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Individuality and Strength
"If God is with me, I am in the majority."
"If God is for us, who can be against us?"
In spite of all that has been said in these pages about surrender and non-resistance, it must not be thought for a moment that we should surrender our individuality, or that we should allow another ego to dominate us. The 'I' of the individual must always remain as distinct from other individual egos. For reasons which cannot be given here it is necessary that this should be so. Each one of us should be positive and non-receptive to other egos, especially to those of a strong dominating kind. We should be negative, or receptive, only towards God. Paul said: 'Yet not I, but Christ'. He made his surrender only to God and Christ.
While it is true that we have to surrender our all to God, it is equally true that we must do nothing of the kind to other egos. Instead, it is necessary for us to develop strength and individuality. We have to become so strong that no dominating ego, either incarnate or discarnate, can have any power or influence over us. We have to maintain our liberty. And be free, individualized beings. If we do not thus maintain our freedom, we not only become weak creatures without individuality or character, but we also are liable to find ourselves dominated by some strong ego to such an extent that our life ceases to be our own.
But how can we maintain this strong attitude and yet be loving to all mankind? Loving humanity, however, does not mean being weakly affectionate, or "being in love", or surrendering ourselves to others in any way. Loving humanity means pouring out upon all a benediction of goodwill and blessing. A positive attitude is maintained. It is like the sun pouring out his rays upon both the evil and the good. One who is sufficiently advanced to love universally is strong enough to be lonely, and be in a raised-up position, from which he desires only to give in a spirit of benediction. Such a one, although he does not allow himself to sink down into a condition of general affectionate receptivity, and thus, in a sense, maintaining an aloof attitude, is yet willing to give himself for others, although he rigidly refuses to give himself to others. His love being universal is as the love of the Divine. Jesus Christ gave in a positive way. He said: "No man takes it (my life) from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”
Although it is true that the One Spirit - the Spirit of Christ - indwells all who have entered the new birth, yet each soul is an individualized unit. While it is possible to reach a state of universal consciousness in which the soul knows itself to be the soul of all men and even of all things, yet the individuality remains. There is unity combined with individuality, in place of separateness and selfish personality. Giving up the self is a surrender to the Lord alone. It is no surrender of the individuality; neither does it mean allowing stronger egos to dominate us, and thus to rob us of our freedom and individuality.
The Lord Jesus lived in a state of complete realization of Himself being the Incarnate Word, and could say not only, "I am the Son of God", but "I and the Father are one". The former statement represents one stage of attainment, according to Meister Eckhart, and the latter statement to a later and final stage of attainment. Yet, in spite of this, the Lord Jesus was most strongly individualized. There is no danger of confusing Him with Buddha, or Krishna, or any other great and enlightened teacher who claimed to have reached the final stage of illumination. They are each themselves, they each have their own respective, strongly-marked individuality. In fact, the higher their attainment, the more they tower above ordinary men, and the more strongly marked their individuality.
INDIVIDUAL ATTAINMENT TO UNIVERSAL CONSCIOUSNESS
The great Christian mystics attained to a similar realization as their Lord. "I am the way," said the Lord Jesus. That is, the way to the same realization.
In passing let it be pointed out that the extraordinary claims made by the mystics, while legitimate for them, would be rank blasphemy if made by unattained people.
But to continue, each mystic has his or her own strong individuality. Although they all enter the Universal Consciousness they do not lose their own individuality. No two mystics are alike. Who could confuse Lady Julian with Madame Guyon or Jacob Boehme with Meister Eckhart? Some, however, who read this, may be of the naturally strong ego class. The danger in this case is a tendency to dominate others. Owing to a change of heart, it may be a loving domination; but, even so, it must cease. No ego must dominate another, even from the best of motives. Maintain a strong individualistic attitude, yes. But there must never be anything approaching a domination of others. Perfect liberty must be given to others, and such gentleness extended that the weakest and the most timid child of God may take courage to expand and express his or her individuality in the sunshine of our love and benediction.
Unless we guard against it we are all liable to become the victims of suggestion. Other people with whom we are in contact may employ suggestion against us, either consciously or unconsciously. This may be done "for our good," but we must not allow it. It is much better for us to be free, and to make mistakes, than to be coerced into pursuing an exemplary course of action. It follows, of course, that we, on our part, must not coerce others, even by prayer, no matter how good and well-meaning our motive might be. Again, the books we read and even advertisements may affect us through suggestion. The picture of a man suffering from influenza used by an advertiser of a useless, highly priced nostrum may affect us adversely, by suggesting the possibility of our falling a victim to the epidemic. It may inject fear into us, in a subtle manner, so that unconsciously our defense is undermined.
We are surrounded by suggestions of all kinds. Even temptation is suggestion. Reading of poverty. penury and distress, may suggest to us that we may at sometime be reduced to the same pitiable condition. This is a temptation to sin against God. through doubting Him. We may be tempted to think that in an unfriendly world where self-interest rules instead of love, we may be forsaken and brought down to destitution. This is the sin of doubt. It is due to suggestion. If we allow it to find a lodging place within us, we lay ourselves open to the possibility of such a thing coming to pass. The suggestion must be killed as soon as it comes to us, and this can be accomplished by affirming Truth, God's truth about the matter, or the truth about God, and the truth about ourselves as children of God.
NOT RESISTANCE, BUT DENIAL
In passing, may I point out that the domination of other and stronger egos cannot be defeated by making 'ructions', and creating angry scenes. All such displays are exhibitions of weakness. and through indulging in them we give ourselves into the hands of the enemy. We can overcome, however, by being quietly firm, mentally denying that others have any power over us. This is possible through realizing the Truth, and thus becoming established in God. If we stand firm in God, then no domination and no suggestion can affect us. "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength." We have to realize that God, Who is Love, is all in all, and the only reality. It is very necessary that we should possess this strong realization of the Allness of Good. Particularly is this the case with those who are inclined to be psychic and open to psychic invasions, as they are called. People, who through ignorance, have practiced a negative, passive form of prayer, may find that they are being attacked by a power or entity that not only seeks to dominate them, but which endeavours to enter and possess their personality. This, of course, must be denied any reality. Those who are troubled in this way can refuse to recognize it, and declare that it has no reality; at the same time affirming the reality and allness of God, the All-Good, and that God loves them and that they are safe in His love.
Again, some may hear voices, which unfortunately they think are the Voice of God. If they challenge them, and deny them any reality, and if they refuse to be guided or influenced by them, then all is well. But if they listen to them they find that they become dominated and obsessed, so that they have no will of their own. This domination may not be confined to the one possessed, but through him it may be extended to others. The possessed one may think that he is the mouthpiece of God, and that he has a message to certain people which they must accept, because it is the Voice of God. If they give way they in turn become the victim of the same strong dominating entity. If anyone comes to you, or writes to you saying that the Lord has told him that you are to do a certain thing, have nothing whatever to do with him or it. Refuse to be influenced in this way. Maintain your own individuality by refusing point blank to do anything of the kind. Be guided by your own genius, common-sense and good judgment, and the good advice of those more experienced in these things than you yourself are. This sort of thing is not of the Lord; it is an insidious attempt to ensnare you. The Lord will guide you and bring you safely through all the difficulties and perplexities of this life, if you take your stand in God and Truth. It will be through the practical experience of life, that you will learn Divine Truth, and find God, if you will only be yourself, maintain your own individuality and freedom, always taking your stand in God, and God alone.
THE MARK OF THE SPIRITUAL MAN
Those who are possessed by a dominating spirit, although outwardly they may be perfect, and they themselves quite sincere, for they genuinely and unreservedly believe that the voice which they obey implicitly is the Voice of God, can be detected by those who are experienced in such matters. When meeting those who are genuinely led by the Spirit, and in whom the Spirit of Christ dwells, one can feel and come into loving fellowship with a gentle sensitive nature or presence which makes us think of the Lord Jesus. We say to ourselves, this surely is like unto Jesus Christ, it is as though we were in the presence of the Master Himself. We feel that we are dealing with one so gentle, tender and sensitive that we must tread gently and speak softly, for fear of damaging so delicate a soul. It is like handling a rare and precious, fragile piece of china. How carefully we hold it, lest our rough clumsy hands should damage or break it! Such a soul never thrusts himself where he is not wanted; he is so considerate of others, so anxious not to cause trouble, so willing to take the lowest place, that those in whom the Light has begun to shine are filled with joy. There is a real communion of saints, a loving fellowship of the spirit, that is of the Lord; and which we know by intuition is of High Heaven itself.
DETECTING THE DOMINATING SPIRIT
But in the case of those who are possessed by a dominating spirit, and who claim to be the mouthpiece of God, the reverse is the case. They may declare that they have reached the highest attainment, and because of this they speak with an assumption of authority, but inwardly we can find no joy or fellowship. Such people lack the inward gentleness and consideration for others, and the hidden Christlike nature that we find in the true brother who is filled with the Spirit of God. We sense the dominating spirit, instead of the Spirit of Christ.
Such persons claim always to be in the right. They never apologize or admit that they are in the wrong. They claim to be directed by the Voice of God, so that everything they do is always right. They claim to be the mouthpiece of God, dictating to others what they should do, and how they should act. All such attempts at domination, and indeed, any form of domination, must be denied any power. The law of non-resistance applies in such cases, so that we do not fight and cause "ructions", but act in love yet with firmness, taking our stand in God and Truth, thus preserving our own individual life, maintaining our own individual freedom. and being subservient only to God.
Of course, there are also those poor souls who are suffering from religious mania. In them we do not sense the strong dominating ego, but what we do sense is very disturbing; and in dealing with such cases we have to be very sure of the Allness or All Power of Good, of our own freedom and individuality, and of the fact that God, the Omnipotent, is our Rock and Fortress. These cases seem to be the result of two main causes, viz., (1) a lowering of bodily strength, due to fasting or lack of nourishing food, and (2) through listening to voices. and accepting the suggestion that he or she is a being specially chosen by Heaven to deliver a wonderful message to mankind. This subtle flattery seems to be fatal in some cases. The poor deluded one swallows the bait, and ever afterwards firmly believes that he or she is some special and wonderful instrument of Heaven, and the voice to which he or she listens is the Voice of God, and nothing less. Such a sad fate can be avoided by keeping the body adequately nourished, and through.
Maintaining at all times a state of humility which refuses any suggestion that one is a wonderful being. specially selected by Heaven to give a great message to the world, and also through refusing to listen to voices. People who are liable to fall victims to mania are congenitally unbalanced. They seem to lack commonsense, sound judgment and a sense of proportion. Such should always endeavour to live a poised and balanced life, engaging in all the practical affairs of life, and giving these their principal attention. Such people are inclined too much towards the spiritual and psychic. They should, therefore, pay more attention to the practical affairs of life, in order to restore a state of healthy balance. This life is given us to live in a practical way. Our rationality, reason and good, sound, common-sense are given to us to use, and to guide us, so that we can live the life of good citizens. and be of help to others, and of some use in the world.
HOW TO BECOME STRONG
Now, many of us may recognize the necessity of being strongly individualistic and capable of resisting suggestion, but how to develop such strength, or how, or from whence, to procure it may present a difficult problem.
Reading and intellectual knowledge, however, will not bring us into a state of realization of the Truth. These have their legitimate use, but they can take us only part of the way. It is one thing, for instance, to read a portion of Scripture that describes a state of liberty that may be ours; and quite another thing to be able to realize the truth of it. Some of us, probably, have been reading the Bible all our life, yet it has been read without understanding, so that it has poured through our mind, like water through a sieve. We may have believed that there is power and strength to be found in the inspired word, but we have never been able to lay hold of it.
The mere reading of the word of God is not sufficient. To read a whole chapter, as one would an ordinary book, is better than not reading the Bible at all, but it will never bring the reader into a state of realization, or actual knowing by the soul, There is strength and power, wisdom and all knowledge, to be found in the word of God, but they are underneath the surface. I am not now referring to any esoteric or mystical interpretations that can be brought to light through any key or system of interpretation. They lead one to a deeper intellectual interpretation, but do not help as far as realization is concerned. Neither when 1 say that the realization of truth, or the inner meaning of Scripture, lies beneath the surface do I mean that there is some deep idea or mystery that can be dug out by close application and study. What I really should say, probably, is that Truth is within us, or that it is revealed to us inwardly, to the soul, through the awakening of an inward spiritual faculty. This is the work of the Spirit of Truth Himself, Who indwells us, and is ever ready to reveal Truth to us, not through the intellect, but direct to the soul.
George Muller says; 'As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time except we take food, and as this is one of the first things we do in the morning, so it should be with the Inner man. We should take food for that, as everyone must allow. Now, what is the food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.'
A SUGGESTED METHOD
But how shall we read or study the Bible so that by so doing we may enter into Truth, and also find strength in realizing Its power ? Certainly, not by reading chapter after chapter; and, certainly, not by studying the Sacred Scripture as one would study a Text Book of Science. The first thing to do is to acknowledge that the surface or literal meaning, while valuable, cannot bring us to an inner understanding. The next thing to do is to acknowledge that the Bible really refers to our own soul, its wanderings, its journey back to God, and final reconciliation and union. The next thing to do - and this is most important - is to acknowledge that we cannot understand or enter into Truth, of ourselves, and that it is only as the Spirit of Truth (Who is our sole teacher) within us reveals Truth to our souls, that we can enter into a realization of Truth.
Having got thus far, we next see that it is while we meditate, or reflect, upon a small portion of Scripture, not trying to understand it, either literally or intellectually, but making ourselves inwardly receptive to the influence of the Spirit of Truth within, that it becomes possible for Truth to be revealed direct to our soul and for us to enter into a state of strength and confidence.
Now, in order to develop strength and maintain our individuality, without, of course, inflating the self-hood, let us, take, say, the second verse of Psalm 18. 'The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, In Whom I will trust."
When we commence we may find our mind in a state of chaos. Fear, or the domination of others, may send our thoughts tearing round and round, so that we cannot think of Truth at all, or concentrate upon the words before us. We, therefore, find it impossible to become quiet, or make any progress, because of our agitated state of mind. The best thing to do is first to pray for those who are the cause of our fear or agitation. We should not, however, pray that they may be coerced into doing this, that, or the other, or that they should be made to refrain from doing certain things; but we should pray that they may be Divinely blessed, and that they be led to do the right thing, and be guided in the right way, according to the will of God. When praying for others we must always give them perfect liberty, and also we must give God perfect liberty, praying that blessing may abound and God's perfect will be done, freely and without let or hindrance from ourselves.
When we have prayed for those who trouble us, even though it may seem folly to do so, we find that our mind becomes calmer and more tranquil.
Now we can take the first statement of Truth. ' The Lord is my Rock.' But still we may find that the mind pays no attention, because it is undisciplined and filled with anxious fears, resentments, and thoughts that are foreign to Truth. If however, we focus all our attention on the words, at the same time trying to shut out all unwanted thoughts, and repeat the statement of Truth over and over again, we gradually find that the mind becomes stilled, and a sense of understanding comes to us, and with it a great uplift of soul, and a sense of peace. We gradually become aware that we are established in the Infinite, that we have our being in the Eternal and that the Lord Omnipotent is our refuge, our strength, and our deliverer. Then we know that all is well, and that we are free from all domination, and that our strength is the strength of God and Omnipotence; or rather, that we have no strength of our own, but that the inexhaustible resources of the Infinite are ours to draw upon; and that in our weakness God's strength is made manifest.
It will be noticed that David does not say that he is his own rock, but that it is the Lord Who is his Rock. To declare that we are strength or power may produce a false sense of strength and power, but it does not lead us to the rock -"the Rock that is higher than I'. What we need is something that will connect us with Omnipotence - with the One Power of the Universe. To declare that we ourselves are this Power shuts the door of attainment in our face. It cuts us off from our one and only source - from all Life and Power. But the words of our text are indeed a statement of Truth, for they connect us to the One Power, yes, rather, to the one Source of Power. Thus do we become established in the Eternal, and become conscious of it. We enter into realization, which is something that can only be experienced, for it cannot be described.
ALLOWING FREEDOM TO OTHERS
But this realization, that we are grounded in the Eternal, and that the One and Only Power is the Power upon which we rely, and which can never fail us, does not cause us to dominate others. What we claim for ourselves we readily grant to others. We claim to live our own individual life to develop our own particular genius, and to follow our own higher intuition; and, therefore, we desire that other people should do the same. The trouble that some parents experience is very often due to the fact that they try to dominate their children and make them conform to their own pattern, instead of allowing each one to give expression to his or her own individuality. There is trouble among friends, due to the same failing, and even trouble among the saints! While we must retain our freedom, and reject and shake off all attempts to dominate us, we must be equally certain that we do not become guilty of trying to dominate others. We must allow them the same liberty that we demand for ourselves.
GOD OUR STRENGTH IN EVERY SITUATION OF LIFE
But this subject of the strength of God is far too good and helpful to be abandoned at this stage. The Lord God Omnipotent is our strength and our impregnable defense in every situation in life. The realization of this truth will bring us victoriously through every experience. If we are exposed to danger, it will protect us, for no evil can touch the one who is entirely unafraid, through putting his trust in the Only Power. The realization that God is the Only Power, makes the powers that are not of God have no effect. This is rather an obscure paradox, but many will understand what I mean.
Again, we must be exposed to infection. The realization of this truth that the Lord is our Rock, will make us immune. I knew a man once who used to visit patients suffering from the Plague. He was so unafraid, as a result of prayer, and was so sure of God's protection, that he was immune, and thus went scatheless.
Yet, again, we may have to meet experiences in everyday life every whit as difficult and trying as any met on the battlefields of France. The battles which are forever being carried on in the business world, for instance, are as merciless and devastating as any actual warfare. No mercy is shown to the weak; they are ruthlessly pushed to the wall. But in all these trying experiences, God is our rock and our strength, and the realization of this will bring us safely through, even 'though an host be encamped against us'. The Power that is in us and for us, is greater than the powers arrayed against us. The realization of God as the Only Power and as our Rock and Defense, puts to flight the lesser powers, which actually are not powers at all.
And yet again, we may be subject to nervous fears. It is terrible to suffer from nameless fears. Some people are so obsessed with fear and apprehension that even to see the postman coming to their house almost stops the beating of their heart, through the fear that he may be bringing a letter bearing bad news. The great remedy is realization of the truth about God, as our Rock and Strength, and the truth about ourselves as children of God, hiding in the rock - 'the Rock that is higher than I'.
Just one thing more before concluding this chapter. We may be the victim of some weakness of character, and there may seem no way of escape. The path of victory lies in realizing God as our Rock and Strength, instead of fighting against the habit or weakness of character. We cannot gain the victory over ourselves by fighting a weakness, but only by finding in God that which supplies the deficiency that is the cause of our repeated failure.
The cause of all failure, and all failings, is due to a deficiency, i.e., a lack of God, or God quality, The remedy, obviously, is not to attack our failing which is but a negative effect, but to supply the deficiency which is the cause of our failing. Our prayerful attitude at all times should therefore be. "Lord, fill me with Thyself, so that all deficiencies may be made good. and that Christ may triumph in me, and be all-in-all to me."
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