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The Stream of Blessedness
"The Way of the Spirit is harmony and peace."
"There is a River known of old
From which the prophets drew;
A living stream that ever flows
The whole creation through.
And they who find this mystic stream
Shall never thirst again;
It flows from out the throne of God
To all the sons of men."
Henry Victor Morgan
Too long has mankind suffered from the belief that it is not only "born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards," but condemned to endure it, and that there is no way of escape. It is still a common belief amongst many of us, who profess to believe in God, that disharmony is inevitable. If we escape from certain evils, then we say we are "lucky". Too often, alas! our only belief, as far as this life goes, is not in God ( a God who is of any practical use or help in this life), but in chance and luck.
If we are lucky, well and good. If we are unlucky, then we must grin and bear it. Many of us do not believe that there is any practical help to be derived from prayer. We think that at its best, it is a beneficial exercise for the soul. In this modernistic age those who think differently are often sneered at as believers in magic. In other words, man is a victim to chance and luck, to the elements, to certain powers of destruction, or to influences which may either raise him up, or cast him down; but yet over none of these has he any power of his own; and as for God - well, He does not or cannot Interfere.
It is true that so long as, and to the extent that, we hold these views, we must remain victims of fate, or chance, or luck, and of powers of evil and destruction. If we exclude from our mind all belief in the God-given spiritual power promised to His children: liberty, mastery, dominion (not by the self, but that power and mastery that is experienced by those who enter the liberty of the sons of God), we must forever remain weak slaves and victims of fate, or chance, or whatever it is that plagues and torments man.
Even scientists, such as Sir James Jeans and others, are coming round to the metaphysical idea that the world is not so much a thing external to ourselves, as it is something that is held in the mind. This is no new belief, for it has been accepted, in the past, by nearly all thinkers who, by processes of reasoning, discovered that the only thing of which they could be certain was consciousness.
Without going so far as to accept such a belief or reasoning, en bloc, we can at least see that if we refuse to hold, or are incapable of holding, any idea of a life greater than that of man as a helpless creature, the prey of countless evils and misfortunes, then we must continue to remain victims of fate and chance. If it is not in the mind, it cannot be in the life.
If we do not include God, Liberty, Good, Love, freedom, dominion over nature and circumstances, harmony and order, etc. in our philosophy, if we do not include these within our mental grasp, then assuredly they can never appear in our life and experience. If we do not believe in God, or in liberty and overcoming, we narrow our life and its possibilities down to those of the savage. We shut out of our mind, and consequently out of our life, all the most glorious things in the universe. We shut out of our experience all the possibilities and potentialities of god-hood. The object of possessing a mind such as man possesses, capable of limitless expansion, is that we may grow above the beast, above the savage, above the intellectual, and become god-men.
It is true that the greatest achievements of which we are capable, are that we may love compassionately, be faithful and true, be patient and steadfast, and pure and noble. But even these "fruits", which are of the heart rather than of the mind, have first to be included in the mind, before they can be brought into consciousness and welded into the character. Yet in addition to these "fruits of the spirit," it is necessary for us to enter into the truth about God, that He is a God of love, order, harmony, wholeness, beauty, and peace; otherwise our lives are full of anxiety and care instead of being carefree and full of joy.
My point is just this: that if we do not believe that greater things are possible, they must of necessity remain impossible in our experience; whereas if we accept this larger truth about God and life, thus bringing it within the horizon of our thought and the boundaries of our mind, then greater and more glorious things become possible.
The first step, then, is to believe that greater things are possible, to believe that we are greater than we seem, that we are spiritual beings, living in a spiritual universe, governed by spiritual laws, and that all things are ours, if we do but exercise faith.
First of all, then, we have to believe that God really is good, that life is good, that there is a friendliness in things, that a good and wise purpose is working out, or which is seeking to find expression. This truth may be, and is, stated in a number of different ways: but it is always the same truth. It is generally stated as "all good comes from the Lord”. This is a fundamental truth. At first we think that we can create our own good. We think that we can visualize it, and will it into manifestation. If we succeed in doing this we find that such "good" is only fleeting; for 'Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up'; and, also, 'Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it'.
This beginning stage of conscious effort is necessary, and has its place in the scheme of things, but it is a stage that has to be left behind. It is only preliminary. Really, the first step is to acknowledge that all good comes from the Lord.
But what do we mean by "coming from the Lord'? First of all, what do we mean by the term "Lord''? By it I mean the One Creative Centre or Spiritual Source from Which all creation or manifestation springs. This, in its essence, is pure and perfect. God, the Source, is perfect, and can express only order and perfection.
Perfect order and good can come only from the One Source of all order and good. "All things were made by him, and without him there was not any thing made that was made." All that is real and perfect and good comes from the One Divine Source, and nothing else is permanent, or real, or of God. Neither can good come from any other source, for there is only one Source, one God, one Good.
The first lesson, then, that we have to learn, is that all good comes from the Lord, the One Source and Fountain of Good. It is not necessary to define what is meant by the term good, for we each know intuitively what is good, and what is not good. We know that sin, such as lust, impurity, selfishness, hate, uncharitableness, untruthfulness, insincerity, unfaithfulness, living below our ideals, fear, mistrust, is not good, but evil. We also know that disease, sickness, penury, disaster, disharmony, wretchedness, misery, care, anxiety, ugliness, disorder are evil and not of God, although He can bring good out of every experience. Intuition tells us that the Divine idea concerning each one of us and the world in general is perfect, and that this Idea is not merely a negative absence of evil, but a positive expression of love, truth, order, beauty, wholeness - in other words, Heaven.
Heaven is where the Lord is, and where, consequently, Divine Order is. When we are conscious of the Divine Presence we are in a state of Heavenly consciousness. Actually, the Divine Idea is for ever being perfectly expressed, but we live in a lower consciousness ( a form of separate consciousness), in which we fail either to live up to our privileges and possibilities, or to apprehend or appreciate the Divine beauty and order.
Divine Love and Wisdom are continually endeavouring to lead us into the right way - the way of order, perfection and harmony. But, man, being a free agent, cannot be forced or overruled, he must come to the Truth in his own way, and of his own free will. In the true Path of Life is harmony, peace, beauty, order and infinite good. Everything comes to pass at the right time, and everybody and everything is in his and its right place at the right time, and the whole works harmoniously in co-operation and co-ordination with one Supreme Will, which is Infinite Love guided by Infinite Wisdom.
The disorders of life are due to our being out of the harmonious Stream of Life and Blessedness, instead of in it. Such disasters and disorders are not "sent to try us," but to guide us into the Path or Stream of true harmony and blessedness.
What I have termed "a Stream of Blessedness", Swedenborg terms "The Stream of Providence". The meaning is identical. God is not the author of disorder and misery, but is a God of love, harmony, beauty and perfection. We enter into a state of blessedness, or into the Divine Providence, to the extent that we acknowledge that all good comes from the Lord, and then to depend upon the Divine, instead of upon ourselves, or upon human channels, or worldly methods. To the extent that we surrender to the Divine, do we bring the Divine order into our life; or, rather are we brought into the Stream of Divine Providence or state of blessedness.
I have said that the first step is to acknowledge that all good comes from the Lord. We have seen that "good'. is a heavenly state of affairs. Consequently, 'good' can come only from Heaven. the presence of God, and the expression of the Divine Idea. But, before proceeding farther, let me make yet another digression. Some readers may already be in revolt, and want to say: 'Yes, but what about discipline, what about chastening, what about being purified in the fires of affliction ?" I am aware of all this. in fact, I have just read in Ecclesiasticus the following: "My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation. Set thy heart aright and constantly endure, and make not haste in time of trouble. Whatsoever is brought upon thee take cheerfully, and be patient when thou art changed to a low estate. For gold is tried in the fire. and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity.' But such quotations of which there are many in the Bible merely go to prove my point.
All the chastenings of life are due to the fact that we are not in the Stream of Blessedness. We attract them to ourselves, and bring them into our life, through not living in harmony with the Divine. We do not heed the Heavenly impulses from within which would fain guide us into paths of peace and harmony. We still listen to the voice of desire, still follow the impulses of self, still live in a state of spiritual lethargy, instead of braving the mountain passes of spiritual attainment. The inevitable result of all this is suffering. Owing, however, to. the working of a beneficient law - the operation of Divine love and wisdom - the effect of our wrong thinking and acting is that what is brought to us, is not punishment, but remedial experience. Thus it is that one of the secrets of the true art of living is to meet all life 's experience with co-operation, and in a flexible and adaptable manner.
But all such suffering and experience would not be necessary if ( a) we were already perfect and all-wise, or (b) if we always followed the impulses of the Divine within us, to live our life on a higher level.
We put ourselves, then, in the stream of the Divine Blessedness or Providence, partly through acknowledging that all good comes from the Spirit, from the One Central Source, and not from ourselves, or our own efforts; and partly through depending upon the Divine Source instead of upon our own efforts, wisdom, or subtlety. But, so I have found, it is necessary that this acknowledgment that all good, all wisdom, and all deliverance, etc., come from God should not remain merely an intellectual assent, or belief. It is true that we must first start with belief, but this must pass on to a state of knowing, or realization through experience. "First within, then without: first in the unseen, then in the seen. We learn the first truths about life even as children are slowly taught but the further stage is one of actual knowing through experience. It is a matter of attainment. Those who remain in a state of mere belief can never enter into freedom, or live a wider and more spacious life. But those who pass on to a state of real knowing, attain to a wider consciousness, in which they are free, to that degree, from the limitations which restrict man, and which keep him bound, a helpless victim, to the wheel of painful experience. Here, as in all spiritual truths, there is a subtle paradox. It is through choosing the difficult path that we find ourselves in a state of freedom: it is through choosing the easy path that we find life increasingly difficult. If we seek the personal happiness of the selfhood we never find it: if we follow the painful path of duty and high achievement we find rest to our soul, and joy which transcends mere happiness, even as the mountain towers above the plain.
Most readers will want to know if suffering may legitimately be avoided. Some may have discovered that through an attitude of the mind and will suffering can to a large extent be either accepted or refused. Experience has taught me that it is wise to accept all life's experiences and meet them in a spirit of co-operation. It is through being in mental conflict with them that many evils arise. Thus we have yet another paradox, which is, that if we accept life's experiences, thus accepting anything that life may bring, we not only rise above fear and apprehension, because we accept that which we have feared, but we also avoid the suffering that conflict and strain, due to opposition, cause. All this is somewhat subtle and difficult to understand, but through experience and through meditation, being helped and instructed by the Spirit, we enter into an inner understanding of this great truth. Swedenborg truly says: 'To those who are in perception it is granted by the Lord to know good and truth by an interior way'. It is through spiritual perception that we are able to understand in an interior way these great truths which are a complete enigma to the finest intellects.
The object of life is simply to prepare us for higher service, to make us ready for the sublime revelation that is waiting for us, and to build us up so that we can bear the responsibility that the revelation entails. We can meet all this with co-operation, willingness and self-discipline; or we can wait for painful experience to drive us into the Path; or we can oppose life's experiences, and thus cause further and quite unnecessary suffering.
If the object of life is to prepare us for godhood (or Sons-of-God-hood ) - and no one can read the Bible understandingly without coming to this conclusion - then there is one Royal Road which most people can follow, and this is Meditation. We become changed into the likeness of that which we contemplate. If we meditate upon God, and upon the qualities which we attribute to Him, which are the highest qualities of character that we can imagine, then gradually these same qualities become built up in us. Concurrently, the evils in our nature and selfhood die and pass away. Through contemplating the Divine, we become changed into the nature of the Divine. This is the positive way of destroying all sin, weakness, and imperfection. It is due to nothing that we can do ourselves. It is the work of the Spirit. All that we have to do is to contemplate; but this, however, is an accomplishment that is the result of much practice and patient persistence and perseverance.
When we contemplate we do not have any desire in our heart for anything except to know God and be changed into His likeness. We have no thought about avoiding experience or suffering; therefore, there is no conflict - no conflict between ourselves and the leading of the Spirit: no conflict between ourselves and life's experience: no conflict between a thought that God is love, and a thought that God is one who sends suffering. All conflict ceases, and we rest in the Divine Presence, willing to receive all that life can give us, knowing that whatever it is, it must be good; and that through 'trusting the current that knows the way', we are carried along on a Stream of Blessedness to our highest good.
During such times of quiet contemplation of the Divine, instead of the fears that afflict the selfhood or finite personality, come glorious revelations of blessing and love and care. As Edward Carpenter wrote: " All the Divine forces hasten to minister to our eternal joy".
We become blissfully conscious of a state of blessedness, of ministering angels, of being led harmoniously in paths of peace and eternal joy. We then know that all is well, and that in our experience the best is yet to be.
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