" in "great thought currents", which carry us along:

Every great wave of human thought, whether social, political, or religious, bears upon its crest a few leaders upon whom the movement seems to depend; but in reality they are swept along in the prevailing current. In the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries the temper of Europe was ripe for the Crusades, otherwise the instigators of those great incursions never could have inspired the vast waves of humanity, which, under the banner of the cross, surged eastward for the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre. Luther was but the instrumental articulation of the spirit of the ripening evolution of religious liberty of the Renaissance. In the fifteenth century Europe began to feel—even though unconsciously—the presence of a great western continent, and this blind apprehension became incarnate in Columbus. All great distinctive mental currents find special embodiment; therefore, personal leadership is the outcome rather than the inspiration of great transitions. The general character of great mental currents may be tempered and modified by commanding spirits if their main trend be respected; but oftener apparent leadership is an adroit utilization of existing cumulative forces. (pages 155-6)

Similarly, notes Henry, when the world’s thought had advanced from stern Calvinistic "decrees" towards "free grace", Wesley appeared on the scene. Calvin’s thought does not fit in the present era, "and yet there are those who would patch up that musty doctrinal fabric for present use", says Henry. This may seem discouraging, but "in a sense every man is the race". "While in the lower realm of mind, personalities are mainly expressive, in the higher, individual attainment is race potentiality. The very foremost member in his progress towards the divine human ideal, represents a veritable race achievement." We are linked with those who have preceded us as well as those who will follow us. "Forms of life come and go; but life in its essence, being in and of God, is without beginning or ending. We shall be spiritually intertwined and incarnated in those yet to come. The race, past, present, and future, is one organism. For it, as well as ourselves, we are thinking, willing, acting, and loving."

Henry is not impressed with dogmatic theology’s "Save your own soul"; he believes we should forget our "own soul" and devote ourselves to the "general soul": "The very essence of salvation is the death of selfishness. Humanity is bound in one bundle, therefore its kinships and relations are of primary interest." This does not mean collective salvation (there is no such thing); it means getting our own house in order and then reaching out to others to lift them as well. As Stephen Covey later taught us, we go from dependence to independence to interdependence. Henry continues:

The spiritual victories gained on this arena of life, and renewed . . . are grand in their scope and significance. We wrestle with principalities and powers, and that in the presence of a cloud of interested witnesses. The sorrows and trials of one are those of all, and the triumphs of each are a general inspiration. If the soul-currents do not flow from within outwards they become stagnant. Dogmatic theology which conceives of salvation as a "plan," has largely lost the consciousness of that "bond of the spirit" which held the primitive church in a loving fellowship. In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus taught that character and ministry, and not creed, formed the basis for the heavenly condition. No man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. The ever-widening circles of a personal consciousness of the presence of the divine image within, go out like waves to refresh the whole human family of God. (page 159)

Henry goes on to explain how Christ (though Henry could not have known about initial aims, since Whitehead came later) figures in all of this:

Christ conquered everything which is adverse to the race, and his victory was its triumph. He uncovered the "image of God" which had been buried by traditional rubbish and sensuous materialism. The conquest of the Head is the conquest of every member. Every brother in whom the Christly nature becomes incarnated gives an upward impulse along all the innumerable lines which radiate from him as a centre. He is a saviour who breaks the captive’s chains, takes off the shackles, opens prison doors, and proclaims freedom. The great human campaign will not be ended until every member of the race has been translated into a "son of God." He is already that except in manifestation. The unmanifested who have passed on before have a vicarious interest in us and in our achievements. Each needs a "God-speed" and a drawing upwards. (pages 161-2)

So I am indeed my brother’s keeper, helping to overcome "brotherly limitations" by "brotherly aid". And those who have gone before us are watching and cheering us on from the other side of the change we call death.

To be continued.

 

July 17, 2012

Interconnectedness (2)

Our latest copy of The Arena arrived last week, and we are eagerly pursuing our Henry’s newest article, titled "The Solidarity of the Race". We have already noted foreshadowings of process-relational thought, also called the philosophy of organism. Now Henry gets into a bit of the heredity vs. environment controversy: "It is supposed that heredity brings evil as well as good; but evil being negative, and having no God-like basis in the real, loses its vitality by the ‘third or fourth generation,’ while good goes on even to the thousandth."

He returns to the notion of the souls who have already made their transition cheering us on:

Missionary effort among the heathen will largely be barren so long as they are taught that there is an inseparable wall between them and their ancestral dead. Their views of the solidarity of interest between themselves and other generations, in many cases, are in advance of so-called Christian nations. A reasonable and practical spiritual religion, which would recognize the loving fellowship which binds them to their kindred who have gone before, would powerfully appeal to the "divine image" which is latent in every darkened heathen soul. God’s ultimate economy in humanity is to bring it together, and its lines of reconciliation converge in Him. The comprehensive love which unifies divinity and humanity is the great law which includes all other laws. (page 163)

Henry then turns to the problem of reconciling "the frictions of society". We aren’t going to improve things by "organized antagonisms". Whatever that meant in 1892, we are seeing it on the streets of our large cities today:

Classes, trades, and sections solidify, in order to oppose other classes, trades, and sections, and believe that they are conserving their best interests. It is forgotten that society is an organism, and that all its members cannot perform the same kind of service. The perfect human body is a unit; but the office of each member is unlike that of every other, and therein is completeness." (page 164)

Here is Henry’s view of what socialism ought to mean:

Socialism is a term which is used with a great variety of meaning. To some it signifies—at least as an ultimate accomplishment—a forcible division of all material wealth by law and coercion. To others it mainly comprises an increased assumption of productive agencies, business operations, and wealth distribution by the State, including a steady enlargement of governmental functions in the future. But true socialism must begin from within, and have its basis in unselfish character. The spirit of love and altruism must be cultivated and awakened until it becomes prevailing, and as rapidly as this takes place its legitimate fruits will be outwardly manifest. Any socialism which contains elements of jealousy, avarice, or coercion is a counterfeit. Any forcible interference with the natural laws of wealth-distribution would discourage thrift and industry, conduce to idleness, and stimulate avarice and anarchy. If through any ostensible legalized process men can get what they do not earn, production will be diminished and decay ensue. Many well-meaning philanthropists confine their attention almost entirely to material conditions, while the royal road to improvement is only through better moral conditions. That sin, intemperance, and improvidence bring forth their inevitable fruit of poverty, misery, and suffering, is not the fault of our social system. Causation lies deeper. The most helpful help which can be given is to teach men, through character re-enforcement, how to help themselves. It is not a division of "silver and gold" that is needed, for even if that were practicable it would at once diminish production, raise the price of all necessities, and chill industry and progress. The ills of society are directly attributable to the lack of unselfishness, love, and character education. (pages 164-66)

In other words, character is far more important than material wealth. Money is value-neutral, but as the Bible tells us, "the love of money is the root of all evil". Henry adds, "Great wealth pursued as an end is a curse to any member of the human family. There is no such soul-dwarfing, hell-inciting, suicidal occupation on earth as the selfish piling-up of surplus wealth as the object of life." He clarifies: "It is not the fact of the millions, for money is useful, but that their selfish possession will eventuate in a self-made hell in the human soul. Heaven and hell are not places, but conditions of character."

So what is going to get us to the shining city on a hill?

The millennium will consist of the reign of love and unselfishness. Improved economic theory and legislation are powerless to bring it into manifestation. Education in the ordinary sense is also utterly unable to bring about moral reform. Only as human consciousness is lifted into the spiritual zone and the "image of God" uncovered, will that harmony and wholeness be realized which is able to transform the earth into a paradise. (page 167)

Henry describes the divine life as "infinite ministration". He adds, "The higher life is not a refinement. It is the awakening of a new consciousness—the glow of the divine image within."

He concludes:

The perfect unity of racial mind exists only in the higher or the spiritual realm. Above the great equatorial line which separates it from that which is sensuous, peace and oneness are perfected. In the lower hemisphere is found the temporary, the seeming, the material, the delusive. It is the abode of shadows. The human ego abides with them until, through the discipline of penalty and "growing pains," it emerges into the higher realm of the One Mind. Here the grind and the friction of the baser zone are unknown. Here in the sunshine of the Kingdom of the Real, the upper branches of the great human tree blossom and produce their fruit. Here men are one because they are united in God. Humanity ultimates in the universal soul. Here is the final welding of eternal Fatherhood, sonship, and brotherhood. Every heartthrob of the Divine Father sends the vital current of love and unity coursing through the veins of the remotest member. . . . We are instructed to love our neighbor as ourselves, but the Christly standard is still higher. "Love your enemies." But there are no "enemies," for they have been transformed. As our eyes are opened the divine image shines through all human wrappings. (pages170-71)

 

July 24, 2012

Every Common Bush Afire with God

It is March 1892. Followers of Henry Wood (1834-1909) await the arrival of the latest issue of The Arena with the same enthusiasm that Sherlock Holmes fans used to await the arrival of the latest issue of The Strand. After all, they had no television or computer games.

This month’s article is titled "Revelation Through Nature". Henry later that year published an expanded version of it in a volume titled God’s Image in Man. He had previously published his first novel, Edward Burton, which incorporated ideas from this new "mental science". His flagship work, Ideal Suggestion Through Mental Photography, still lay in the future, as did the name New Thought.

Henry begins by quoting a bit of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, from "Aurora Leigh": "Earth’s crammed with heaven,/ And every common bush afire with God: / But only he who sees, takes off his shoes." I love the next line of that poem: "The rest sit around it and pick blackberries," but even without it, this is a great way for Henry to introduce his topic. As usual, he dives right in:

The Kingdom of Nature intermingles with the Kingdom of Spirit. Each is the complement of the other, and no arbitrary boundary exists between them. Truth is a rounded unit. Any distortion or suppression of it, however narrowly localized, involves general loss. The scientist, while studying forms and laws, may be color-blind to the presence of an infinite spiritual dominion. If he dissociates Nature from her vital relations, his accomplishment can be but partial. So far as he fails to recognize her as a Theophany, he misses her true significance. Likewise the theologian, who has eyes only for the supernatural, fails to find the vital supports and relations of his own chosen realm. Each thereby makes his own system incomplete and untruthful. Nature and spirit can no more be divorced than a stream and its fountain. The attempt to translate Religion into an arbitrary, supernatural realm, has robbed it of its spontaneity and vitality. To the world the supernatural is unnatural, and the unnatural is morbid. (pages 32-33)

He goes on to define religion as "natural unfoldment which brings into manifestation the divine type. The methods and transmutations of the natural world are a revelation of the Father. The spirit of Nature and the genius of the Gospel are in perfect accord because they have the same source." Pursuit of Nature eventually "brings us face to face with idealistic Realism".

Then Henry launches into a paragraph that is just as true today as when he wrote it:

Whatever is abnormal generates unwholesome pessimism, and clouds the human horizon. The mere developments of material science cannot lighten the load of human woe, nor satisfy the cravings of man’s spiritual being. The incubus of Artificialism is upon literature, society, and institutions. A debasing so-called realism in fiction and real life perpetuates its quality by what it feeds upon. Even education, in its ordinary sense, is powerless to raise men above the plane of shadows and illusions. When a false philosophy severs Nature from her vital relations, she becomes coldly mechanical and even adverse. Unrecognized as a process of divine evolution, she seems unfriendly and often vindictive. The friction, which, if rightly interpreted, would turn man back into a path of restoration becomes so galling that—with its purpose lost sight of—it materializes into features of Satanic malignity. The subtle refinements which allure us away from the natural type, end in a chaotic degeneration. . . . (pages 34-35)

He adds, "To be spiritual is to be in the highest degree natural, and it is an abuse of language to use the two terms in antithesis." Process thinkers may be familiar with David Ray Griffin’s book, Religion and Scientific Naturalism: Overcoming the Conflicts. Griffin states:

Insofar as science from the late seventeenth century through the twentieth century has been informed by the "modern scientific worldview," the relation between science and religion during this period has been characterized by increasing conflict. This has especially been the case since the latter half of the nineteenth century, when the first version of the modern scientific worldview, which combined a mechanistic doctrine of nature with a dualistic doctrine of the human being and a supernaturalistic doctrine of reality as a whole, was replaced by the second version, in which the dualism and supernaturalism were replaced by materialism and atheism (while the mechanistic doctrine of nature was retained). (page 22)

Griffin proposes replacing this distorted view of naturalism with "a naturalism in which the so-called laws of nature are really its most long-standing habits", an idea articulated by Charles Peirce and William James and developed by Alfred North Whitehead. Whitehead’s naturalism replaces sensationism/atheism/materialism with prehension/panentheism/panexperientialism. Surely our Henry would rejoice to see his day. Henry elaborates:

He who sees God in Nature, feels the ecstatic thrill of the infinite Presence. The visible universe becomes to him a repository of mystery, harmony, and sanctity. This wholesome delight will all be missed by intellectual accomplishment if it be linked to a feeble spiritual intuition. A childlike soul which has no knowledge of Botany, but which is in touch with the Infinite, will find more in a flower than he whose technical but unsanctified understanding can fully define its laws and mechanism. (pages 35-36)

And he waxes poetical in a fair way to keep up with Mrs. Browning:

As our spiritual vision gains in acuteness, the objective universe grows more beautiful. A changed consciousness brings a new revelation of outward harmony and unity. God is the essence of Nature. We see him in the unfolding of the leaves, in every flower and blade of grass, in the air, the clouds, the sunshine, the sea. All are gilded and beautified. Each is a letter in the great open volume of the universe. As the sea contains all its waves, so the One life embraces all lower forms of vitality. Such an interpretation is spiritual Theism, and has no alliance with Pantheism. Outward forms are beautiful in proportion as our consciousness grasps their plasticity to spiritual moulding. "All are but parts of one stupendous whole, /Whose body nature is, and God the soul." (page 36) [Our Henry is quoting from another poem, Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man.]

Henry continues:

As our physical organism is moulded and directed by the soul within, so is the whole creation permeated and vitalized by the Immanent God. When we study the rocks, plants, animals, man, if we delve deeply enough, we find the footprints of the unifying and energizing Presence. This is not merely poetic imagery, but scientific accuracy. . . . Nature is friendly. Her correspondences with man are so intimate and reciprocal that they demonstrate infinite wisdom, design, and unity. The barrenness and untruthfulness of Atheism are evident from their utter lack of power to arouse human responsiveness. (page 37)

Henry then observes:

Their different interpretations of Nature, measurably determine the character of governmental systems, institutions, and literatures. Her function in shaping civilization, and giving expression to Art, is vital. The response of the intelligence and imagination of races and nations to her appeal, has determined their relative positions as factors in the world’s progress. (page 38)

He goes on to note:

The Hebrew regarded Nature as the physical manifestation of the Deity, and looking behind external phenomena he found God. The poetry of Job brings to view some of the most vivid and sublime aspects of Nature—as a Theophany—that are found in any literature. The wonderful 104th Psalm is an inspired artistic picture of the universe, which interprets the profound intimacy with Nature which characterized the spirit of Hebrew psalmody.  (page 39)

We shall continue with our Henry’s article next week, after you have had a chance to go read Psalm 104. And feel free to enjoy the blackberries, which are, after all, a part of God’s creation. Just be sure to take your shoes off, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.

 

July 31, 2012

Every Common Bush Afire with God (2)

We have been perusing "Revelation Through Nature", an article by our Henry that was first published in The Arena in March 1892, then expanded and published as a chapter in God’s Image in Man later that year.

At that point in time, everybody was abuzz over Darwin’s work, which appeared to be a threat to religion. Henry was interested in the work of those whose views of evolution dovetailed with religion, and we shall discuss that at length in future newsletters. For now, let us stay with Henry as he checks out the Hebrew prophets’ view of nature:

To the glowing vision of the Hebrew prophets, Nature was but a transparent medium through which they had a near view of the Infinite. The fervid imagery of Isaiah finds expression: "Break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest and every tree therein." And again: "Sing, O heavens, and be joyful, oh earth;" thus making of all visible things a divine symphony. (pages 41-42)

But Henry wants to update the Old Testament theology:

A tinge of anthropomorphism colors all the sacred Hebrew literature. God was viewed more as infinite physical Force than as infinite Spirit and Love. With an abundance of poetic and artistic symbolism, there is wanting that broader consciousness of divine harmony, adjustment, and beauty, with which a truer concept thrills the soul. The Hebrew saw Nature as moved upon by God, rather than as the constant radiant expression of divine life and unfoldment. Human fellowship with it, and translated goodness through it, are later and truer interpretations than those made by the Old Testament poets and prophets. (page 42)

Now we’re headed toward both New Thought and process thought, with all creation as co-creation. "Human fellowship" is relational, and if we are all interconnected, we are interconnected with nature as well as with each other.

Henry complains about "modern materialistic views even less spiritual than those of the Hebrew":

We find them limited to the scientific study of phenomena on the one side, or the aesthetic pleasure of form and color on the other. The significance and vitality of Nature are thereby lost. She is grasped by the intellect rather than enshrined in the heart. Art as an intellectual expression is cold and mechanical. The true artist must feel Nature as instinct with divine life, whether or not he be fully conscious of such an inspiration. (pages 42-43)

Then Henry gives us a history lesson, painting a bleak picture of Nature as viewed during the Middle Ages, with their "rigid austerity and asceticism": "Life became barren because Nature was barred out. . . . Without the Immanent God, the visible universe was prosaic and stern, and its aspect would not have been improved even by the presence of a Deity who in Himself seemed unlovable." He quotes Emerson, and then adds, "Nature may always be trusted, for natural laws are divine methods." He quotes a bit of William Cullen Bryant’s "Thanatopsis", then adds a bit of a hymn by Eliza Scudder: "In Thee enfolded, gathered, comprehended,/ As holds the sea her waves — Thou hold’st us all."

Henry obviously keeps up with the times, telling us, "Modern Science insists that its phenomena are only explainable by the hypothesis of rhythm among attenuated atoms. No matter how compact a body may appear, chemistry and physics unite in affirming that its solidity is a mere illusion." He is pretty much ahead of both the Gestalt psychologists and the quantum physicists, which came after the turn of the century. He tells us:

The reason why we see so little of the spiritual world through Nature, is because our spiritual faculties are but in an infantile stage of development. Even in physical existences, the range of our sensuous and intellectual consciousness is so limited that, according to Modern Science, whole universes of beings may dwell among us or be passing through us, of whose presence we know nothing. . . . Such speculations in the realm of physical science have no value, unless, by the way of analogy, they may tend to quicken our apprehension of the spiritual verities, of which the material universe is but the letter upon the printed page. Oh, man, made in God’s image, and linked to and nourished by Nature, what glorious opening vistas are before you in the eons of eternal progress! (pages 49-51)

He then launches into a few yards of Emerson’s "The Mystic Song". Again, Henry urges us to "climb the mountainside, until our standpoint is above the leaden gloom of the lowland outlook". He tells us, "Nature is God translated into vitalized color, form, and beauty", then continues:

We try to conform Nature to our notional concept of what she should be, instead of attending her school like willing pupils. We aim to shape her into correspondence with our selfish wills, instead of yielding our hardness to her graceful mould. Let us put our hand in hers, and thus hasten to gain her wholesome ministrations. (page 53)

Finally, he concludes with a description of Jesus, the Christ: "In Him, that which had been buried in philosophies and hidden in institutions was brought to light, and interpreted to man upon his own plane. . . . In Him the divine pattern of humanity was filled to the full."

As Nature is a continuous divine manifestation, so Christianity is not limited to any age or dispensation. The historic Jesus was a temporary and material manifestation of the spiritual and eternal Christ. "That was the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." The typical man is spiritual and eternal because he is made in the Father’s image. The essential Saviour is that manifestation of the love of God toward man, which is both natural and eternal. Sonship is neither fleshly nor limited. Christ as the ideal man was a prophecy, a first fruit. "The last Adam was made a quickening Spirit." The human embodiment of the Word was a manifested love without perversion, and was Nature’s ultimate prototype. (page 54)

And there we have it: we are meant to emulate Jesus, our Wayshower and Elder Brother; it’s only natural.

 

August 7, 2012

"Nothing But" or "Something Else"?

It has been said that the world can be divided into two kinds of people: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don’t! At any rate, there are two common approaches to knowledge in general and psychology in particular. These appear in more than one formulation, and they are useful as a rough sort in beginning the effort to understand the individual in front of you in person or in book form. They are also useful in determining which kind of people a particular idea or group of ideas is likely to appeal to.

Heinz and Rowena Ansbacher, co-authors of The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler, describe two versions of this approach as a means of contrasting Adler with Sigmund Freud, with whom he had been associated but separated from in 1911. The first of these is "Objective versus Subjective Psychology", which difference "is to be found not in depth psychology alone. On the contrary, it exists to some extent in psychology as a whole and in every separate aspect of psychology." The Ansbachers took their label from Karl Jaspers, who defined it thus: "Objective corresponds to the psyche as seen from without, by the observer, and subjective corresponds to the psyche seen from within, by the subject himself." With apologies in advance for the reductionistic, nomothetic, primitive, barbaric, user-nasty word processing system on this web site, which is unable to take sophisticated columns and tables from WordPerfect and convert them, here is their table:

Objective (objectifying) psychology /  Subjective (subjectifying) psychology

Minimizing consciousness/  Full appreciation of consciousness

Psychology without a soul/  Psychology with a soul

The depleted self / The self as central

Peripheralism/ Centralism

Emphasis on finding general laws:  nomothetic laws/  Emphasis on laws applying to the  individual case: 

                                                                                                              idiographic laws

Atomism/  Holism

Molecular units of analysis/  Molar units of analysis

Analysis into elements/  Phenomenological description

Classification into definite categories/  Field theory

Static structuralism/  Functional relativism

Emphasis on learning/  Emphasis on perception

Learning by association and conditioning/  Learning by reorganization and insight

Behaviorism/  Gestalt psychology

Stimulus-response psychology/  Psychology emphasizing the variables

                                                                  intervening between stimulus and response

Mechanistic conception/  Organismic conception

Motivation by pushes/  Motivation by pulls

Explanation through objective causes;  reductionism/  Understanding through empathy

Genetic, historical approach/  Ahistorical approach

Determinism/   Immanent teleology

"Hard" determinism from external pressures alone/  "Soft" determinism from the inner nature of life

Psychology as a natural science/  Psychology as a mental science (Geisteswissenschaft) or social science

If you haven’t fallen asleep or navigated away by now, you may recall William James’s famous distinction between tough-minded and tender-minded temperaments. The Ansbachers remark, "The objective psychologist is apt to be tough-minded, the subjective psychologist tender-minded, and hence we can extend our list by adding James’s description of his antithesis."

The Tough-Minded/ The Tender-Minded

Empiricist (going by fact)/ Rationalist (going by principles)

Sensationalistic/ Intellectualistic

Materialistic/ Idealistic

Pessimistic/ Optimistic

Pluralistic (starting from parts, making of the whole a collection)/ Monistic (starting from wholes,

                                                                                                              making much of the unity of things)

Irreligious/ Religious

Hardheaded/ Feeling

Fatalist/ Free-willist

Sceptical/ Dogmatical

The Ansbachers drily observe, "James finds that the tough and the tender ‘have a low opinion of each other’". Even within the field of depth psychology or any other field of psychology, we can still see the divergence between the objective/tough-minded and the subjective/tender-minded. The Ansbachers of course classified Freud as objective/tough-minded and Adler as subjective/tender-minded.

Now before you conclude that I have gone off the deep end, having been driven to a psychotic break by this word processing system, notice to what extent James’s tender-minded criteria pretty much match New Thoughters in general. We can take that even further: go back to the newsletter for July 24 and notice how David Ray Griffin’s description of naturalismsam (sensationism/atheism/materialism) and naturalismppp (prehension/panentheism/panexperientialism) correspond with tough-minded in the former, and tender-minded in the latter. If this still isn’t all crystal clear, ponder this: Someone whom I would gladly credit if I only remembered who it was, pointed out that some people approach everything with a "nothing but" attitude. They want to reduce everything to "nothing but" physical senses, or "nothing but" the possibility of a negative outcome of events. They tend to put other people in strait-jackets, insisting that others conform to their beliefs and procedures. Other people approach everything with a "something else" attitude. They are open-minded, considering, as Adler used to say, "Of course, it could always be otherwise." There might be more to life than what we can discern with our physical senses, the unseen as well as the seen. They are inclined to cut others some slack, and to expect the best. So are you tough-minded, or tender-minded?

 

August 14, 2012

The Bible: Example of Evolutionary Unfoldment

Before our Henry wrote an entire book devoted to the Bible (Life More Abundant, 1905), he did a warmup article, "Biblical Revelation", in his first non-fiction New Thought book, God’s Image in Man. It is one of what he modestly calls his "simple lay studies". Let’s take a look at some of his remarks, before we begin next week a whole series of newsletters on a large and interesting subject to which Henry brought some surprising insights.

Henry was absolutely insistent and enthusiastic about the value of the Bible:

The Bible is a vast storehouse. It contains treasures of priceless value, unlimited variety, and general adaptability. Its supplies are suited to the requirements of every age, race, and condition. Its doors are always open; its riches to be had for the asking; and unlike material depositories, demands upon it do not diminish its resources. The Biblical framework, with its various partitions, shelves, and cases, has only a nominal value; but within it are contained royal treasures and gifts,—"gold, frankincense, and myrrh." (page 79)

He goes on to compare the Bible to a mine containing hidden treasure needing to be "extracted, reduced, and purified" by a "severe and searching process":

There are deep veins of truth imbedded in the strata of national history; and rich specimens of the ore of virtue, wisdom, love, and self-sacrifice, cropping out about the surface of individual character in patriarchs, kings, peasants, and slaves. The pure gold and silver of the Spirit are found in an endless variety of combinations and degrees of richness. (page 80)

"The Bible", Henry tells us, "is a library rather than a book":

But though it is precious, it is not a fetich which possesses any miraculous charm, nor a divinity to be worshipped, but rather a great consensus of experiences and object-lessons. It furnishes compass, chart, and steering directions for the voyage of life. It is not an end, but an important means to an end. (page 81)

We can look to the Bible for truth: "Truth does not originate in its pages, nor gain its authority from textual declarations, because it eternally existed. Truth is not true because the Bible says so; but the Bible says so because it was already, and is everlastingly, true." This "collective Inspired Library" is to teach us two principles of living, "love to God and love to man". Because the human mind " does not readily assimilate concentrated, abstract truth", the Bible presents it in "all possible combinations and conditions"; "its energy must be brought into contact with prosperity and adversity, knowledge and ignorance, nations and individuals".

To Henry, "the Bible is like a great mirror for every class and condition . . . . The Calvinist and Methodist, the Quaker and the Baptist, the Trinitarian and the Unitarian, all find an abundance of what they look for. It is ‘all things to all men,’ because, as in a mirror, all see their own reflection." He welcomes the nineteenth century "period of wonderful transition", because "the Bible has been burdened with a heavy load of literalism, superstition, and fetichism, which is now being swept away by what is known as the ‘Higher Criticism,’ and by a rational interpretation of that which constitutes inspiration."

He continues:

The demand that God-given reason should be held in abeyance when the Book was approached, has given it an unnatural and mechanical character. The Roman church withheld it from the masses lest they might misinterpret it, and ecclesiastical Protestantism has put supernatural restrictions upon it for much the same reason. There has been a feeling that the Book could not be trusted to stand alone, —upon its merits, —and that some kind of priestly explanation must accompany it. As if its inherent spiritual quality and power were not sufficiently plain to show its divine character, the theologies have been impelled to "steady the Ark of the Lord" by supernatural and superstitious props and defences. The Bible is abundantly able to take care of itself. The evidence of its being an embodiment of divine truth is inherent, rather than from without. It is not dependent upon the authenticity of its reputed writers; the historic genuineness of its ancient manuscripts; nor even upon the accuracy of its translations, —desirable as these all may be, —but in its lifelike portrayal of human character and its needs, and in its power to energize life and motive. The real test of all inspiration lies in the measure of its ability to inspire. (pages 84-5)

Henry criticizes literal inerrancy: "Carried to its logical conclusion it would make the Infinite to be the Author of self-evident imperfection. But such a logical result is hardly followed, because . . . it would obliterate all the individual freedom and personality of the writers . . . ." The Bible, says Henry, "is eminently a Book of common-sense; and the removal of its ecclesiastical, doctrinal, and denominational bandages greatly increases its transforming power in daily life. It is an armory filled with spiritual weapons. . . . an ever-available Invigorator and Restorer." He adds, "If the Scriptures were inerrant in detail, they could not be a progressive revelation, for there would be no room for progress; but because they do contain a fallible element, they are adapted to human needs."

He zooms in on the Ten Commandments: "The Decalogue was inscribed in man’s nature long before it was graven upon tablets of stone. The world has looked upon the Bible as a code of divine legislation, a great and comprehensive ‘Thou shalt not,’ but it is rather an emancipation proclamation."

He then turns to a new and fascinating topic, evolution:

The general law of evolution is so distinctly written upon all animate and inanimate creation, that its general acceptance, as a process, is becoming almost universal. . . . The Bible in itself is a notable example of evolutionary unfoldment. Starting on a low plane, there is a steady though slow development and refinement in the quality and standard of its delineations of human character, from Genesis to Revelation. The grand scope and purpose of the unrolled panorama of Sacred Literature, is the evolution of the ideal spiritual man from the animal selfhood. Here is evolution which is worthy of the name, because an infinite leap upward is taken, even though the latent force which makes it possible has been in a process of accumulation through the eons of the unfathomable past. God’s moral economy is unchangeable and perfect, and human conceptions are slowly approaching toward it, as shown by higher standards from age to age. If the Bible were purely a divine book, the Patriarchal ideals of character would be as pure and lofty as those of John and Paul. . . . The authors of Sacred Writ lived and wrote under all the limitations and weaknesses that are common to mankind, otherwise their experiences would contain no living lessons for us. (pages 90-92)

Henry doesn’t think much of the theory of Biblical infallibility: "The blind acceptance of the supposed necessary theory of Biblical infallibility has been an incubus upon the Church, and has largely shorn the Book of its living power to inspire. Such an assumption has made it appear at once unreasonable, unattractive, and unnatural." He adds, "The Scriptures are not a revelation, but are records of revelations; the treasure, in varying degrees of richness, being contained ‘in earthen vessels.’"

He acknowledges the source of the Bible:

As the Sacred Literature of the Jews makes up the canon of the Scriptures, the world is indebted to the Hebrew race for its Christian Bible. . . . It was written by men of the East, and is thoroughly Oriental in tone and coloring. . . . Its warm, picturesque allegory, parable, poetry, and hyperbole, are with difficulty transmuted, unimpaired, into cold English phraseology. . . . Other races and peoples besides the Hebrews have their records of revelations which contain divine elements; but the Bible is incomparably superior to them in quality and power. It is a graphic and earnest history of individuals, families, tribes, and races, in the process of spiritual evolution. Its production was in every respect natural, and involved no suspension of divine laws nor supernatural interposition. As its writers were moved by the Holy Ghost, so other writers and other men, then and now, are inspired in like manner when under similar spiritual condition and development. Any other theory presupposes a changeable and partial Deity, rather than He "who is without variableness or shadow of turning."

Henry has much more to say about the Bible in his later book devoted to the subject, and he has more to say about evolution. Stay tuned, and alert your friends with black belts in biology!

Lagniappe: Good news! Ron Hughes, proprietor of www.ppquimby.com , has just published the Philosopher’s little book, More Than Mortal? Contrasting Concepts and Enigmatic Evidence about Life After Death in a Kindle edition:

http://www.amazon.com/More-Than-Mortal-Contrasting-ebook/

If you really want a hard copy, we still have a few of the old spiral-bounds available for $15.00 postpaid, U.S. funds and  addresses only. (See our Contacts page for our address.)

 

August 21. 2012

Evolution as a Key

Last week we saw that our Henry was well-grounded in the Bible, having the greatest respect for it without worshiping it or forgetting that however divinely inspired it may be, it was set down by fallible human beings. He considered the Bible a great example of evolutionary unfoldment, and he had a great deal more to say about evolution, having written some half-dozen articles on the subject. True Confessions time: I think I have a defective science gene, because throughout my academic career I have studiously avoided dealing with hard sciences as much as possible. For months I have been wrestling with these essays on evolution, plus works by someone whom Henry greatly respected, determined not to let them go until they blessed me. They have indeed blessed me, but I am still treading water. Nevertheless, here we go on a new Henry Wood (1834-1909) adventure: his perspective on evolution as best I can present it.

"Evolution as a Key" is an article included in God’s Image in Man (1892). Henry says of "the law of evolution itself":

Until recently it has generally been regarded as unfriendly to religions, contrary to revelation, and as closely allied to materialism. Its unwilling reception by theological systems is an added example of the oft-repeated alarms which the Church has felt when confronted with unexpected scientific discoveries and advances. Religion—so called—has been so artificial, external, and unnatural, that it has been constantly apprehensive lest some new development would discredit or undermine its authority. It has been admitted that in the "natural" realm, truth could not antagonize other truth; but religion, having been placed upon a supernatural basis, has instinctively been suspicious of new light and investigation. But it is becoming evident that evolution and all well-founded science are not only friendly but absolutely confirmatory of whatever is vital and inherent in true religion. (pages 211-12)

Henry then outlines the parallel tracks— religion and science as totally independent studies— approach, which furnished an armistice "on the basis of mutual non-interference":

Science claimed to be "natural;" but by this term she really meant materialistic, while religion gloried in being "supernatural," which, translated, signified unnatural. For centuries past science has made continuous sallies and advances, while religion—as a dogmatic system—has correspondingly retreated. Stronghold after stronghold has fallen, until, to superficial observers, it looks almost as if the final storming of the last religious citadel was at hand. (pages 212-13)

Sound familiar? This is where process thought, especially the work of David Ray Griffin, comes into its own, with Henry anticipating it by quite a few decades. Despite appearances, Henry is still sanguine:

But these centuries of conflict have been only a long, false, feverish dream. We awake, rub our eyes, and find that in reality science, religion, and evolution are not only friendly, but are sisters of one family. They are bound by the strongest ties of consanguinity, and each finds its fulness and completion in the others. The past differences have been wholly due to masks that were put on, and held on, by human prejudice. The dream is ended, the masks removed, and a grand family reconciliation and reunion is taking place. (page 213)

Henry modestly undertakes "a brief outline of significant points" concerning evolution and how it is useful in "explaining and enforcing the principles of vital, spiritual religion". He begins with the definition of the term evolution as "the act of unrolling or unfolding", and maps over to biology:

In its widest sense it comprises the development and improvement, —in accord with natural law, — not only of organic life, but of all human institutions, religions, technologies, civilizations, ethics, an spirituality. Its universal trend permeates mind and matter, and pervades the entire illimitable cosmos. As an eternal law it involves progress from the lower to the higher; from the simpler to the more complex; from the less perfect to the more perfect; from the indeterminate to the determinate. . . . Evolution explains and shows the links and relations between innumerable facts that otherwise are disconnected and unintelligible. (page 214)

The Biblical creation in six days just isn’t going to fit:

An eternal unfolding process, while displaying infinite wisdom, order, foresight, and beneficence on the part of God, lacks the dramatic aspect which, though a relic of antique barbarism, has always gratified the human fancy. What a low conception of the Deity to view Him as an omnipotent Magician! How far more ennobling the idea of a Father who is orderly, lawful, and natural! How much higher infinite Reason than infinite Unreason! How much more God-like, a God manifesting Himself through the beauty and harmony of natural progression, than one who operates with the spasmodic vehemence of an infinite Jove! (pages 215-16)

Henry then demolishes "earthy materialism":

With a vainglorious desire to get along without God in the universe, it unconsciously pays homage to matter as a real power. In an economy of such wonderful adjustment, marvellous perfection, wise foresight, and means exactly adapted to ends, what more irrational than to credit all to blind, unconscious dust? It is only a seeming refinement of the idea to disguise it in the terms of a technical scientific phraseology. No, the grand old cosmos did not grow of itself, nor, on the other hand, did it spring forth at the dramatic waving of a divine wand. (page 216)

Just in case you were confused, Henry defined creation as "development, or as investing with new form, rather than as making something out of nothing. Astronomical research proves that creation is perpetual, and that there is an endless series of worlds and systems in all stages of development." No creation ex nihilo for our Henry!

Although "there appears to be a steady progression in the ascending scale of life, sentiency, and individuation", there are boundary lines, "and when each of these is gained there is a new birth, or a sudden assumption of unprecedented power and more complex organization." We then have in effect a new world.

Henry then goes into a  description of these various planes of development, leading up to the spiritual realm, which has "a well-defined boundary between this and the rational or intellectual plane next below." Once we get from animals to people,

rational life, instinct, as a governing force, is left behind, and reason assumes control. . . . Here is moral freedom and the conscious power of choice, which, though errant, marks a great advance beyond blind instinct with all its exactitude. . . . The next step leads to the spiritual plane, which is the crowning attainment of humanity. . . . The spiritual plane is the seat of the intuitive faculty, —the illuminated soul-centre, —and involves the enthronement of a spiritual, in the place of a material consciousness . . . . and thereby reveals the intrinsic oneness of God and man. (pages 220-21

Henry explains, "The religion of creed, dogma, ritual, and ordinance has its seat in the intellectual realm." He continues:

In the great everlasting cycle of creation the primal energy which God first in volved into the lowest, most general, and indeterminate conditions, is at length, through a series of grand steps, gathered, organized, individuated, and evolved into "sons of God," in which form the return is made to the "Father’s House." (pages 221-22)

We’ll continue next week.

 

August 28, 2012

Evolution as a Key (2)

We are looking at one of several articles on evolution written by our Henry. Primal energy has just evolved into "sons of God". We now turn to Christ’s place in the evolutionary philosophy, about which Henry has a lot to say:

Humanity should reach its perfect expression and model in the ideal man, who was also the "Son of God," filled with the divine fulness. All men are images of God; but Jesus was the only one in whom the likeness has been perfectly disclosed and manifested. On the intellectual plane perhaps he did not excel all other men, but his divine and human spiritual identity gave him a supreme altitude. The ideal of each plane lies not only in its own perfect completion, but also in a birth from above. Humanity, in Jesus the Christ, receives an ideal demonstration of its Godhood, which meets it on the spiritual plane. Here man in his upward evolvement towards his goal arrives at that point where he is a sharer and partaker in the Deific nature and prerogatives. The human blossoms into the divine, and thereby perfects its humanity. God comes into man, and supplements and rounds out the crudeness that adhered from former environment. (page 222)

He points out that this perfect Ideal comes only at "the completion of the spiritual course, rather than near its beginning", and quotes Professor LeConte concerning "the new factor on the highest evolutionary plane: "This factor is the conscious voluntary co-operation of the human spirit in the work of its own evolution." The quotation continues:

In organic evolution species are transformed by the environment. In human evolution character is transformed by its own ideal. Organic evolution is by necessary law; human evolution is by voluntary effort, i.e., by free law. Organic evolution is pushed outward and upward from behind and below; human evolution is drawn upward and forward from above and in front by the attractive force of ideals. Thus the ideal of organic evolution cannot appear until the end; while the attractive ideals of human evolution must come, whether only in the imagination or realized in the flesh, but must come somehow in the course. The most powerfully attractive ideal ever presented to the human mind, and therefore the most potent agent in the evolution of human character, is the Christ. . . . At a certain stage we catch glimpses of the absolute moral ideal. Then our gaze becomes fixed, and we are thenceforward drawn upward forever. The human race has already reached a point when the absolute ideal of character is attractive. This Divine ideal can never again be lost to humanity. (pages 223-4)

Henry then modestly attempts to use the evolutionary key to unlock "the mysteries of what is theologically known as the "Fall of Man". Adam and Eve are "the types used to designate that transitional step when the race crossed the boundary line which lies between Instinct and Reason. Pre-Adamic man was an animal." Instinct is great as far as it goes, interpreted as "the primal or Deific profusion shining through a medium which is involuntary and unreasoning, with an unchanging level of attainment." The Fall, then, was "a passage from irresponsibility to responsibility, from innocence to possible guilt, from blind animal passivity to the knowledge and choice of good or evil. In reality the transition from instinct to reason was a rise—a grand evolutionary step upward", even though "the quick mistakes of inexperienced reason" made it look like a fall.

In human evolution, says Henry, "the three great planes or stages of progress may be classed as instinct, reason, and intuition, or as animality, intellectuality, and spirituality. This is the only order in which they can come, and sooner or later every member of the human family must pass over the King’s highway which runs through them." He clarifies:

The intuitional realm brings again to light the precision of instinct, and glorifies it with the highest exercise of reason, and then transforms it with its own divine exaltation. It is here that the Father’s likeness is unveiled, and man touches and becomes one with God. The perfect accuracy of instinct is revived in intuition, but it is infinitely elevated by the illumination of intelligence and freedom. Animality, before intellectuality is reached, is ignorant, involuntary innocence; but spirituality is voluntary, achieved character. Virtue gains all its solid fibre and quality through the process of overcoming. (page 228)

But we must gain "a decisive victory over lower conditions", must outgrow them. "These conditions, when normal, have their legitimate place, but the time comes when they must be outgrown. . . . The law of progress is one and the same for the individual, the race, and the whole universe of God."

Animality, explains Henry, is distinguished by selfishness; the spiritual plane by unselfishness. "The ladder of human evolution stretches out between them."

Henry does not get into theodicy here, having dealt with it in his earlier chapter, " The Universality of Law". (See June 12, 19, and 26.) He does state here, "The evolutionary philosophy classifies things as higher and lower, rather than as good and evil. The lower is the soil in which the higher takes root. By this growth the higher gains a breadth and grandeur which could only come from adverse conditions outgrown and left behind." He adds, "Science, evolution, and true religion interpret, indorse, and supplement each other, and are all indispensable in forming the great sphere of Truth. Each must contribute its part to produce a grand diapason of harmony." Henry was evidently quite the music lover.

He winds up his article:

Evolution is the long-sought clew that has been needed to unify and interpret all phenomena. Through its aid, discordant and misplaced theories, philosophies, and institutions find their true place, and are brought into accord. It translates all history, and brings orderly progression out of spasmodic confusion. It solves problems in biology and anthropology, and explains and anticipates progression in governmental systems, morals, sociology, and religion. It has to do with spirit as well as matter; divinity as well as humanity. It silences all pessimistic philosophy; and high upon the folds of its irresistible banner is inscribed the watchword — Excelsior. However good and perfect the to-day, it bids men took for a better to-morrow. (pages 230-1)

Did someone say "systems"?! Henry is on a roll; let’s let him go on:

Evolution is progression in life and not in matter. All the great steps are different qualities of attained internal character. Matter never progresses; which proves that it is only a form of expression. The identical physical material appears and re-appears in higher and lower forms of life, therefore it has no character of its own. The atoms which form the body of a saint are the same that have made up the body of a plant or animal. The progression is in immaterial reality. It is important that this great distinction be preserved, for thereby the sophistry of materialism is exposed. Evolution is the progression of ascending inherent qualities of life; and these incidentally make use of sensuous and temporary translations. Every kind of life grows, but shapes of outward manifestation disintegrate. For the individual and the race, life is becoming broader, richer, diviner; and this law of progress is eternal. ( page 232)

Not bad for 1892. Henry is trembling on the brink of process thought.

 

September 4, 2012

A Second Henry to the Fight

It is 1893. Our Henry asks his coachman to hitch the mare to the gig and bring it around to the porte-cochere. He is headed into Boston to hear the first of the series of Lowell lectures given by Henry Drummond, the famous Scottish evangelist and professor of natural science at the Free Church College in Glasgow.

Of course, I am making this up. Perhaps Margaret went with him, and they took the landau with the coachman on the box. Or perhaps they went by horse-drawn brougham, courtesy of the Checker Taxicab Company, like Alfred North Whitehead arriving to speak at the Saturday Club in 1943 during gasoline rationing. (Interestingly enough, Whitehead, too, gave the Lowell lectures, in 1925, later published as Science and the Modern World). But you can bet your bonnet that Henry would have found a way to get there, being a great Drummond fan already. These Lowell lectures were published in 1894 under the title, The Ascent of Man, the sequel to Drummond’s Natural Law in the Spiritual World (given as a series of addresses to artisan audiences in Glasgow and later published in 1883); and they had more than their share of critics. Drummond was teaching evolution by divine design. Evangelicals considered him too nontraditional, and scientists considered him too religious. Guess who enthusiastically supported him and outlined the maturity in Drummond’s views in the years between the two books? But I am getting ahead of myself.

Drummond (Scottish Henry?) was born in 1851 and died in 1897. His short life was uniquely devoted to his two passions: evangelism and natural science. "A man’s gift maketh way for him" (Prov. 18:16) certainly applied to Drummond. He was an ordained minister of the Free Church of Scotland but preferred to function as if he were a layman, addressing missionary students on weekends and teaching geology and evolution at the college during the week. He felt that being a spiritual guide and counselor to people was far more important than being a clergyman lecturing from the pulpit, and he spent two years traveling as assistant to American evangelist Dwight L. Moody. He also traveled to Africa and wrote a book about his adventures there. He thus managed to combine his two passions right when Darwin’s research had caught everyone’s interest.

At that time, religion and science were at loggerheads, seemingly irreconcilable. Drummond was one of the first, if not the first, to show that they are parts of the same whole. He did this not by beginning with theology and getting stuck, but by building up to religion from the bottom, from the lowest level of organic life. Later, Whitehead would show that even "nature lifeless" was really "nature alive", if one dug down far enough. Whitehead would have just been starting college at that time; I wonder whether he ever went up to Scotland to hear Drummond lecture? But I gather from Bruce Lipton (The Biology of Belief)that black-belt cell biologists have to be dragged kicking and screaming into quantum physics, so maybe that works both ways.

By all accounts, Drummond was an exceptionally kind, just plain sweet person, valued as a confidant and respected as a scientist, much loved. In his obituary, he is described as "Christlike". From his pictures, we know that he had beautiful curls of the sort that makes a mother weep when they are first cut off. He spoke with great clarity and simplicity to children and adults alike, and although he never married, he had godchildren. He is best known for his talk on I Cor. 13, "The Greatest Thing in the World", which was originally extemporized on the spot for Moody and later published.

It would probably be an overstatement to consider Drummond a New Thoughter, especially since that term did not appear until he was retired from speaking, owing to his illness. He was, however, broadminded, liberal—in the traditional sense—in his beliefs, possibly with universalist leanings. He certainly should be considered an important influence on the young New Thought movement, especially when we see what our Henry had to say about him, which we shall do next week. Until then, here are links to two biographical pieces about Scottish Henry.

http://henrydrummond.wwwhubs.com/memorial.htm

http://www.christianity.com/ChurchHistory/11630651/

And here are links to Drummond’s online books (at the bottom of the page):

http://henrydrummond.wwwhubs.com/

 

September 11, 2012

Life From Varying Viewpoints

A decade or more ago, the Philosopher and I were team-teaching a philosophy course, using Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as a text. We had come to the passage, "I have found that the key to the ninety-nine is the one" (page 397). Playing a hunch, I asked the class whether anyone knew what that alluded to. Nobody did. If you don’t know, either, check Matthew 18:12.

Similarly, it has occurred to me that not everyone might be able to identify the source of last week’s "A Second Henry to the Fight". You can start with I Cor. 15: 45-47, but it really comes from the hymn, "Praise to the Holiest in the Height", by Cardinal Newman: "O loving wisdom of our God! When all was sin and shame, A second Adam to the fight/ And to the rescue came."

But let’s return to our story. Henry Wood (1834-1909) was obviously very interested in evolution, which was a hot topic in his day. He wrote a number of articles on the subject and cited a handful of experts on the subject. The last of these articles was included in The New Old Healing (1908) and titled "Life From Varying Viewpoints". "Life", says our Henry,

is the most primal and supreme reality which can engage our thought. Its origin, order of manifestation and expressive phenomena ever have had and ever will have an absorbing interest. Its fundamental principles form the romance of science, the fascination of philosophy, the charm of mysticism, and are involved in the basic factors of religion. (page 56)

He adds, "The greatest truths are the least technical, and are not entirely shut up to scholastic and conventional lines of research", and continues, "There is a human faculty capable of practical development whereby truth may be discerned and even felt in degree, which is not entirely dependent upon logical processes, and these two complementary lines of research may be profitably blended in mutual exercise." His main question is, "What is the meaning of the larger evolution?" Is it an endless course with a universal curriculum pushing toward "One far-off divine event/ To which the whole creation moves"? (He does not—as usual—identify the source of the quotation, which comes from the end of Tennyson’s "In Memoriam": "That God, which ever lives and loves, One God, one law, one element, And one far-off divine event, To which the whole creation moves.") Henry is setting the stage for a sweeping metaphysical discussion on a subject that he clearly considers important: "divine ultimates":

We believe in philosophical monism—oneness. Matter is the cruder vibration or outer side of universal life and mind. Its order is therefore secondary and resultant and in grade lower. Life and mind form the positive, causative and significant part of the one, or more correctly, they are intrinsically the one reality—the whole. The material side is negative, passive, expressive and external. We make this statement at the outset to indicate that neither of the first-named views are in accord with those which will here receive approval.
But in large degree language must be relative and accommodate itself to appearances. Materialism is not entirely a matter of mistaken, abstract belief but rather a spiritual inversion. It consists in counting the lower for the higher. In the succeeding brief study of the views of conventional science it will be necessary to use the language of dualism, which with the foregoing explanation will probably not be misunderstood.
Philosophers and scientists of all ages have speculated upon the problem of mind and matter and their varying viewpoints have led them into the two general classes before noted. There are now many side-lights which have not been available in the past. Knowledge increases apace and the unprecedented achievements of the recent time are perhaps but the vestibule of what the century just begun has in store for human thought. Regarding the genesis of things the old straw of materialistic speculation has been well threshed over and efforts to find a rational suppositious beginning, in the nature of the clay which composes their outward forms have been numerous but inconclusive and unsatisfactory. (pages 58-59)

Henry believes that most of us are past any "general belief that the creative process was sudden and dramatic, or something out of nothing." However, "there have been persistent efforts to rationalize the process of building a world, or rather trying to show how it built itself." At this point, Whitehead is still in England, with all his work in process thought still ahead of him. Meanwhile, Henry is sticking solidly to qualitative monism (idealism), which process thought will morph into panexperientialism. (For more on qualitative vs. quantitative monism, see February 21, 2012.)

Henry next notes that while we can appreciate what science has given to the world, nonetheless, "it has been so shy of what it terms the supernatural—but more correctly the spiritual—that it has made every effort to find some hypothesis which will explain all phenomena without the agency of a great universal Creative Spirit." (And they’re still trying!)

Something inherent in the nature of matter itself must be found which would have ever-growing potency. . . . such a view shuts out of recognition all exercise of the grandest faculty and perception of the human soul. The impression has prevailed that definable law was limited to the physical or material realm, and that spiritual principles and forces were disconnected from, or at least beyond the proper scope of scientific research. (page 60)

Henry wants to explore whether "such specialization, and the seeming disrespect for any distinctive research in things usually classed as religious" has any ongoing significant contribution. Before generalization, he sets out to "review briefly the prevailing conclusions of biological and evolutionary science". He therefore traces the history of research on biogenesis. "A more general consensus of scientific opinion postulates the genesis of life in chemical forces." But this still involves an airy wave of the hand instead of tight evidence:

"Sprang easily into existence," is an easy way of describing the creative process amid the romantic conditions outlined, and it shows that science which ostensibly takes nothing for granted, does find itself encompassed with limitations which only imagination or faith can remove. But even these supposedly sentimental qualities can be tolerated by scientists in preference to any recognition of a universal creative Intelligence. Matter must evolve itself and thus the practical atheism of conventional science is plainly set forth." (pages 64-65)

Henry then describes the "accepted biology" teaching that all life starts from protoplasm:

It is supposed to be capable under certain conditions of manifesting vital phenomena, as, spontaneous motion, sensation, assimilation, and to be the physical basis of the life of all plants and animals. But is anything spontaneous in nature? Whether the genesis of life be chemical or spiritual, spontaneity seems inapplicable. The term has only a relative meaning as opposed to designed or provided for. As a comparative word it might have some exercise when applied to human actions but one would hardly expect to find it in exact science. Every effect must have a prior cause and that cause, one still further back, and so on through an endless chain of causation. Does this leave room for anything to happen which properly can be called spontaneous? It is claimed that one protoplasmic cell introduced upon earth through development might originate the protozoa, fishes, reptiles, marsupialia, mammals, the higher apes and finally man. But could it be unless these were all involved—inwrapped and potential—in that original cell? (page 66)

At this point, our Henry gets ahead of himself and mentions Henry Drummond (1851-1897), "Scottish Henry", in passing:

Drummond says that it has been a great mistake to interpret Nature from the standpoint of the atom. This characterized Darwinism and all the earlier theories of modern evolution. Mind has been interpreted merely as a property of matter. The cart was put before the horse, the positive element in evolution being regarded only as the negative. While no one should disparage the great value of the Darwinian researches, it has been too common to disregard the great progress made since that time in the removal of limitations. The secondary or phenomenal side has usurped nearly all the attention thus inverting the natural order. (page 66)

But a few pages farther on, Drummond is ready and waiting in the wings, as we shall see next week.

 

September 18, 2012

Life From Varying Viewpoints (2)

Our Henry has been taking up "the question of the mystery and meaning of life", examining the metaphysical question, "What is the meaning of the larger evolution?" He has prepared us with a description of idealism, in contrast to the prevalent materialism or dualism. He intends to get us to the perspective of evolution "pushing us forward toward" Tennyson’s "One far-off divine event/ To which the whole creation moves". Although he mentions and even quotes a number of other experts in the field, he has just tipped his hand by revealing to whom he is indebted for the biggest breakthrough to date in our understanding of just how a proper study of evolution can lead us back to God, not away from him, as so many scientists have concluded. But before he officially introduces Henry Drummond (1851-1897), he has a few more pages of comments:

Involution must precede and furnish the basis for evolution. Nothing can be unrolled that is not already contained within, for evolution is only the visibility of a previously invisible reality. There is a biblical aphorism which in scientific terms proclaims the sequential order. "The Word was made flesh" [John 1:14]. The real essence of things flows into manifested form and proportion. . . . The beech-life never makes a mistake by erecting a maple body. (pages 66-67)

Henry goes on to describe "the evolutionary philosophy of the past", which has "mainly dealt with matter, with the implication that it has provided for its own advancement. It has concerned itself with that side of things which is secondary and passive instead of that which is dynamic and positive." Although Spencer, Wallace, "and more notably Drummond and Le Conte have done much to lift, socialize, moralize and spiritualize the evolutionary philosophy of the present time, thereby universalizing its scope, yet the emphasis, in the eyes of a vast majority of ordinary observers remains upon its external and material aspect." But these "ordinary observers" are missing the point: "The advance is not in the inert stuff, which is used over and over by various orders of life, but in that which moulds and commands it. This is no less true in the lower orders than in man." He continues:

No matter how carefully and systematically science may have mapped out the material steps in physical evolution, they are yet but the index which points to the dynamic reality within. Life and soul, and not matter and death, are the primal cosmic realities. Mind and spirit dominate all else. (Page 68)

He defines evolution as "only a name for the processes of a grand and all-comprehensive educational movement." Behind the germ theory, he asks, is there not "a more subtle, general law, back of and prior to such manifestation? . . . Is not the primal germ an unseen spiritual force rather than an animated physical speck, whether floating in the atmosphere or elsewhere?" He points out, "The definition and scope of the term, natural law has been wonderfully broadened during the last two or three decades, for it is found to be the universal key which interprets the intimate correspondence and relation between the noumenal and the phenomenal." He quotes the Duke of Argyll concerning "the boundless extent of our ignorance of the natural laws" ; Wordsworth to help us "understand Nature in the largest sense, — as including all that is"; and he himself remarks:

Science has charged religion with dogmatism, and this is true of that which has been termed religion, but how about science itself? When it is brought face to face with ultimate questions, its methods and tests become unreliable, and it is forced to involve feeling, sentiment, and even faith before it can essay to bridge the chasms which invariably lie across the pathway of life. (page 70)

Henry then quotes Spencer and Mitchell. He notes , "The external relation is placed as superior and causative to that which is within. Does it not seem more reasonable to postulate intelligence as the action of mind or soul than of chemical energy?" He adds:

The imaginary opposition between religion and science will not be reconciled until each discovers that the other is a part of itself and that separation means incompletion. A mountain is the same mountain though seen by different observers on varying sides. The dissimilarity of personal lenses makes objective unlikeness. ["All perception is subjective, or whose retinas would you use?"] The fundamental validity of idealism is ever cropping out when there is any quest for the ultimate and absolute. The range of intellectual and sensuous measurement is very limited but that of feeling and intuition, when developed, reaches toward more infinite proportions. Spencer calls the Power which the universe manifests "utterly inscrutable." Such an estimate is true, as measured by the instruments of logic, but in the light of spiritual perception may not the soul have a veritable sample of that Power in itself and thereby interpret somewhat of its quality and purpose?" (page 72)

And now (drumroll, please!):

The general evolution of thought toward higher conditions and the recognition of the beneficence as well as the universality of natural law, have been wonderfully rapid during the recent past. As indexed in a single individual, the example of that grand character, Henry Drummond, is very significant. In his "Natural Law in the Spiritual World," published in 1886 [first edition was 1883], his effort to extend the recognition of the divine orderly method aroused a great interest because it was the first systematic treatise which directly taught such a doctrine. For long ages that which had been known as the supernatural domain had been supposed to be subject to a divine will which is capricious, if not disorderly. But although he advocated the greatly widened scope of natural law its unvarying beneficence was yet a hidden mystery. There seemed to be laws of "Degeneration," "Death," "Mortification," and "Parasitism." These reactionary processes which are negative and temporary—eddies in the great stream of advancing life—had the appearance of eternal principles instead of limited phenomenal negations. Even though in orderly exercise, two world-wide opposing forces were facing each other in unending contest. The work caused a profound sensation and was admittedly an epoch-making book. But it told of a severity and an implied fatality in the moral order, which was far from idealistic. It was not the final word of one who was a great thinker, and at heart, a pronounced optimist. (pages 73-74)

At this point, we must note, our Henry’s arithmetic seems a bit off. He continues, "Twelve years passed". But Drummond delivered the Lowell lectures in 1893 and published them as The Ascent of Man in 1894. The first book, as noted, was published in 1883. Possibly, our Henry did not discover the books until later (so much for our lovely horse-drawn fantasy about his arriving at the lectures!). But back to our story:

The same graphic pen produced another great work, entitled, "The Ascent of Man." Pessimism and negation, as lawful realities, had been left behind. The beneficence as well as the universality of law, like the morning sun, had arisen, and its light and truth were found to be fortified by analogy in all directions. The law of death had been discovered to be but a negative aspect of the veritable law of life. The law of degeneration had been interpreted as a reactionary educational experience, an awakened friction which would be active only until its purpose in turning men back from destruction was accomplished. [Could Scottish Henry possibly have seen our Henry’s sixteenth Suggestion, "Pain is Friendly"? Ideal Suggestion was hot off the presses in Boston in 1893, the year of the Lowell Lectures.] With the growing recognition of the solidarity of the race, the struggle for life, often phrased as "the survival of the fittest," was found to include "the struggle for the life of others." There was a transition from the law of "self-ism," to "other-ism," altruism, love. The opposites of divine realities were found to be like shadows in the positive and universal law of light. Nature, in all her voices and meanings, when fully deciphered, was no longer stern or even unmoral, but with her numberless processes was making for a coming morality and will never be content until it is rendered universally manifest in perfected man. (page 74)

Henry continues his summary of Drummond’s work:

Could there be a more convincing lesson in the higher evolution than that made in the mind of Henry Drummond during the twelve years which passed between his two notable books? He was seeking truth for its own sake and new and rich revelation came. What took place in him was going on in varying degree in thousands of other minds during and since the same period. New revelations and advances, though often seeming to introduce themselves to the world through single minds, are found by closer observation to come almost simultaneously to classes of souls of like development as soon as the evolutionary time is ripe. [The Hundredth Monkey?] The seers and deeper discerners of truth are, in greater degree, racial representatives and channels than personal discoverers. Truth has craved expression and in its search for fitting voices has found those which are most available. Henry Drummond was not only a scientist but a seer. Religion and evolution were but two different aspects of the same great cosmic Reality, and he could occupy either standpoint and behold a clear outlook. His later work bristles with glowing points of which we may note a few samples. (page 75)

But not till next week.

 

September 25, 2012

Life From Varying Viewpoints (3)

We now know that Henry Wood (1834-1909) was a great admirer of Henry Drummond (1851-1897), particularly of his two sets of lectures on evolution, later published as Natural Law in the Spiritual World (1883) and The Ascent of Man (1894). Having recently read both of them and found myself taking copious notes despite treading water most of the time, I am interested to see what "glowing points" our Henry chooses to single out from The Ascent of Man. Near the end of it, Scottish Henry writes:

[This is] a spiritual, not a material universe. Evolution is Advolution; better, it is Revelation—the phenomenal expression of the Divine, the progressive realization of the Ideal, the ascent of Love. . . . Evolution has ushered a new hope into the world. The supreme message of Science to this age is that all Nature is on the side of the man who tries to rise. . . . An ascending energy is in the universe, and the whole moves on with one mighty idea and anticipation. . . . Men begin to see an undeviating ethical purpose in this material world, a tide, that from eternity has never turned, making for perfectness. (pages 339-341)

Our Henry then continues, in The New Old Healing:

Are we not prepared to get the grander view of the genesis of life? May we not look through and beyond the protoplasmic cell and the material germ to the divine spiritual involution? Can we not infer that the Universal Creative Life everywhere contains the potential spiritual germ of every possible form of living organism? Wherever in the cosmic domain in the process of world-building the suitable conditions have become adapted to any form of life, the overshadowing Spirit descends into matter and finds orderly expression. . . . Matter is the all-inclusive matrix for the impress of spirit and generation is comprehensive and eternal. . . . There is a material germ but it is secondary, for the spiritual germ is its genesis. Potential life is everywhere waiting to spring into manifestation, not spontaneously or hap-hazard, but by a law which knows no exception or limit. (pages 76-77)

He concludes:

There are two undisputed propositions which make up the very apex of evolution and religion. God is Love, and God is omnipresent. Then Love is everywhere. Think for a moment what this implies. Start out upon a journey of exploration. Use the pinions of the imagination beside which light and electricity are slow by comparison. Halt for a moment at the sun. There is Love. Pass on, leaving the solar system behind and make a straight path for some of those grander suns which we call fixed stars. Pause for an instant at the glorious blazing Sirius. Love is there. On, on... Your path has not for a moment been out of the atmosphere of Love. (pages 77-78)

The next chapter is titled "Cells in Association", and Henry segues:

The analysis of a physical organism finally ends in the individual infinitesimal cell. This minute intelligent unit, though in a sense complete in itself, is distinguished for its associative instinct. It forms groups and federations, and gracefully takes its fitting place in the larger life which dominates it. The "monad" of Leibnitz was an earlier philosophical anticipation of the cellular hypothesis of modern science. The striking inference which we get from this fundamental truth is, that we live in a social universe. Nothing is separate or unrelated. (pages 78-79)

What amazes me is that this is exactly where Whitehead picks up. The Philosopher and I have recently been rereading descriptions by Lucien Price and Victor Lowe of Whitehead’s transition from mathematician to philosopher, and our Henry is already at this point in 1908. Process thought is variously known as "the philosophy of organism" (Whitehead’s term) and "process-relational philosophy". We are all interconnected, and we are all interdependent, even though we must first become fully independent in order to make the greatest contribution to the team.

Both Henrys are seeing evolution as the teleological argument for the existence of God. Our Henry, following the lead of Scottish Henry, builds from the bottom up instead of from the top down, as religion has always done. Looks as if I’ll have to try to give a brief outline of what Drummond covers in his two great books that impressed our Henry so much. I’ll begin next week.

 

October 2, 2012

Natural Law in the Spiritual World

The nineteenth century was not much into aids for the reader or clear and sharp typefaces. Reading the old literature is at best a challenge, and as I have said, this is way out of my field. But Henry Drummond’s work is something of a Missing Link between the old enemies, science and religion; and it turns out that they are not enemies at all. So get your pith helmet and machete, and join me in the forest primeval. . . .

Natural Law in the Spiritual World was first delivered as a series of lectures and later—with considerable prodding on the part of Drummond’s friends—edited into a book. Drummond begins with a lengthy Preface, and to get us going, I shall let him speak for himself:

No class of works is received with more suspicion, I had almost said derision, than those which deal with Science and Religion. Science is tired of reconciliations between two things which never should have been contrasted; Religion is offended by the patronage of an ally which it professes not to need; and the critics have rightly discovered that, in most cases where Science is either pitted against Religion or fused with it, there is some fatal misconception to begin with as to the scope and province of either. But although no initial protest, probably, will save this work from the unhappy reputation of its class, the thoughtful mind will perceive that the fact of its subject-matter being Law—a property peculiar neither to Science nor to Religion—at once places it on a somewhat different footing. (page v)

Here is the problem that he has set for himself:

Is there not reason to believe that many of the Laws of the Spiritual World, hitherto regarded as occupying an entirely separate province, are simply the Laws of the Natural World? Can we identify the Natural Laws, or any one of them, in the Spiritual sphere? That vague lines everywhere run through the Spiritual World is already beginning to be recognised. Is it possible to link them with those great lines running through the visible universe which we call the Natural Laws, or are they fundamentally distinct? In a word, is the Supernatural natural or unnatural? (page vi)

Drummond for "some years" had the privilege of addressing regularly "two very different audiences on two very different themes. On week days I have lectured to a class of students on the Natural Sciences, and on Sundays to an audience consisting for the most part of working men on subjects of a moral and religious character." To do this, he concluded, "I must keep the two departments entirely by themselves. They lay at opposite poles of thought; and for a time I succeeded in keeping the Science and the Religion shut off from one another in two separate compartments of my mind." So did a lot of other people. He continues:

Gradually the wall of partition showed symptoms of giving way. The two fountains of knowledge also slowly began to overflow, and finally their waters met and mingled. The great change was in the compartment which held the Religion. It was not that the well there was dried; still less that the fermenting waters were washed away by the flood of Science. The actual contents remained the same. But the crystals of former doctrine were dissolved; and as they precipitated themselves once more in definite forms, I observed that the Crystalline System was changed. New channels also for outward expression opened, and some of the old closed up; and I found the truth running out to my audience on the Sundays by the weekday outlets. In other words, the subject-matter Religion had taken on the method of expression of Science, and I discovered myself enunciating Spiritual Law in the exact terms of Biology and Physics. (page vii)

This meant "essentially the introduction of Natural Law into the Spiritual World. . . . Law has a still grander function to discharge towards Religion than Parable." He explains:

The function of Parable in religion is to exhibit "form by form." Law undertakes the profounder task of comparing "line by line." Thus Natural Phenomena serve mainly an illustrative function in Religion. Natural Law, on the other hand, could it be traced in the Spiritual World, would have an important scientific value—it would offer Religion a new credential. The effect of the introduction of Law among the scattered Phenomena of Nature has simply been to make Science, to transform knowledge into eternal truth. The same crystallising touch is needed in Religion. Can it be said that the Phenomena of the Spiritual World are other than scattered? Can we shut our eyes to the fact that the religious opinions of mankind are in a state of flux? And when we regard the uncertainty of current beliefs, the war of creeds, the havoc of inevitable as well as of idle doubt, the reluctant abandonment of early faith by those who would cherish it longer if they could, is it not plain that the one thing thinking men are waiting for is the introduction of Law among the Phenomena of the Spiritual World? When that comes we shall offer to such men a truly scientific theology. And the Reign of Law will transform the whole Spiritual World as it has already transformed the Natural World. (page ix)

This was a big deal for Drummond, to put it mildly:

My Spiritual World before was a chaos of facts; my Theology, a Pythagorean system trying to make the best of Phenomena apart from the idea of Law. I make no charge against Theology in general. I speak of my own. And I say that I saw it to be in many essential respects centuries behind every department of Science I knew. It was the one region still unpossessed by Law. I saw then why men of Science distrust Theology; why those who have learned to look upon Law as Authority grow cold to it—it was the Great Exception. (page x)

But although these papers are unsystematic in their arrangement, they are not "merely isolated reading in Religion pointed by casual scientific truths." Rather, "they are organically connected by a single principle":

The solution of this great question of conciliation, if one may still refer to a problem so gratuitous, must be general rather than particular. The basis in a common principle—the Continuity of Law—can alone save specific applications form ranking as mere coincidences, or exempt them from the reproach of being a hybrid between two things which must be related by the deepest affinities or remain for ever separate. (pages xii-xiii)

Drummond’s desire in selecting these papers "partly from manuscript, and partly from articles already published" was "to exhibit the application of the principle in various directions". Some are "designed with a directly practical and popular bearing, others being more expository, and slightly apologetic in tone". All are "more or less practical in their aim; so that to the merely philosophical reader there is little to be offered except—and that only with the greatest diffidence—the Introductory chapter". Here he has "briefly stated the case for Natural Law in the Spiritual World". But after the Introduction,

except in the setting, there is nothing new. . . . When I began to follow out these lines, I had no idea where they would lead me. I was prepared, nevertheless, at least for the time, to be loyal to the method throughout, and share with Nature whatever consequences might ensue. But in almost every case, after stating what appeared to be the truth in words gathered directly from the lips of Nature, I was sooner or later startled by a certain similarity in the general idea to something I had heard before, and this often developed in a moment, and when I was least expecting it, into recognition of some familiar article of faith. I was not watching for this result. I did not begin by tabulating the doctrines, as I did the Laws of Nature, and then proceed with the attempt to pair them. The majority of them seemed at first too far removed from the natural world even to suggest this. Still less did I begin with doctrines and work downwards to find their relations in the natural sphere. It was the opposite process entirely. I ran up the Natural Law as far as it would go, and the appropriate doctrine seldom even loomed in sight till I had reached the top. Then it burst into view in a single moment. (pages xvi-xvii)

He elaborates on this a bit:

Theology is searching on every hand for another echo of the Voice of which Revelation also is the echo, that out of the mouths of two witnesses its truths should be established. That other echo can only come from Nature. Hitherto its voice has been muffled. But now that Science has made the world around articulate, it speaks to Religion with a twofold purpose. In the first place it offers to corroborate Theology, in the second to purify it. (page xviii)

He adds, "Science, therefore, may yet have to be called upon to arbitrate at some points between conflicting creeds. . . . What I would desire especially is a thoughtful consideration of the method." He notes, "The younger and abler minds of this age find the most serious difficulty in accepting or retaining the ordinary forms of belief. Especially is this true of those whose culture is scientific."

It is quite erroneous to suppose that science ever overthrows Faith, if by that is implied that any natural truth can oppose successfully any single spiritual truth. Science cannot overthrow Faith, but it shakes it. Its own doctrines, grounded in Nature, are so certain, that the truths of Religion, resting to most men on Authority, are felt to be strangely insecure. The difficulty, therefore, which men of Science feel about Religion is real and inevitable, and in so far as Doubt is a conscientious tribute to the inviolability of Nature it is entitled to respect. (pages xx-xxi)

 Drummond then quotes Sir Francis Bacon: "This I dare affirm in knowledge of Nature, that a little natural philosophy, and the first entrance into it, doth dispose the opinion to atheism; but, on the other side, much natural philosophy, and wading deep into it, will bring about men’s minds to religion." We are not, says Drummond, trying to "‘ reconcile’ Nature and Religion, but to exhibit Nature in Religion." "What is required . . . is the disclosure of the naturalness of the supernatural. Then, and not till then, will men see how true it is, that to be loyal to all of Nature, they must be loyal to the part defined as Spiritual."

He concludes his Preface:

There is a sense of solidity about a Law of Nature which belongs to nothing else in the world. Here, at last, amid all that is shifting, is one thing sure; one thing outside ourselves, unbiassed, unprejudiced, uninfluenced by like or dislike, by doubt or fear; one thing that holds on its way to me eternally, incorruptible, and undefiled. This, more than anything else, makes one eager to see the Reign of Law traced in the Spiritual Sphere. (page xxiv)

And he quotes Browning (Saul xvii): "I spoke as I saw. I report, as a man may of God’s work—all’s Love, yet all’s Law."

Next week we shall don our philosopher’s hats, gird up our loins, and look at the Introduction.

Lagniappe: My mother made her transition on October 1. It was very peaceful and a blessed release. She was 94 years old and was teaching young children until she was stricken five days before her 89th birthday. We are giving thanks for her long, loving life.

 

October 9, 2012

Natural Law in the Spiritual World (2)

We are looking at the first of Henry Drummond’s two great works on evolution by divine design. Last week we got through the Preface. Now we are tackling the 54-page Introduction. It is preceded by an Analysis of Introduction, which I will reproduce verbatim:

I. NATURAL LAW IN THE SPIRITUAL SPHERE

1. The growth of the Idea of Law.

2. Its gradual extension throughout every department of Knowledge.
3. Except one. Religion hitherto the Great Exception. Why so?
4. Previous attempts to trace analogies between the Natural and Spiritual spheres. These have been limited to analogies between Phenomena; and are useful mainly as illustrations. Analogies of Law would also have a Scientific value.
5. Wherein that value would consist. 1) The Scientific demand of the age would be met; 2) Greater clearness would be introduced into Religion practically; 3) Theology, instead of resting on Authority, would rest equally on Nature.

II. THE LAW OF CONTINUITY

A priori argument for Natural Law in the spiritual world.

1. The Law Discovered.

2. The Law Defined.
3. The Law Applied.
4. The objection answered that the material of the Natural and Spiritual worlds being different they must be under different Laws.
5. The existence of Laws in the Spiritual world other than the Natural Laws 1) improbable, 2) unnecessary, 3) unknown. Qualification.
6. The Spiritual not the projection upwards of the Natural; but the Natural the projection downwards of the Spiritual.

Well. He still isn’t ready to launch into his Introduction; he precedes it with a long quotation from "Frederick Harrison". This appears to be Frederic Harrison (1831-1923), British jurist, historian, and Positivist:

This method turns aside from hypotheses not to be tested by any known logical canon familiar to science, whether the hypothesis claims support from intuition, aspiration or general plausibility. And, again, this method turns aside from ideal standards which avow themselves to be lawless, which profess to transcend the field of law. We say, life and conduct shall stand for us wholly on a basis of law, and must rest entirely in that region of science (not physical, but moral and social science), where we are free to use our intelligence in the methods known to us as intelligible logic, methods which the intellect can analyze. When you confront us with hypotheses, however sublime and however affecting, if they cannot be stated in terms of the rest of our knowledge, if they are disparate to that world of sequence and sensation which to us is the ultimate base of all our real knowledge, then we shake our heads and turn aside. — The Philosophy of Common Sense (1907)

That 1907 date doesn’t jibe with the 1883 publication of Natural Law in the Spiritual World. Perhaps the quotation was published elsewhere and later put into a book. Anyway, Scottish Henry is about to settle Frederic’s hash!

But first, he has another quotation from Balfour Stewart’s Paradoxical Philosophy: A Sequel to the Universe (1878): "Ethical science is already for ever completed, so far as her general outline and main principles are concerned, and has been, as it were, waiting for physical science to come up with her." I am including these two quotations because they really do give an important clue to what Drummond is about: he is responding to these two requests. Now, finally, let us look at what Drummond himself has to say on the subject:

Natural Law is a new word. It is the last and the most magnificent discovery of science. No more telling proof is open to the modern world of the greatness of the idea than the greatness of the attempts which have always been made to justify it. In the earlier centuries, before the birth of science, Phenomena were studied alone. The world then was a chaos, a collection of single, isolated, and independent facts. Deeper thinkers saw, indeed, that relations must subsist between these facts, but the Reign of Law was never more to the ancients than a far-off vision. Their philosophies, conspicuously those of the Stoics and Pythagoreans, heroically sought to marshal the discrete materials of the universe into thinkable form, but from these artificial and fantastic systems nothing remains to us now but an ancient testimony to the grandeur of that harmony which they failed to reach. (pages 3-4)

Passing quickly over Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, "the search for individual Phenomena gave way before the larger study of their relations. The pursuit of Law became the passion of science." Zeroing in on a single definition, "The fundamental conception of Law is an ascertained working sequence or constant order among the Phenomena of Nature", which are "often corrupted" by "erroneous views of cause and effect". "The Laws of Nature are simply statements of the orderly condition of things in Nature, what is found in Nature by a sufficient number of competent observers." But those observers don’t agree on what these Laws are: "The Natural Laws originate nothing, sustain nothing; they are merely responsible for uniformity in sustaining what has been originated and what is being sustained. They are modes of operation, therefore, not operators; processes, not powers." Newton did not discover gravity; he discovered its Law, "but that tells us nothing of its origin, of its nature, or of its cause."

Drummond then launches into a great analogy:

The Natural Laws then are great lines running not only through the world, but, as we now know, through the universe, reducing it like parallels of latitude to intelligent order. In themselves, be it once more repeated, they may have no more absolute existence than parallels of latitude. But they exist for us. They are drawn for us to understand the part by some Hand that drew the whole. Now the inquiry we propose to ourselves resolves itself into the simple question, Do these lines stop with what we call the Natural sphere? Is it not possible that they may lead further? Is it probable that the Hand which ruled them gave up the work where most of all they were required? Did that Hand divide the world into two, a cosmos and a chaos, the higher being the chaos? With Nature as the symbol of all of harmony and beauty that is known to man, must we still talk of the super-natural, not as a convenient word, but as a different order of world, an unintelligible world, where the Reign of Mystery supersedes the Reign of Law? (page 4)

He continues with a defense of analogies, concluding: "But analogies between Phenomena bear the same relation to analogies of Law that Phenomena themselves bear to Law. The light of Law on truth, as we have seen, is an immense advance upon the light of Phenomena. The discovery of Law is simply the discovery of Science", then cuts to the chase: "We do not demand of Nature directly to prove Religion. That was never its function. Its function is to interpret." Furthermore, "the position we have been led to take up is not that the Spiritual Laws are analogous to the Natural Laws, but that they are the same Laws. It is not a question of analogy but of Identity". He elaborates: "The Natural Laws, as the Law of Continuity might well warn us, do not stop with the visible and then give place to a new set of Laws bearing a strong similitude to them. The Laws of the invisible are the same Laws, projections of the natural not supernatural." But he still plans to use the word analogy occasionally.

Drummond states that the lack of continuity in laws is "the secret of the present decadence of Religion in the world of Science. For Science can hear nothing of a Great Exception." He continues:

It is the province of Science to vindicate Nature here at any hazard. But in blaming Theology for its intolerance, it has been betrayed into an intolerance less excusable. It has pronounced upon it too soon. What if Religion be yet brought within the sphere of Law? Law is the revelation of time. One by one slowly through the centuries the Sciences have crystallized into geometrical form, each form not only perfect in itself, but perfect in its relation to all other forms. Many forms had to be perfected before the form of the Spiritual. The Inorganic has to be worked out before the Organic, the Natural before the Spiritual. Theology at present has merely an ancient and provisional philosophic form. By-and-by it will be seen whether it be not susceptible of another. For Theology must pass through the necessary stages of progress, like any other science. (pages 18-19)

So,

What is wanted is simply a unity of conception, but not such a unity of conception as should be founded on an absolute identity of phenomena. This latter might indeed be a unity, but it would be a very tame one. The perfection of unity is attained where there is infinite variety of phenomena, infinite complexity of relation, but great simplicity of Law. Science will be complete when all known phenomena can be arranged in one vast circle in which a few well known Laws shall form the radii—these radii at once separating and uniting, separating into particular groups, yet uniting all to a common centre. To show that the radii for some of the most characteristic phenomena of the Spiritual World are already drawn within that circle by science is the main object of the papers which follow. (pages 22-23)

That is, they follow after the rest of this Introduction, which is geared to philosophers and other theoreticians. The papers deal with the practical applications. We will keep chugging through the Introduction next week.

Lagniappe: My paper on Henry Wood, submitted to the 2011 SSMR session at the INTA Congress, is now on this site in my articles file: www.neweverymoment.com/articles/article/3114323/167858.htm

Our friend and Quimby expert Ron Hughes has made available in new Kindle editions the Philosopher’s and my jointly-authored New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality and Practicing the Presence of God for Practical Purposes. Links to Amazon that work (my direct attempts from here are failing) are available in our Book Store:

http://www.neweverymoment.com/bookstore.html

 

 October 16, 2012

Natural Law in the Spiritual World (3)

We are working our way through the Introduction to the first of Henry Drummond’s two great works on evolution by divine design. Drummond has explained that hitherto, the Idea of Law has extended "throughout every department of Knowledge", except Religion, the Great Exception. If we can "trace analogies between the Natural and Spiritual Spheres" through Law instead of through Phenomena, "analogies of Law would also have a Scientific value". "What is a scientific basis? What exactly is this demand of the age?" Drummond turns to Thomas Huxley:

By Science I understand all knowledge which rests upon evidence and reasoning of a like character to that which claims our assent to ordinary scientific propositions; and if any one is able to make good the assertion that his theology rests upon valid evidence and sound reasoning, then it appears to me that such theology must take its place as a part of science. (In Drummond, pages 23-24)

Drummond then repeats some of what he quoted from Frederic Harrison (this time without the extraneous k), and identifies the quotation as coming from "A Modern Symposium" in Nineteenth Century (but with no date of publication given). Gee, thanks. Drummond is not out "to prove the existence of the Spiritual World", which one really can’t do. But one can prove the existence of Spiritual Life "exactly as one would seek to prove Natural Life". That’s not what he is up to: "Science deals with known facts; and accepting certain known facts in the Spiritual World we proceed to arrange them, to discover their Laws, to inquire if they can be stated ‘in terms of the rest of our knowledge’." To Drummond, the stumbling-block is not "the mere existence of the unseen", but the want of definition, the vagueness. "It would be at least something to tell earnest seekers that the Spiritual World is not a castle in the air, of an architecture unknown to earth or heaven, but a fair ordered realm furnished with many familiar things and ruled by well-remembered Laws." We are giving up "the old ground of faith, Authority", but the new ground, Science, "has not yet taken its place. If the Natural Laws were run through the Spiritual World, [we] might see the great lines of religious truth as clearly and simply as the broad lines of science".

Nature is not a mere image or emblem of the Spiritual. It is a working model of the Spiritual. In the Spiritual World the same wheels revolve—but without the iron. The same figures flit across the stage, the same processes of growth go on, the same functions are discharged, the same biological laws prevail—only with a different quality of bios. Plato’s prisoner, if not out of the Cave, has at least his face to the light. (page 27)

There will still be mystery: "A Science without mystery is unknown; a Religion without mystery is absurd." Drummond adds, "The one subject on which all scientific men are agreed, the one theme on which all alike become eloquent, the one strain of pathos in all their writing and speaking and thinking, concerns that final uncertainty, that utter blackness of darkness bounding their work on every side." Then why does Theology dread Science? "No single fact in Science has ever discredited a fact in Religion. The theologian knows that, and admits that he has no fear of facts. What then has Science done to make Theology tremble? It is its method. It is its system. It is its Reign of Law. It is its harmony and continuity." But this will also be good for Science: "No department of knowledge ever contributes to another without receiving its own again with usury—witness the reciprocal favours of Biology and Sociology." It’s time for the world to reach its manhood:

We must exhibit our doctrines, not lying athwart the lines of the world’s thinking, in a place reserved, and therefore shunned, for the Great Exception; but in their kinship to all truth and in their Law-relation to the whole of Nature. This is, indeed, simply following out the system of teaching begun by Christ Himself. And what is the search for spiritual truth in the Laws of Nature but an attempt to utter the parables which have been hid so long in the world around without a preacher, and to tell men once more that the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto this and to that? (pages 33-34)

We now head into Part II, "The Law of Continuity" (I supplied the entire outline of this Introduction last week.) Drummond tells us:

Briefly indicated, the ground taken up is this, that if Nature be a harmony, Man in all his relations—physical, mental, moral, and spiritual—falls to be included within its circle. It is altogether unlikely that man spiritual should be violently separated in all the conditions of growth, development, and life, from man physical. It is indeed difficult to conceive that one set of principles should guide the natural life, and these at a certain period—the very point where they are needed—suddenly give place to another set of principles altogether new and unrelated. Nature has never taught us to expect such a catastrophe. She has nowhere prepared us for it. And Man cannot in the nature of things, in the nature of thought, in the nature of language, be separated into two such incoherent halves. (pages 35-36)

Although we study the spiritual man and the natural man in different departments of Science, "the harmony established by science is not a harmony within specific departments. It is the universe that is the harmony, the universe of which these are but parts. And the harmonies of the parts depend for all their weight and interest on the harmony of the whole. While, therefore, there are many harmonies, there is but one harmony." In other words, think systems. "One of the most striking generalisations of recent science is that even Laws have their Law." And the Law for Laws is Continuity. Apparently nobody can define it, but we can appreciate it by trying to "conceive the universe without it":

The opposite of a continuous universe would be a discontinuous universe, an incoherent and irrelevant universe—as irrelevant in all its ways of doing things as an irrelevant person. In effect, to withdraw Continuity from the universe would be the same as to withdraw reason from an individual. The universe would run deranged; the world would be a mad world. (page 38)

Then we need to apply the principle: "As the Natural Laws are continuous through the universe of matter and of space, so will they be continuous through the universe of spirit. . . . Those who deny it must furnish the disproof." To get to a region where the Principle of Continuity fails, "one would first have to overturn Nature, then science, and last, the human mind." Referring to the Inorganic and Organic worlds, Drummond comments:

Is it not evident that each kingdom of Nature has its own set of Laws which continue possibly untouched for the specific kingdom but never extend beyond it? It is quite true that when we pass from the Inorganic to the Organic, we come upon a new set of Laws. But the reason why the lower set do not seem to act in the higher sphere is not that they are annihilated, but that they are overruled. And the reason why the higher Laws are not found operating in the lower is not because they are not continuous downwards, but because there is nothing for them there to act upon. It is not Law that fails, but opportunity. The biological Laws are continuous for life. Wherever there is life . . . they will be found acting, just as gravitation acts wherever there is matter. (pages 43-44)

Then he corrects himself:

We have purposely, in the last paragraph, indulged in a fallacy. We have said that the biological Laws would certainly be continuous in the lower or mineral sphere were there anything there for them to act upon. Now Laws do not act upon anything. It has been stated already, although apparently it cannot be too abundantly emphasized, that Laws are only modes of operation, not themselves operators. The accurate statement, therefore, would be that the biological Laws would be continuous in the lower sphere were there anything there for them, not to act upon, but to keep in order. If there is no acting going on, if there is nothing being kept in order, the responsibility does not lie with Continuity. The Law will always be at its post, not only when its services are required, but wherever they are possible. (page 44)

He winds up:

The conclusion finally is, that from the nature of Law in general, and from the scope of the Principle of Continuity in particular, the Laws of the natural life must be those of the spiritual life. This does not exclude, observe, the possibility of there being new Laws in addition within the Spiritual Sphere; nor does it even include the supposition that the old Laws will be the conspicuous Laws of the Spiritual World. . . . It simply asserts that whatever else may be found, these must be found there; that they must be there though they may not be seen there; and that they must project beyond there if there be anything beyond there. If the Law of Continuity is true, the only way to escape the conclusion that the Laws of the natural life are the Laws, or at least are Laws, of the spiritual life, is to say that there is no spiritual life. It is really easier to give up the phenomena than to give up the Law. (pages 46-47)

Our second Henry concedes that there may be new Laws. But, one might argue, "Since, in Nature generally, we come upon new Laws as we pass from lower to higher kingdoms, the old still remaining in force, the newer Laws which one would expect to meet in the Spiritual World would so transcend and overwhelm the older as to make the analogy or identity, even if traced, of no practical use." This, says Drummond, is confusing Law and energy. We don’t lose sight of Biogenesis as we enter the Spiritual Sphere; it pervades it everywhere.

Drummond comments: "There is nothing so especially exalted therefore in the Natural Laws in themselves as to make one anxious to find them blood relations of the Spiritual. . . . Their dignity is not as Natural Laws, but as Spiritual Laws, Laws which . . . at one end are dealing with Matter, and at the other with Spirit."

And he concludes his Introduction: "The visible is the ladder up to the invisible; the temporal is but the scaffolding of the eternal. And when the last immaterial souls have climbed through this material to God, the scaffolding shall be taken down, and the earth dissolved with fervent heat—not because it was base, but because its work is done."

On to the lecture on biogenesis next week.

Lagniappe: Terry McBride is offering the new Kindle edition of The Hell I Can’t! FREE from now through Thursday. Go to Amazon and search The Hell I Can’t!, Kindle edition. I have written about Terry’s amazing healing story in this column.

 

October 23, 2012

Natural Law in the Spiritual World

Biogenesis

At last, we are beginning the first chapter of Natural Law in the Spiritual World, "Biogenesis". It concerns the origin of life. Two warring theories have been around for two hundred or more years: Spontaneous Generation, or life just popping up out of nothing, de novo; versus life coming only from preexisting life, "Omne vivum ex vivo". Drummond describes the experiments that were used to demonstrate that life could be spontaneously generated, experiments that were later discredited when the sterility of the air was found to be compromised and when it was learned that animals and germs could survive much higher temperatures than had been supposed. He sums up, "It is now recognised on every hand that Life can only come from the touch of Life." Even the skeptical Huxley is compelled to agree.

The religious world has been fraught with a similar debate for a similar length of time. Drummond explains:

The difference between the two positions is radical. Translating from the language of Science into that of Religion, the theory of Spontaneous Generation is simply that a man may become gradually better and better until in course of the process he reaches that quality of religious nature known as Spiritual Life. This Life is not something added ab extra to the natural man; it is the normal and appropriate development of the natural man. Biogenesis opposes to this the whole doctrine of Regeneration. The Spiritual Life is the gift of the Living Spirit. The spiritual man is no mere development of the natural man. He is a New Creation born from Above. As well expect a hay infusion [a reference to the old scientific experiments mentioned above] to become gradually more and more living until in course of the process it reached Vitality, as expect a man by becoming better and better to attain the Eternal Life. (page 65)

The religious argument relied almost exclusively on Scripture. "The relation of the doctrine to the constitution and course of Nature was not disclosed", comments Drummond. "Its importance, therefore, was solely as a dogma; and being directly concerned with the Supernatural, it was valid for those alone who chose to accept the Supernatural." In trying to defend against Natural Religions, Christianity found itself up a creek without a paddle. What was needed was an analogy such as can now be found in Biogenesis, which would secure for Christianity "a support and basis in the Laws of Nature". Drummond quips, "The religion of Jesus has probably always suffered more from those who have misunderstood than from those who have opposed it."

Drummond now supplies details:

Let us first place vividly in our imagination the picture of the two great Kingdoms of Nature, the inorganic and the organic, as these now stand in the light of the Law of Biogenesis. What essentially is involved in saying that there is no Spontaneous Generation of Life? It is meant that the passage from the mineral world to the plant or animal world is hermetically sealed on the mineral side. This inorganic world is staked off from the living world by barriers which have never yet been crossed from within. No change of substance, no modification of environment, no chemistry, no electricity, nor any form of energy, nor any evolution can endow any single atom of the mineral world with the attribute of Life. Only by the bending down into this dead world of some living form can these dead atoms be gifted with the properties of vitality, without this preliminary contact with Life they remain fixed in the inorganic sphere for ever. It is a very mysterious Law which guards in this way the portals of the living world. And if there is one thing in Nature more worth pondering for its strangeness it is the spectacle of this vast helpless world of the dead cut off from the living by the Law of Biogenesis and denied for ever the possibility of resurrection within itself. So very strange a thing, indeed, is this broad line in Nature, that Science has long and urgently sought to obliterate it. (pages 68-69)

Despite massive assaults on Biogenesis, which was seen as in the way of some forms of Evolution, it has

stood the test. Nature, to the modern eye, stands broken in two. The physical Laws may explain the inorganic world; the biological Laws may account for the development of the organic. But of the point where they meet, of that strange borderland between the dead and the living, Science is silent. It is as if God had placed everything in earth and heaven in the hands of Nature, but reserved a point at the genesis of Life for His direct appearing. (page 69)

Where else have we seen this "barrier which never can be crossed"? Drummond explains:

The passage from the Natural World to the Spiritual World is hermetically sealed on the natural side. The door from the inorganic to the organic is shut, no mineral can open it; so the door from the natural to the spiritual is shut, and no man can open it. This world of natural men is staked off from the Spiritual World by barriers which have never yet been crossed from within. No organic change, no modification of environment, no mental energy, no moral effort, no evolution of character, no progress of civilization can endow any single human soul with the attribute of Spiritual Life. The spiritual World is guarded from the world next in order beneath it by a law of Biogenesis—except a man be born again . . . except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. (page 71)

Notice that it doesn’t say will not enter; it says cannot. This is not arbitrary; it is "a scientific impossibility". "The intervention of Life is a scientific necessity if a stone or a plant or an animal or a man is to pass from a lower to a higher sphere."

Who closes this gate "at the portals of the Spiritual World"? Is it Science, or Reason, or Experience, or Revelation? "We reply, all four", says Drummond. He begins with Revelation. "What is Science but what the Natural World has said to natural men? What is Revelation but what the Spiritual World has said to Spiritual men? Let us at least ask what Revelation has announced with reference to this Spiritual Law of Biogenesis", then turn to Science for further vindication.

Drummond then turns to "an explicit and original statement of the Law of Biogenesis for the Spiritual Life: ‘He that hath the Son hath Life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not Life.’ Life, that is to say, depends upon contact with Life." He continues:

There is no Spontaneous Generation in religion any more than in Nature. Christ is the source of Life in the spiritual World; and he that hath the Son hath Life, and he that hath not the Son, whatever else he may have, hath not Life. Here, in short, is the categorical denial of Abiogenesis and the establishment in this high field of the classical formula Omne vivum ex vivo—no Life without antecedent Life. In this mystical theory of the Origin of Life the whole of the New Testament writers are agreed. And, as we have already seen, Christ Himself founds Christianity upon Biogenesis stated in its most literal form. "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit" (John iii). (page 74)

We will finish this chapter on Biogenesis next week.

 

October 30, 2012

Natural Law in the Spiritual World
    Biogenesis (2)

Halfway through the chapter on Biogenesis, Henry II (a.k.a. Henry Drummond 1851-1897) has dropped a bombshell on us: that there is no life without antecedent life in the Spiritual World any more than there is in the Natural World, citing the words of Jesus to support his statement.  He continues, “Nor only in his relation to the spiritual man, but to the whole Spiritual World, the natural man is regarded as dead.  He is as a crystal to an organism.  The natural world is to the Spiritual as the inorganic to the organic.”  Drummond supplies a garland of Scriptural quotes in support of this.  This means that there is “a remarkable harmony” between the Organic World as arranged by Science and the Spiritual World as arranged by Scripture”:

We find one great Law guarding the thresholds of both worlds, securing that entrance from a lower sphere shall only take place by a direct regenerating act, and that emanating from the world next in order above.  There are not two laws of biogenesis, one for the natural, the other for the Spiritual; one law is for both.  Wherever there is Life, Life of any kind, this same law holds.  The analogy, therefore, is only among the phenomena; between laws there is no analogy—there is Continuity. . . . The second birth is scarcely less perplexing to the theologian than the first to the embryologist.  (pages 75-76)

All this is shrouded in mystery, furthered by “its proclamation through the medium of Revelation.  This is the point at which the scientific man is apt to part company with the theologian. He insists on having all things materialized before his eyes in Nature.”  Nature can, says Drummond; she just cannot “open the discussion or supply all the material to begin with, or “the Theologian must part company with such Science.”  A pretty kettle of fish you’ve got us in, Ollie:

For any Science which makes such a demand is false to the doctrines of Biogenesis.  What is this but the demand that a lower world, hermetically sealed against all communication with a world above it, should have a mature and intelligent acquaintance with its phenomena and laws?  Can the mineral discourse to me of animal Life?  Can it tell me what lies beyond the narrow boundary of its inert being?  Knowing nothing of other than the chemical and physical laws, what is its criticism worth of the principles of Biology?  And even when some visitor from the upper world, for example some root from a living tree, penetrating its dark recess, honours it with a touch, will it presume to define the form and purpose of its patron, or until the bioplasm has done its gracious work can it even know that it is being touched?  The barrier which separates Kingdoms from one another restricts mind not less than matter.  Any information of the Kingdoms above it that could come to the mineral world could only come by a communication from above.  (pages 76-77)

Drummond then quotes I Cor. ii. 14: “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  “The verb here . . . is potential.  This is not a dogma of theology, but a necessity of Science.”  This, says Drummond, as expressed by Agnostics as their position, is “a statement of scientific truth—a statement on which the entire Agnostic literature is simply one long commentary.”
Although Biogenesis “may yet reach down to some of the deeper mysteries of the Spiritual Life”, we are going to stick to just a couple of points “of current interest”.  Drummond repeats his point about “the impossibility of a Spontaneous Development of Spiritual Life in the individual soul” and enlarges it: “When men are offering us a Christianity without a living Spirit, and a personal religion without conversion, no emphasis or reiteration can be extreme.”  And he thinks it important to be clear and definite:

Why a virtuous man should not simply grow better and better until in his own right he enter the Kingdom of God is what thousands honestly and seriously fail to understand.  Now Philosophy cannot help us here.  Her arguments are, if anything, against us.  But Science answers to the appeal at once.  If it be simply pointed out that this is the same absurdity as to ask why a stone should not grow more and more living till it enters the Organic World, the point is clear in an instant.” (page 80)

Now Drummond inquires what specifically “distinguishes a Christian man from a non-Christian man?”  He answers that the distinction is “the same as that between the Organic and the Inorganic, the living and the dead.  What is the difference between a crystal and an organism, a stone and a plant?”

They have much in common.  Both are made of the same atoms.  Both display the same properties of Matter.  Both are subject to the Physical Laws.  Both may be very beautiful.  But besides possessing all that the crystal has, the plant possesses something more—a mysterious something called Life.  This Life is not something which existed in the crystal only in a less developed form.  There is nothing at all like it in the crystal. . . . This plant is tenanted by something new, an original and unique possession added over and above all the properties common to both.  (page 81)

We find similar uniqueness between vegetable Life and animal Life, and then with the Spiritual Life comes “a kind of Life infinitely more distinct than is the active Life of a plant from the inertia of a stone.”  Between the organic and the inorganic is a “hair’s breadth gulf”, compared to the great gulf fixed between the Natural and the Spiritual.  “The difference then between the Spiritual man and the Natural man is not a difference of development, but of generation”, of “quality not of quantity. A man cannot rise by any natural development from ‘morality touched by emotion,’ to ‘morality touched by Life.”  He is so different from the family of man that “a biologist, fully informed of the whole circumstances, would not hesitate a moment to classify him elsewhere”, not in another family, but “in another Kingdom”.  Drummond elaborates:

It is an old-fashioned theology which divides the world in this way—which speaks of men as Living and Dead, Lost and Saved—a stern theology all but fallen into disuse. [We wish!] This difference between the Living and the Dead in souls is so unproved by casual observation, so impalpable in itself, so startling as a doctrine, that schools of culture have ridiculed or denied the grim distinction.  Nevertheless the grim distinction must be retained.  It is a scientific distinction.  “He that hath not the Son hath not Life.  (page 83)

This, says Drummond,

is the great Law which finally distinguishes Christianity from all other religions.  It places the religion of Christ upon a footing altogether unique.  There is no analogy between the Christian religion and, say, Buddhism or the Mohammedan religion.  There is no true sense in which a man can say, He that hath Buddha hath Life.  Buddha has nothing to do with Life.  He may have something to do with morality.  He may stimulate, impress, teach, guide, but there is no distinct new thing added to the souls of those who profess Buddhism. . . . Christianity professes to be more.  It is the mental or moral man plus something else or some One else.  It is the infusion into the Spiritual man of a New Life, of a quality unlike anything else in Nature.  This constitutes the separate Kingdom of Christ, and gives to Christianity alone of all the religions of mankind the strange mark of Divinity.  (pages 83-84)

So what is new and different in Christianity?  “It is Christ.  He that hath the Son hath Life.”  Drummond includes another clutch of Scriptural supports and comments, “They are not mere figures of rhetoric.  They are explicit declarations.  If language means anything these words announce a literal fact.”  And some of Christ’s own statements are even more impressive in their literalism: “He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood dwelleth in Me and I in him.”  Furthermore, “Spiritual Life is not something outside ourselves.”  The Life is in the individual.    Unlike vitality, magnetism, or electricity, it is “permanently fixed and rooted in the organism”.  It is not “an ordinary form or energy or force”.  But Nature cannot say what Spiritual Life is.  Paul on the road to Damascus asked, “What is this?  Who art thou, Lord?”  The answer: “I am Jesus.”

Some will still say that Spiritual Life is a force, but “in Science, it means the heresy of confounding Force with Vitality”.  And it is not just formed according to simpler laws; this in Science is “the heresy of Spontaneous Generation, a heresy so thoroughly discredited now that scarcely an authority in Europe will lend his name to it.”

We have “a hundred other questions”, but “let it not be thought that the scientific treatment of a Spiritual subject has reduced religion to a problem of Physics, or demonstrated God by the laws of biology.  A religion without mystery is an absurdity.  Even Science has its mysteries, none more inscrutable than around this Science of Life.”  But we are to note: “the cloud does not fall and cover us till we have ascertained the most momentous truth of Religion—that Christ is in the Christian.”  This is not new, but we have difficulty really accepting it.  “When men do not really wish to go farther they find it an honourable convenience sometimes to sit down on the outermost edge of the Holy Ground on the pretext of taking off their shoes.”  What both feeds and spoils our worship is

that area round all great truth which is really capable of illumination, and into which every earnest mind is permitted and commanded to go with a light.  We cry mystery long before the region of mystery comes.  True mystery casts no shadows around.  It is a sudden and awful gulf yawning across the field of knowledge; its form is irregular, but its lips are clean cut and sharp, and the mind can go to the very verge and look down the precipice into the dim abyss. . . .Science, therefore, has not eliminated the true mysteries from our faith, but only the false.  And it has done more.  It has made true mystery scientific.  Religion in having mystery is in analogy with all around it.  Where there is exceptional mystery in the Spiritual world it will generally be found that there is a corresponding mystery in the natural world.  And, as Origen centuries ago insisted, the difficulties of Religion are simply the difficulties of Nature.  (pages 90-91)

Drummond winds up his chapter by asking, “What can be gathered on the surface as to the process of Regeneration in the individual soul?  From the analogies of Biology we should expect three things: First, that the New Life should dawn suddenly; Second, that it should come ‘without observation’; Third, that it should develop gradually. . . . Long before the word Evolution was coined Christ applied it in this very connection—‘First the blade, then the ear....’”.  Also, “the kingdom of God cometh without observation”, and suddenly.  “The moment of birth in the natural world is not a conscious moment—we do not know we are born till long afterward.”

He concludes:

Growth is the work of time.  But Life is not.  That comes in a moment.  At one moment it was dead; the next it lived.  This is conversion, the “passing,” as the Bible calls it, “from Death unto Life.”  (page 94)

Next week, we shall Degenerate.

 

November 13, 2012

Natural Law in the Spiritual World

Growth

This absolutely delightful chapter is so full of juicy quotations that it is a temptation to just copy the whole thing, but I will try to restrain myself and stick to the highlights. The text—if you will—is from the Sermon on the Mount: "consider the lilies of the field how they grow" (Matt. 6:28). Drummond’s writing is bursting with mostly unidentified bits of scripture, which he takes for granted that his audience will recognize, rather like really good fruitcake. He elaborates:

Christ’s words are not a general appeal to consider nature. Men are not to consider the lilies simply to admire their beauty, to dream over the delicate strength and grace of stem and leaf. The point they were to consider was how they grew—how without anxiety or care the flower woke into loveliness, how without weaving these leaves were woven, how without toiling these complex tissues spun themselves, and how without any effort or friction the whole slowly came ready-made from the loom of God in its more than Solomon-like glory. ‘So,’ He says, making the application beyond dispute, ‘you careworn, anxious men must grow. You, too, need take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink or what ye shall put on. For if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?’ (pages 123-124)

So far, so good. However:

For the temporal life we have considered the lilies, but how is the spiritual life to grow? How are we to become better men? How are we to grow in grace? By what thought shall we add the cubits to the spiritual stature and reach the fulness of the Perfect Man? And because we know ill how to do this, the old anxiety comes back again and our inner life is once more an agony of conflict and remorse. . . . Our efforts after Christian growth seem only a succession of failures, and instead of rising into the beauty of holiness our life is a daily heartbreak and humiliation. (pages 124-125)

Why?

We have forgotten the parable of the lily. Violent efforts to grow are right in earnestness, but wholly wrong in principle. There is but one principle of growth both for the natural and spiritual, for animal and plant, for body and soul. For all growth is an organic thing. And the principle of growing in grace is once more this, "Consider the lilies how they grow." (page 125)

Drummond next wants us to note two characteristics of all growth, including the lilies’: 1) Spontaneousness, and 2) Mysteriousness.

There are three "lines along which one may seek for evidence of the spontaneousness of growth": Science, universal experience, and physiology. Drummond indicates that the last of these is "all but superfluous", because Scripture always describes growth in the language of physiology: "The Christian in short, like the poet, is born not made; and the fruits of his character are not manufactured things but living things, things which have grown from the secret germ, the fruits of the living Spirit. They are not the produce of this climate, but exotics from a sunnier land." So let’s concentrate on the other two. Jesus says that the lilies grow "automatically, spontaneously, without trying, without fretting, without thinking. Applied in any direction, to plant, to animal, to the body or to the soul this law holds."

The soul grows as the lily grows, without trying, without fretting, without ever thinking. Manuals of devotion, with complicated rules for getting on in the Christian life, would do well sometimes to return to the simplicity of nature; and earnest souls who are attempting sanctification by struggle instead of sanctification by faith might be spared much humiliation by learning the botany of the Sermon on the Mount. There can indeed be no other principle of growth than this. It is a vital act. And to try to make a thing grow is as absurd as to help the tide to come in or the sun rise. (page 127)

From the spontaneousness of science, Drummond turns to his second line, the spontaneousness of universal experience:

A boy not only grows without trying, but he cannot grow if he tries. No man by taking thought has ever added a cubit to his stature; nor has any man by mere working at his soul ever approached nearer to the stature of the Lord Jesus. . . . Christ’s life unfolded itself from a divine germ, planted centrally in His nature, which grew as naturally as a flower from a bud. This flower may be imitated; but one can always tell an artificial flower. . . . This precisely is the difference between a native growth of Christian principle and the moral copy of it. The one is natural, the other mechanical. The one is a growth, the other an accretion. Now this, according to modern biology, is the fundamental distinction between the living and the not living; between an organism and a crystal. The living organism grows, the dead crystal increases. The first grows vitally from within, the last adds new particles from the outside. The whole difference between the Christian and the moralist lies here. The Christian works from the centre, the moralist from the circumference. The one is an organism, in the centre of which is planted by the living God a living germ. The other is a crystal, very beautiful it may be; but only a crystal—it wants the vital principle of growth. (pages 127-128)

This, explains Drummond, is why salvation "is never connected directly with morality. The reason is not that salvation does not demand morality, but that it demands so much of it that the moralist can never reach up to it." Morality "may perfect a single virtue here and there, but it cannot perfect all." He adds, "In this world only the cornless ear is seen; sometimes only the small yet still prophetic blade. . . . it doth not yet appear what it shall be."

We then move on to "this other great characteristic of Growth—Mysteriousness". Drummond points out, "We are most unspiritual always in dealing with the simplest spiritual things. A lily grows mysteriously, pushing up its solid weight of stem and leaf in the teeth of gravity. Shaped into beauty by secret and invisible fingers, the flower develops we know not how. But we do not wonder at it. Every day the thing is done’ it is Nature, it is God." Somehow we don’t recognize that same phenomenon "when the soul rises slowly above the world, shaping itself mysteriously into the image of Christ. . . . We allow, that is to say, a miracle to the lily, but none to the man. The lily may grow; the man must fret and toil and spin."

Yes, a man "may attain to a very high character" by "hard work and self-restraint", but this is not growth, and this process is not Christianity: "Growth is mysterious; the peculiarity of it is that you cannot account for it." But "the test of spirituality is that you cannot tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth. If you can tell, if you can account for it on philosophical principles, on the doctrine of influence, on strength of will, on a favourable environment, it is not growth." Conclusion: "The Christian is a unique phenomenon. You cannot account for him. And if you could he would not be a Christian." He sums up: "The whole process therefore transcends us; we do not work, we are taken in hand—‘it is God which worketh in us, both to will and to do of His good pleasure’. We do not plan—we are ‘created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

But, one might object, doesn’t this "take away all conflict from the Christian life?" Doesn’t it make man "mere clay in the hands of the potter? It crushes the old character to make a new one, and destroys man’s responsibility for his own soul?" This is not "the time-honoured ‘balance between faith and works’, but rather "how lilies grow". We are discovering "the attitude of mind which the Christian should preserve regarding his spiritual growth. That attitude, primarily, is to be free from care. We are not lodging a plea for inactivity of the spiritual energies, but for the tranquillity of the spiritual mind. Christ’s protest is not against work, but against anxious thought." Drummond adds:

Nature is far more bountiful than we think. When she gives us energy she asks none of it back to expend on our own growth. She will attend to that. "Give your work," she says, "and your anxiety to others; trust me to add the cubits to your stature. If God is adding to our spiritual stature, unfolding the new nature within us, it is a mistake to keep twitching at the petals with our coarse fingers. We must seek to let the Creative Hand alone. "It is God which giveth the increase." Yet we never know how little we have learned of the fundamental principle of Christianity till we discover how much we are all bent on supplementing God’s free grace. (pages 136-137)

We, like plants, need the right conditions for growth. But does the plant go in search of its conditions? "Nay, the conditions come to the plant. . . . It simply stands still with its leaves spread out in unconscious prayer, and Nature lavishes upon it these and all other bounties, bathing it in sunshine, pouring the nourishing air over and over it, reviving it graciously with its nightly dew. Grace, too, is as free as the air." So man’s one duty "is to be in these conditions, to abide in them, to allow grace to play over him, to be still therein and know that this is God." When we don’t:

The conflict begins and prevails in all its life-long agony the moment a man forgets this. He struggles to grow himself instead of struggling to get back again into position. He makes the church into a workshop when God meant it to be a beautiful garden. And even in his closet, where only should reign silence—a silence as of the mountains whereon the lilies grow—is heard the roar and tumult of machinery. True, a man will often have to wrestle with his God—but not for growth. The Christian life is a composed life. The Gospel is Peace. Yet the most anxious people in the world are Christians—Christians who misunderstand the nature of growth. Life is a perpetual self-condemning because they are not growing. And the effect is not only the loss of tranquillity to the individual. The energies which are meant to be spent on the work of Christ are consumed in the soul’s own fever. So long as the Church’s activities are spent on growing there is nothing to spare for the world. (page 139)

Drummond’s conclusion is too glorious to resist printing in its entirety:

The problem of the Christian life finally is simplified to this—man has but to preserve the right attitude. To abide in Christ, to be in position, that is all. Much work is done on board a ship crossing the Atlantic. Yet none of it is spent on making the ship go. The sailor but harnesses his vessel to the wind. He puts his sail and rudder in position, and lo, the miracle is wrought. So everywhere God creates, man utilizes. All the work of the world is merely a taking advantage of energies already there. God gives the wind, and the water, and the heat; man but puts himself in the way of the wind, fixes his water-wheel in the way of the river, puts his piston in the way of the steam; and so holding himself in position before God’s Spirit, all the energies of Omnipotence course within his soul. He is like a tree planted by a river whose leaf is green and whose fruits fail not. Such is the deeper lesson to be learned from considering the lily. It is the voice of Nature echoing the whole evangel of Jesus, "Come unto Me, and I will give you rest." (page 140)

Lagniappe: Last Saturday, the Philosopher tripped over the stone and broke his hip. The local hospital has nailed and screwed him back together, and he is resting comfortably. From here, the best rehab around is about to be regaled with lectures on constructive vs. destructive postmodernism, and I will try to keep him supplied with clean togas. Your prayers for a smooth, speedy, and uneventful recovery would be welcomed, that he may quickly resume his place on the stone.

 

November 20, 2012

Natural Law in the Spiritual World

Death

This chapter isn’t what one might expect. "Poetry draws near Death only to hover over it for a moment and withdraw in terror. History knows it simply as a universal fact. Philosophy finds it among the mysteries of being, the one great mystery of being not." Explains Drummond:

But modern Biology has found it part of its work to push its way into this silent land, and at last the world is confronted with a scientific treatment of Death. Not that much is added to the old conception, or much taken from it. What it is, this certain Death with its uncertain issues, we know as little as before. But we can define more clearly and attach a narrower meaning to the momentous symbol. (page 143)

This gets interesting because "Death is one of the outstanding things in Nature which has an acknowledged spiritual equivalent". It’s in the Bible big time, as opposed to Life. But theology has only "the vaguest materials" to come up with a doctrine that "intelligently enforced, ought to appeal to all men with convincing power and lend the most effective argument to Christianity." In today’s world, "Death itself is ethically dead."

Since the meaning of Death depends on the meaning of life, what characteristics distinguish living things? The physiologist uses four functions: Assimilation, Waste, Reproduction, and Growth. So how do those represent "the true manifestations of spiritual life, and . . . the failure to perform them constitutes spiritual Death"? Drummond borrows from Spencer to begin his exploration of this issue. A human being is "in correspondence with his environment", both influencing and being influenced, and is therefore

entitled to be called alive. So long as he is in correspondence with any given point of his environment, he lives. To keep up this correspondence is to keep up life. If his environment changes he must instantly adjust himself to the change. And he continues living only as long as he succeeds in adjusting himself to the "simultaneous and successive changes in his environment" as these occur. (pages 147-148)

By extension, therefore, "when any part of the organism by disease or accident is thrown out of correspondence, it is in that relation dead. This Death, this want of correspondence, may be either partial or complete."

This then is Death; "part of the framework breaks down," "something has snapped"—these phrases by which we describe the phases of death yield their full meaning. They are different ways of saying that "correspondence" has ceased. And the scientific meaning of Death now becomes clearly intelligible. Dying is that breakdown in an organism which throws it out of correspondence with some necessary part of the environment. Death is the result produced, the want of correspondence. (Page 151)

Now we are ready to go on and examine "the parallel phenomenon of Death in the spiritual world". We are still talking about two factors: Organism and Environment and their relation denominated by "correspondence". Bottom line: "Spiritual Death is a want of correspondence between the organism and the spiritual environment." With all or part of his natural environment [man] is in immediate correspondence", and "the conscious environment is not all the environment that is." Moving right along, "different organisms correspond with this environment in varying degrees of completeness or incompleteness." At the bottom of the biological scale, a tree has "only the most limited correspondence": with soil, sunlight, and air, "but it is shut off by its comparatively low development from a whole world to which higher forms of life have additional access". It can’t travel. So it can be considered dead to a lot of "surrounding nature", irresponsive to it. "For this is Death, this irresponsiveness." (Process thinkers will note that Whitehead has a much more complex approach to this, but is not out of agreement with it overall.) Moving up the scale, we come to man: "A hundred things which the bird never saw in insect, stream, and tree appeal to him. . . . Man is a mass of correspondences, and because of these, because he is alive to countless objects and influences to which lower organisms are dead, he is the most living of all creatures."

This, says Drummond, renders the relativity of Death

sufficiently obvious. Man being left out of account, all organisms are seen as it were to be partly living and partly dead. . . . As we rise in the scale of life, however, it will be observed that the sway of Death is gradually weakened. . . . But until man appears there is no organism to correspond with the whole environment. Till then the outermost circles have no correspondents. To the inhabitants of the innermost spheres they are as if they were not." (pages 155-156)

And here it comes:

a momentous question. Is man in correspondence with the whole environment? When we reach the highest living organism, is the final blow dealt to the kingdom of Death? Has the last acre of the infinite area been taken in by his finite faculties? Is his conscious environment the whole environment? Or is there, among these outermost circles, one which with his multitudinous correspondences he fails to reach? If so, this is Death. The question of Life or Death to him is the question of the amount of remaining environment he is able to compass. If there be one circle or one segment of a circle which he yet fails to reach, to correspond with, to know, to be influenced by, he is, with regard to that circle or segment, dead. (page 156)

So is man or isn’t he "in correspondence with the whole environment"? Drummond flatly states, "He is not." Men generally are not in living contact with the spiritual world. But the spiritual world is "not interpolating a new factor. This is an essential part of the old idea." We just got to the outermost zones:

The spiritual world is simply the outermost segment, circle, or circles, of the natural world. For purposes of convenience we separate the two just as we separate the animal world from the plant. But the animal world and the plant world are the same world. They are different parts of one environment. And the natural and the spiritual are likewise one. The inner circles are called the natural, the outer the spiritual. And we call them spiritual simply because they are beyond us or beyond a part of us. What we have correspondence with, that we call natural; what we have little or no correspondence with, that we call spiritual. But when the appropriate corresponding organism appears, the organism, that is, which can freely communicate with these outer circles, the distinction necessarily disappears. The spiritual to it becomes the outer circle of the natural. (page 157)

If we name this outermost circle of environment God, and for the word "correspondence" substitute Communion, the picture starts to clear: "Those who are in communion with God live, those who are not are dead. . . . The unspiritual man is he who lives in the circumscribed environment of this present world", even if he is not "purposely irreligious, or directly vicious":

This earthly mind may be of noble calibre, enriched by culture, high toned, virtuous and pure. But if it know not God? What though its correspondences reach to the stars of heaven or grasp the magnitudes of Time and Space? The stars of heaven are not heaven. Space is not God. . . . We do not picture the possessor of this carnal mind as in any sense a monster. We have said he may be high-toned, virtuous, and pure. The plant is not a monster because it is dead to the voice of the bird; nor is he a monster who is dead to the voice of God. The contention at present simply is that he is Dead. (pages 158-159)

Drummond next mentions the attacks on theology for its sternness on the subject of death:

What is the creed of the Agnostic, but the confession of the spiritual numbness of humanity? The negative doctrine which it reiterates with such sad persistency, what is it but the echo of the oldest of scientific and religious truths? And what are all these gloomy and rebellious infidelities, these touching, and too sincere confessions of universal nescience, but a protest against this ancient law of Death? (page 160)

And we are to believe the Agnostic on the subject of himself: "When the Agnostic tells me he is blind and deaf, dumb, torpid and dead to the spiritual world, I must believe him. Jesus tells me that. Paul tells me that. Science tells me that. He knows nothing of this outermost circle."

Drummond elaborates:

It brings no solace to the unspiritual man to be told he is mistaken. To say he is self-deceived is neither to compliment him not Christianity. He builds in all sincerity who raises his altar to the Unknown God. He does not know God. With all his marvellous and complex correspondences, he is still one correspondence short. (page 161)

And this has always come from science rather than from religion!

Its general acceptance by thinkers is based upon the universal failure of a universal experiment. The statement, therefore, that the natural man discerneth not the things of the spirit, is never to be charged against the intolerance of theology. There is no point at which theology has been more modest than here. It has left the preaching of a great fundamental truth almost entirely to philosophy and science. And so very moderate has been its tone, so slight has been the emphasis placed upon the paralysis of the natural with regard to the spiritual, that it may seem to some to have been intolerantly tolerant. No harm certainly could come now, no offence could be given to science, if religion asserted more clearly its right to the spiritual world. Science has paved the way for the reception of one of the most revolutionary doctrines of Christianity; and if Christianity refuses to take advantage of the opening it will manifest a culpable want of confidence in itself. There never was a time when its fundamental doctrines could more boldly be proclaimed, or when they could better secure the respect and arrest the interest of Science. (pages 161-162)

Since all this is true in spades in today’s world, and since near-death experiences are more plentiful with the advances in the world of medicine and in those who have made a serious scientific study of the subject, the Philosopher will no doubt have a few thousand well-chosen words on the matter. However, he is still asleep in the Cave. Please pray that he will soon resume his place on the Stone. We shall resume our study of this chapter next week, with real hope that he will be awake by then, and he has shown considerable improvement. Meanwhile, you might check out the new Kindle edition of his book, More Than Mortal? Contrasting Concepts and Enigmatic Evidence About Life After Death. It is available through Amazon. P.S. He definitely came down on the FOR side.

 

November 27, 2012

In Memoriam:

C. Alan Anderson, Ph.D.

1930-2012

This is without doubt the most difficult thing I have ever had to write. Alan was my best friend, my lover, my playmate, my partner, and for the last 16 years of a 22-year relationship, my husband. He had been unconscious for nearly a week at the time that the medical advisors felt that nothing else could be done for him, so they extubated him, and with my sister and brother-in-law at my side, I held his hand until he made his transition quietly, peacefully, free from pain and struggle. He was spared any further pain, fear, or the horrors of a nursing home. He had retained his bright, alert mental faculties until the day he tripped over his own walker and fell, breaking his hip.

Alan had superb abstract thinking abilities, with awesome ability to cut to the heart of any argument. The rest of him was about five years old, full of play and love of life, curious about anything and everything. He took his work of philosophy seriously, but never himself. His favorite piece of his own writing was a bit of doggerel, or Godderel, from A Guide to the Selection and Care of Your Personal God, his God book modeled on a dog book:

I am tempted to say

That the best way to pray

Is to shut up your mouth

And get out of the way.

Simply listen for God,

And go join him in play.

Dauntless in argument, he nevertheless continued to love the person and separate people from their views. The argument was always for the sake of a closer approximation to truth.

Now his mantle falls upon me, but I did not see the chariot of fire pull up for him. He vetted every word I wrote, picking up my occasional typo when he could no longer pick up his own, suggesting a rewording here or an additional phrase there, always seeking to make the Process New Thought message simpler, clearer, and more inspirational as well as rigorously sound scientifically, philosophically, and spiritually. I will continue as best I can, and I welcome the support of those who loved him and were in harmony with his message. It was my pride and privilege to have been—and continue to be—his soul mate.

Alan’s principal works (besides his doctoral dissertation, Horatio W. Dresser and the Philosophy of New Thought ), were The Problem is God, A Guide to the Selection and Care of Your Personal God, More Than Mortal? Contrasting Concepts and Enigmatic Evidence about Life After Death (newly out in a Kindle edition published by Ron Hughes (www.PPQuimby.com) and available from Amazon; and our jointly-written New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality, and Practicing the Presence of God for Practical Purposes with me as senior author. Ron has also published Kindle editions of these two jointly-authored books.

Next week I shall continue the Henry Drummond discussion of, ironically, "Death", into the middle of which this memorial appears.

"Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word."

 

December 4, 2012

Natural Law in the Spiritual World

Death (2)

The Philosopher never saw either half of this chapter’s discussion, so from henceforth, any errors are my own. If you have read the first half, you will most probably agree that it is a bit surprising: Drummond builds his case from ground-level science on up, and holds that theology has been if anything too reticent in describing death. Yet one could not ask for a gentler, more tolerant stance toward the agnostic, who, says Drummond, must be believed when he describes his being in a state of being dead to God. Morality, Drummond holds, has nothing to do with it; it has to do with correspondence: being open to/ able to receive from the higher state.

At this point, Drummond takes up the forceful objection: "that to every man who truly studies Nature there is a God. Call Him by whatever name—a Creator, a Supreme Being, a Great First Cause, a Power that makes for Righteousness—Science has a God; and he who believes in this, in spite of all protest, possesses a theology." The handy little word scientism was coined in 1877, and M-W’s 10th defines it (2) as "an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities)". The Philosopher held that it referred to making a religion out of science, and the definition of religion that he preferred was "beliefs, attitudes, and actions concerning Ultimate Reality" (which I think he borrowed from one of the Personalists or from Hartshorne). Science is a great methodological approach but a lousy religion, say I. Its "God" is frequently the laws of the physical universe, and its God is too small.

Drummond then quotes an extended, eloquent passage from "Natural Religion," p. 19, without naming the author for us benighted denizens of the 21st century. Referring to "the scientific man", he then picks up the discussion himself again:

Such now, we humbly submit, is Nature to very few. Their own confession is against it. That they are "absorbed" in the contemplation we can well believe. That they might "find safety and happiness" in the knowledge of Him is also possible—if they had it. But this is just what they tell us they have not. What they deny is not a God. It is the correspondence. The very confession of the Unknowable is itself the dull recognition of an Environment beyond themselves, and for which they feel they lack the correspondence. It is this want that makes their God the Unknown God. And it is this that makes them dead. (page 163)

Postmodern man needs to mull this over for a while for it to quite sink in (the Philosopher would not have cared for that split infinitive).

Gotta keep going in Drummond’s own words:

We have not said, or implied, that there is not a God of Nature. We have not affirmed that there is no Natural Religion. We are assured there is. We are even assured that without a Religion of Nature Religion is only half complete; that without a God of Nature the God of Revelation is only half intelligible and only partially known. God is not confined to the outermost circle of environment, He lives and moves and has His being in the whole. Those who only seek Him in the further zone can only find a part. The Christian who knows not God in Nature, who does not, that is to say correspond with the whole environment, most certainly is partially dead. (pages 163-164)

Please consider this a note in a bottle. If it washes up on your shore and you are a process thinker, please convey it to David Ray Griffin with the compliments of the Philosopher and me. It is at least naturalism(ns), if not naturalism (ppp). We have done in SAM! "He who hath ears to hear, let him hear."

Drummond continues, asserting:

From the service we have tried to make natural science render to our religion, we might be expected possibly to take up the position that the absolute contribution of Science to Revelation was very great. On the contrary, it is very small. The absolute contribution, that is, is very small. The contribution on the whole is immense, vaster than we have yet any idea of. But without the aid of the higher Revelation this many toned and far-reaching voice had been for ever dumb. (page 165)

He illustrates just how dim this "light of Nature" is, "how dim we ourselves, with the glare of other Light upon the modern world, can only realize when we seek among the pagan records of the past for the gropings after truth of those whose only light was this." And if you thought that was bad, check out the "other Light" on the postmodern world, God help us all:

For us who could never weigh it rightly in the scales of Truth it [the Religion of Nature] has been tried in the balance of experience and found wanting. Theism is the easiest of all religions to get, but the most difficult to keep. Individuals have kept it, but nations never. Socrates and Aristotle, Cicero and Epictetus had a theistic religion; Greece and Rome had none. And even after getting what seems like a firm place in the minds of men, its unstable equilibrium sooner or later betrays itself. On the one hand theism has always fallen into the wildest polytheism, or on the other into the blankest atheism. (page 166)

I seem to remember the Philosopher stating that the Stoics—whom he largely admired—were pantheists rather than theists. And what happened to Plato, whose political philosophy was a statist disaster, in contrast to much if not most of his other writings? But perhaps these are quibbles, and I need to stay after class and get some things clarified.

Drummond resumes:

What indeed if this were not a light at all, but only part of a light—the carbon point, the fragment of calcium, the reflector in the great Lantern which contains the Light of the World? This is one inference. But the most important is that the absence of the true Light means moral Death. The darkness of the natural world to the intellect is not all. What history testifies to is, first the partial, and then the total eclipse of virtue that always follows the abandonment of belief in a personal God. It is not, as has been pointed out a hundred times, that morality in the abstract disappears, but the motive and sanction are gone. . . . Grant that morals have their own base in human life; grant that Nature has a Religion whose creed is Science; there is yet nothing apart from God to save the world from moral Death. Morality has the power to dictate but none to move. Nature directs but cannot control. (page 167)

Even if one holds to a strong moral code, without a belief in God and God’s power to help us when things fall apart, there is little or no motive to stick to that code at such times: "That morality has a basis in human society, that Nature has a Religion, surely makes the Death of the soul when left to itself all the more appalling. It means that, between them, Nature and morality provide all for virtue—except the Life to live it." And then: "The carnal mind, the mind which is turned away from God, which will not correspond with God—this is not moral only but spiritual Death. And Sin, that which separates from God, which disobeys God, which can not in that state correspond with God—this is hell." To clarify, he adds: "The irreligious man’s correspondences are concentrated upon himself. He worships himself. Self-gratification rather than self-denial; independence rather than submission—these are the rules of life. And this is at once the poorest and the commonest form of idolatry."

I hasten to add that one does not have to accept asceticism, humiliation, or life as a zero-sum game in order to agree with this: the Two Great Commandments, which summarize the other ten, set up God, one’s neighbor, and oneself, joined as equals in love, although we are idiots if we do not give the lead to God!

Drummond sketches:

The true environment of the moral life is God. Here conscience wakes. Here kindles love. Duty here becomes heroic; and that righteousness begins to live which alone is to live for ever. But if this Atmosphere is not, the dwarfed soul must perish for mere want of its native air. And its Death is a strictly natural Death. It is not an exceptional judgment upon Atheism. (page 171)

He continues:

Every environment is a cause. Its effect upon me is exactly proportionate to my correspondence with it. If I correspond with part of it, part of myself is influenced. If I correspond with more, more of myself is influenced; if with all, all is influenced. If I correspond with the world, I become worldly; if with God, I become Divine. As without correspondence of the scientific man with the natural environment there could be no Science and no action founded on the knowledge of Nature, so without communion with the spiritual Environment there can be no Religion. To refuse to cultivate the religious relation is to deny to the soul its highest right—the right to a further evolution. (pages 171-172)
And he provides another amazing conclusion:
We have already admitted that he who knows not God may not be a monster; we cannot say he will not be a dwarf. This precisely, and on perfectly natural principles, is what he must be. You can dwarf a soul just as you can dwarf a plant, by depriving it of a full environment. Such a soul for a time may have "a name to live." Its character may betray no sign of atrophy. But its very virtue somehow has the pallor of a flower that is grown in darkness, or as the herb which has never seen the sun, no fragrance breathes from its spirit. To morality, possibly, this organism offers the example of an irreproachable life; but to science it is an instance of arrested development; and to religion it present the spectacle of a corpse—a living Death. (page 173)

Next week we shall get Drummond’s take on Mortification.

 

December 11, 2012

Natural Law in the Spiritual World

Mortification

This is a word that I don’t see bandied about much these days.  Mortify occurs twice in the Bible, both times in the letters of Paul.  I can only recall hearing “I was mortified”, meaning I thought I would die of embarrassment, not exactly what Paul had in mind, nor Henry Drummond.  

Drummond starts his chapter with “the definition of Death which science has given us”: A falling out of correspondence with environment.  He adds, “Not to have these correspondences is to be in the state of Death”, whether we are speaking of the body or the soul.  He now proceeds to “another class of expressions where the same term is employed in an exactly opposite connection.  It is a proof of the radical nature of religion that a word so extreme should have to be used again and again in Christian teaching, to define in different directions the true spiritual relations of mankind.”  He has discussed “the condition of the natural man with regard to the spiritual world”; now he wants to discuss “the relations of the spiritual man with regard to the natural world”.  He flatly states: “The relation of the spiritual man to the natural world, or at least to part of it, is to be that of Death”.  It’s still all about correspondences:

When the natural man becomes the spiritual man, the great change is described by Christ as a passing from Death unto Life.  Before the transition occurred, the practical difficulty was this, how to get into correspondence with the new Environment?  But no sooner is this correspondence established than the problem is reversed.  The question now is, how to get out of correspondence with the old environment? (pages 178-179)

Talk about being mortified!  To the newly aligned soul, “the former environment has now become embarrassing.  It refuses its dismissal from consciousness.  It competes doggedly with the new Environment for a share of the correspondences. . . . The complex and bewildered soul, in fact, finds itself in correspondence with two environments, each with urgent but yet incompatible claims.  It is a dual soul living in a double world, a world whose inhabitants are deadly enemies, and engaged in perpetual civil war.”  New Thought likes to describe our fear thoughts as “enemies”.  Process thought would comment that they undoubtedly do not represent God’s perfect possibilities for us in any given occasion of experience.  It’s downright schizophrenic: “To walk both in the flesh and in the spirit is morally impossible.  ‘No man,’ as Christ so often emphasized, ‘can serve two masters.’”

How do we get out?  Drummond is all ready for that one: “A ready solution of the difficulty would be to die.”  To die organically neatly gets us off the horns of the dilemma, but we cannot morally take that into our own hands.  So, what else resembles Actual Death that might serve as “a temporary substitute”?   Well, says Drummond, “If we cannot die altogether, in short, the most we can do is to die as much as we can . . . .”  As in any environment, we “withdraw correspondence with it” and cut all communication with it as much as possible: “The spiritual man having passed from Death unto Life, the natural man must next proceed to pass from Life unto Death.  Having opened the new set of correspondences, he must deliberately close up the old.  Regeneration in short must be accompanied by Degeneration.”

When I first read that, it made me a bit nervous, because it sounds like the same old scolding saws from the religions of the past.  But continue to trust Drummond; he mentions that this is exactly what the Christian founders recommended: that one “die morally, reckoning himself morally dead to that environment which, by competing for his correspondences, has now become an obstacle to his spiritual life”.  They use three methods for doing this: Suicide, Mortification, and Limitation,  “adapted . . . to meet three different forms of temptation”.  Hang in there a while longer:

Suicide.  Paul says that if the Christian is to “live unto God,” he must “die unto sin”, kill sin before it kills him.  He does this by setting out “to reduce the number of his correspondences—retaining and developing those which lead to a fuller life, unconditionally withdrawing those which in any way tend in an opposite direction.  This stoppage of correspondences is a voluntary act, a crucifixion of the flesh, a suicide.”    Drummond explains that there is a large class of sins for which suicide is the only solution, and suicide is both self-inflicted and sudden.  Some things, such as jumping chasms, cannot be done in stages; it’s all or oops!  Alcoholism (addiction to or abuse of alcohol, which may well have its place as a part of God’s creation for most people) is one example.  This is what Jesus meant when he said, “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee”.  He was not referring to literal bodily mutilation.

Mortification.  It’s the title of the chapter, but here it is stuck in the middle.  Here Drummond mentions Paul’s two uses of the word mortify: “The word mortify here is, literally, to make to die.”  But this is not intended in a technical sense to refer to “the pathology of mortification . . . . In contrast with suicide, Mortification implies a gradual rather than a sudden process.  These things could not be done suddenly: “To break altogether, and at every point, with the old environment, is a simple impossibility.”  Temper, in contrast to drunkenness, must be changed gradually by repeated dealings with the environment; to avoid opportunities for encountering alcohol unexpectedly is a bit simpler, though perhaps no easier.  Drummond uses the analogy of horticultural pruning, “where the object is to divert life from a useless into a useful channel”.  As Jesus said, “Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He purgeth it that it may bring forth more fruit.”  The useless branch is not cut off, but just relieved of exercise, or mortified until it shrivels and dies.

Limitation.  Sometimes it is too dangerous to risk chopping or pruning:

Not a few correspondences, for instance, are not wrong in themselves but only in their extremes.  Up to a certain point they are lawful and necessary; beyond that point they may become not only unnecessary but sinful.  The appropriate treatment in these and similar cases consists in a process of Limitation.  (page 193)

This, however, “requires a most delicate hand.  It is an art, moreover, which no one can teach another.”  Drummond gives as an example the love of money.  There is nothing wrong with loving money—up to a point.  “And in this consists at once the difficulty and the dignity of Limitation.”  There are other examples where we might legitimately enjoy or cultivate something, but perhaps because of the effect on others, we might need to forego such pleasures, at least temporarily.  But, Drummond makes clear, “No man is called to a life of self-denial for its own sake.  It is in order to a compensation which, though sometimes difficult to see, is always real and always proportionate.”  We give up angels to make room for archangels.  Jesus tells us to “hate life”.  Drummond explains, “Life is not a sin, but the love of life may be a sin. . . . Is it a sin then to love life?  Not a sin exactly, but a mistake.”  We have only so much time and attention to give, and to love too much in one area may lead to a loss in another.  “Therefore Christ says, Hate life, limit life, lest you steal your love for it from something that deserves it more.”  It might not be worldly pleasures, but possibly “a silent deference to worldly opinion; an almost unconscious lowering of religious tone to the level of the worldly-religious world around; a subdued resistance to the soul’s delicate promptings to greater consecration, out of deference to ‘breadth’ or fear of ridicule.”

Drummond then makes a clear distinction between true and false ways of hating life: “Some men hate life because it hates them. . . . The man who loves his life literally loses it. . . . then he hates it because it has fooled him.  The other way is the religious . . . “,  serving only one master.  “Despising the other—this is hating life, limiting life.  It is not misanthropy, but Christianity.”  It is also “the secret by which self-denial may be most easily borne.”  It’s no good to go around ruthlessly chopping off things we love: “The whole cross is more easily carried than the half.  It is the man who tries to make the best of both worlds who makes nothing of either.”  By setting clear boundaries for oneself and sticking to them, the mortification process assists us in letting us gradually grow numb the appeal of those things.  “So even here to die is to gain.”

Next week we have made it all the way to Eternal Life.

 

December 18, 2012

Natural Law in the Spiritual World

Eternal Life

The word eternal was one of the Philosopher’s pet peeves, because it has two meanings: everlasting, and timeless.  In this nearly everlasting chapter (nearly fifty pages), I think Drummond means everlasting, although some theologians want to portray God as outside of time (timeless), as if time were a conveyor belt that God was viewing.  That version isn’t going to fly with most process theologians.  

Drummond begins with a quotation: “‘This is Life Eternal—that they might know Thee, the True God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent’—Jesus Christ”. It turns out to be John 17:3, King James Version (cute, Henry, cute; you could have told us that). It’s a red-letter verse, part of the High Priestly Prayer.  It then takes him another twelve pages to come up with “one of the most startling achievements of recent science . . . a definition of Eternal Life”:

Through all these centuries revealed religion had this doctrine to itself.  Ethics had a voice, as well as Christianity, on the question of the summum bonum; Philosophy ventured to speculate on the Being of a God.  But no source outside Christianity contributed anything to the doctrine of Eternal Life. . . . It was the one thing in the Christian system that most needed verification from without, yet none was forthcoming.” (pages 203-204)

The Philosopher never met a pun he didn’t like, particularly if it was cross-lingual.  In his God book modeled on a dog book, he has a chapter entitled, “God’s Favorite Food: The Summum Bonum”.

This to Drummond is a very big deal: “The reverent inquirer who guides his steps in the right direction may find even now in the still dim twilight of the scientific world much that will illuminate and intensify his sublimest faith.”  We get to test “the most vital point of the Christian system. . . . For the first time Science touches Christianity positively on the doctrine of Immortality.”  But, “Is the Christian conception of Eternal Life scientific?”  Drummond notes “that the definition of Eternal Life drawn up by Science was framed without reference to religion.”  

Before giving us the definition, which comes from Herbert Spencer, Drummond wants to “gradually lead up to it by a brief rehearsal of the few and simple biological facts on which it is based.”  He then goes over the points he has made about degrees of Life:  “some lives have more and fuller correspondence with Environment than others.  The amount of correspondence . . . is determined by the greater or less complexity of the organism”, and he goes on to contrast the amoeba with Man.  He explains: “At some time or other in its career circumstances are sure to occur to which the comparatively immobile organism finds itself structurally unable to respond.  Thus a Medusa tossed ashore by a wave, finds itself so out of correspondence with its new surroundings that its life must pay the forfeit”, whereas an eel might have been able to adapt by crawling back into the water.  Also, “as we ascend in the scale of Life we rise also in the scale of longevity.”  To get to Eternal Life, we need: “an organism with a correspondence of a very exceptional kind.  It must lie beyond the reach of those ‘mechanical actions’ and those ‘variations of available food,’ which are ‘liable to stop the processes going on in the organism’.”  In other words, we are headed toward the Spiritual World. 

Now, finally, we are prepared to receive Spencer’s definition of Eternal Life:

Perfect correspondence would be perfect life.  Were there no changes in the environment but such as the organism had adapted changes to meet, and were it never to fail in the efficiency with which it met them, there would be eternal existence and eternal knowledge. (“Principles of Biology,” p. 88)

Drummond here repeats John 17:3:

Life Eternal is to know God.  To know God is to “correspond” with God.  To correspond with God is to correspond with a Perfect Environment.  And the organism which attains to this, in the nature of things must live for ever.  Here is “eternal existence and eternal knowledge.”  (page 215)

And just to make sure we understand:

The artist’s life is a correspondence with art; the musician’s with music.  To cut them off from these Environments is in that relation to cut off their Life.  To be cut off from all Environment is death.  To find a new Environment again and cultivate relation with it is to find a new Life.  To live is to correspond, and to correspond is to live.  So much is true in Science.  But it is also true in Religion. . . . To Religion also the conception of Life is a correspondence.  (pages 215-216)

Drummond points out, “No truth of Christianity has been more ignorantly or wilfully travestied than the doctrine of Immortality.”  People still have the mistaken notion that “Eternal Life is to live for ever.”  Rather, Life Eternal is not to live; it is to know:

And yet—and it is a notorious instance of the fact that men who are opposed to Religion will take their conceptions of its profoundest truths from mere vulgar perversions—this view still represents to many cultivated men the Scriptural doctrine of Eternal Life.  From time to time the taunt is thrown at Religion, not unseldom from lips which Science ought to have taught more caution, that the Future Life of Christianity is simply a prolonged existence, an eternal monotony, a blind and indefinite continuance of being.  The Bible never could commit itself to any such empty platitude; nor could Christianity ever offer to the world a hope so colourless.  Not that Eternal Life has nothing to do with everlastingness.  That is part of the conception.  And it is this aspect of the question that first arrests us in the field of Science.  (pages 216-217)

Science, continues Drummond, has “a correspondence and an Environment.  It defines degrees of Life.  It explains a widening Environment.  It unfolds the relation between a widening Environment and increasing complexity in organisms. . . . It yields to Immortality, and this is the most that Science can do in any case, the broad framework for a doctrine.”

The highest possible correspondence is needed for the spiritual organism, but it should not be “altogether novel” or it would violate continuity.  Rather, “we should look for a further development in harmony with current developments . . .in a new and higher direction.”  We need both “quantity of years” and “quality of correspondence”.  Leaving Science, correspondence becomes communion, and can also be called Faith, or Love: “For the knowing of a Whole so great involves the co-operation of many parts.”  But here’s the rub: 

With a material body and a mental organization inseparably connected with it, to bridge the grave.  Emotion, volition, thought itself, are functions of the brain.  When the brain is impaired, they are impaired. . . . Everything ceases with the dissolution of the material fabric; muscular activity and mental activity perish alike.  With the pronounced positive statements on this point from many departments of modern Science we are all familiar. . . . Can we go on in the teeth of so real an obstruction?  Has not our own weapon turned against us, Science abolishing with authoritative hand the very truth we are asking it to define?  (pages 223-224)

Philosophy is not much help, states Drummond.  We know that mind and brain react, but we have no idea how.  Their correlation does not involve their identity.

There is . . . a flaw at this point in the argument for materialism.  It may not help the spiritualist in the least degree positively.  He may be as far as ever from a theory of how consciousness could continue without the material tissue.  But his contention secures for him the right of speculation.  The path beyond may lie in hopeless gloom; but it is not barred.  He may bring forward his theory if he will.  And this is something.  For a permission to go on is often the most that Science can grant to Religion.  (page 225)

Next week we shall learn whether the hopeless gloom lifts.  Also, Drummond was just a bit too early for process thought, where there is no interaction problem.

Lagniappe: I have come across some articles from older issues of New Thought by the Philosopher and by me.   As I locate or rekey them, they will appear on the two Articles pages (click the blue tabs on your left).  This week, I have added four articles by the Philosopher: “New Thought in Theory”(1990),, “Remembering SSMR” (Summer 2012) (his last published article), “Universal What?” (1996), and “Experience: All There Is” (1998).

 

Christmas Day 2012

Natural Law in the Spiritual World 

Eternal Life (2) 

Before we plunge on into the second half of this chapter, we should note that materialism in  metaphysics has had rougher and rougher going because it is so flawed in the face of the findings of quantum physics and other recent science.  As process philosopher Charles Hartshorne puts it, “Materialism is the denial that the most pervasive processes of nature involve any such psychical functions as sensing, feeling, remembering, desiring, or thinking. . . .”   I have heard it said, “Nobody’s a materialist any more”, which is clearly wishful thinking.  It is true that many materialists have fled into dualism in an attempt to escape various problems, but that only takes them from the frying pan into the fire, because in dualism they squarely face the difficulty of how mind and matter, if both are equally real, can interact.  Hmmmmm....  Process thought, as cleaned-up idealism, sees matter like mind as experiences, so, no problemo.

Drummond doesn’t think much of the “superfluous task [of] seeking along physiological lines to find room for a soul.  The hitch is in determining “the point in the chain of Evolution at which organisms became endowed with Immortality.  No secular theory explains the condition of the endowment, nor indicates its goal.”  So what separates us from the animals?  Drummond turns to Jesus, who “makes no attempt to project the material into the immaterial. . . . Instead of attaching Immortality to the natural organism, He introduces a new and original factor which none of the secular, and few even of the theological theories, seem to take sufficiently into account”.  Here’s “the correspondence which is to bridge the grave.  He that hath Life hath the Son.  He possesses the Spirit of a son.  That spirit is, so to speak, organized within him by the Son.”  It is only partially true to say that Life is a correspondence.  What determines the correspondences?  A Principle of Life, whatever that means.  More specifically, a Principle of Spiritual Life, “a new and Divine Possession”.  Drummond explains: 

This is not an organic correspondence, but a spiritual correspondence.  It comes not from generation, but from regeneration.  The relation between the spiritual man and his Environment is, in theological language, a filial relation.  With the new Spirit, the filial correspondence, he knows the Father—and this is Life Eternal.  This is not only the real relation, but the only possible relation: “Neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.”  And this on purely natural grounds.  It takes the Divine to know the Divine—but in no more mysterious sense than it takes the human to understand the human.  (page 229)

This, Drummond points out, “at once satisfies the demands of Science and Religion . . . a correspondence which can never break with an Environment which can never change.”  He quotes Romans 8:35-39, then continues, anticipating an objection:

That the “perfect correspondence” should come to man in so extraordinary a way.  The earlier stages in the doctrine are promising enough; they are entirely in line with Nature.  And if Nature had also furnished the “perfect correspondence” demanded for an Eternal Life the position might be unassailable.  But this sudden reference to a something outside the natural Environment destroys the continuity, and discovers a permanent weakness in the whole theory?”  (pages 231-232)

Drummond then answers the objection with a twofold reply: “In the first place, to go outside what we call Nature is not to go outside Environment.  Nature, the natural Environment, is only a part of Environment.”  There is also “the mental and moral world”, which, though “unknown to the plant”, is real.  It is not unnatural, but it is supernatural: “Things are natural or supernatural simply according to where one stands.  Man is supernatural to the mineral; God is supernatural to the man.”  Secondly, some complain if “the spiritual correspondence should be furnished from the spiritual world”; however, “correspondence in any case is the gift of Environment.  The natural Environment gives men their natural faculties; the spiritual affords them their spiritual faculties.” 

But Drummond wants to rest the Christian argument for Immortality on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: “Christ’s mission on earth was to give men Life . . . . literal spiritual and Eternal Life, is clear from the whole course of His teaching and acting.”  And he refuses to entertain a metaphorical meaning in “the commonest word of the New Testament”, in part at least because “the context, in most cases, is directly unfavourable to a figurative meaning, but in innumerable instances in Christ’s teaching Life is broadly contrasted with Death”.  Certainly the apostles took the term literally.  Despite the glories of the metaphorical Bible interpretation in New Thought, we have to go along with Drummond here.  For a clearer definition, Drummond again hands Science the hot potato: “when Science can define the Natural Life and the Physical Force we may hope for further clearness on the nature and action of the Spiritual Powers.  The effort to detect the living Spirit must be at least as idle as the attempt to subject protoplasm to microscopic examination in the hope of discovering Life.”  He then quotes one of the Philosopher’s favorite bits of Socrates on the subject of where he is to be buried:  “Anywhere you like, if you can catch me”.  

Drummond continues:

Science never corroborates a spiritual truth without illuminating it.  The threshold of Eternity is a place where many shadows meet.  And the light of Science here, where everything is so dark, is welcome a thousand times.  Many men would be religious if they knew where to begin; many would be more religious if they were sure where it would end.  It is not indifference that keeps some men from God, but ignorance.  (page 237)

Too many new authorities, too many new philosophies.  “But here are two outstanding authorities agreed—not men, not philosophers, not creeds.  Here is the voice of God and the voice of Nature.  I cannot be wrong if I listen to them.”  He elaborates:

All knowledge lies in Environment.  When I want to know about minerals I go to minerals.  When I want to know about flowers I go to flowers.  And they tell me. . . If I want to know about Man, I go to his part of the Environment. . . . And if I want to know about God, I go to His part of the Environment.  (pages 239-40)

Then he has some interesting remarks about grace:

Growth in grace is sometimes described as a strange, mystical, and unintelligible process.  It is mystical but neither strange nor unintelligible.  It proceeds according to Natural Law, and the leading factor in sanctification is Influence of Environment.  (pages 242-243)  

And he starts to wind up:

We have been dealing with the scientific aspects of communion with God.  Insensibly, from quantity we have been led to speak of quality,.  And enough has  now been advanced to indicate generally the nature of that correspondence with which is necessarily associated Eternal Life.  (pages 24-245)

Mopping up, “everlastingness belongs . . . to a single correspondence, or rather to a single set of correspondences.  But it is apparent that before this correspondence can take full and final effect a further process is necessary.”  It must be separated from other correspondences “which do not share its peculiar quality”, those which “are in their nature unfitted for an Eternal Life”.  Yet apparently “opposed to the scientific definition of Eternal Life, it is yet true that perfect correspondence with Environment is not Eternal Life”.  Huh?  Well, we still have to “exclude the brute creation, drawing the line rigidly at man, or at least somewhere within the human race”.  No, Drummond is not objecting to letting Fido into heaven, but “their Environment is not Eternal. . . . An Eternal Life demands an Eternal Environment”.  But what if the organism is true but “the Environment played it false?”  The organism might adapt, “but what if the Environment passed away altogether?”  That would leave “the dread and possibility of a falling out of correspondence.”  We need some “quality of permanence in the Environment”, which “distinguishes the religious relation from every other”.  A musician’s soul “might last forever— but not his violin”.

So there needs to be some separation to keep the temporal from impairing and hindering the eternal.  “And this is effected by a closing catastrophe—Death.”  Yes, “death is the necessary result of Imperfection, and the necessary end of it.” So, both in Science and in Scripture, “to die is to gain.”  Nature does this last “sifting of the correspondences.  This is its last and greatest contribution to mankind.”  It really changes one’s perspective.  And what’s amazing is that the more recent developments only reinforce Drummond’s findings, enhancing the effort to reunite science and spirituality.  For years the Church suppressed science, then the tables were turned.  Now both science and religion are coming into their own as aspects of God’s creation, each with something to contribute to the other.

Lagniappe: I have added two papers to my Writings-Deb page: “Responsibility: From Indictment to Empowerment” and “Walk Your Talk”.  Articles are not in chronological order; the latest to be added is on top.  And here is a link to the paper Alan gave at the 25th Annual Whitehead Conference in 1998:  www.websyte.com/alan/ntlnapt.htm