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Some Methods of Expression
The life of the Spirit, or, in other words, the true religious life, is
not a life of mere contemplation or a life of inactivity. As Fichte, in
"The Way Toward the Blessed Life," has said: "True religion,
notwithstanding that it raises the view of those who are inspired by it
to its own region, nevertheless, retains their Life firmly in the domain
of action, and of right moral action.... Religion is not a business by
and for itself which a man may practise apart from his other
occupations, perhaps on certain fixed days and hours; but it is the
inmost spirit that penetrates, inspires, and pervades all our Thought
and Action, which in other respects pursue their appointed course
without change or interruption. That the Divine Life and Energy actually
lives in us is inseparable from Religion."
How thoroughly this is in keeping with the thought of the highly
illumined seer, Swedenborg, is indicated when he says: "The Lord's
Kingdom is a Kingdom of ends and uses." And again: "Forsaking the world
means loving God and the neighbour; and God is loved when a man lives
according to His commandments, and the neighbour is loved when a man
performs uses." And still again: "To be of use means to desire the
welfare of others for the sake of the common good; and not to be of use
means to desire the welfare of others not for the sake of the common
good but for one's own sake.... In order that man may receive heavenly
life he must live in the world and engage in its business and
occupations, and thus by a moral and civil life acquire spiritual life.
In no other way can spiritual life be generated in man, or his spirit be
prepared for heaven."
We hear much today both in various writings and in public utterances of
"the spiritual" and "the spiritual life." I am sure that to the great
majority of men and women the term spiritual, or better, the spiritual
life, means something, but something by no means fully tangible or
clear-cut. I shall be glad indeed if I am able to suggest a more
comprehensible concept of it, or putting it in another form and better
perhaps, to present a more clear-cut portraiture of the spiritual life
in expression -- in action.
And first let us note that in the mind and in the teachings of Jesus
there is no such thing as the secular life and the religious life. His
ministry pertained to every phase of life. The truth that he taught was
a truth that was to permeate every thought and every act of life.
We make our arbitrary divisions. We are too apt to deny the fact that
the Lord is the Lord of the week-day, the same as He is the Lord of the
Sabbath. Jesus refused to be bound by any such consideration. He taught
that every act that is a good act, every act that is of service to
mankind is not only a legitimate act to be done on the Sabbath day, but
an act that should be performed on the Sabbath day. And any act that
is not right and legitimate for the Sabbath day is neither right nor
legitimate for the week-day. In other words, it is the spirit of
righteousness that must permeate and must govern every act of life and
every moment of life.
In seeking to define the spiritual life, it were better to regard the
world as the expression of the Divine mind. The spirit is the life; the
world and all things in it, the material to be moulded, raised, and
transmuted from the lower to the higher. This is indeed the law of
evolution, that has been through all the ages and that today is at work.
It is the God-Power that is at work and every form of useful activity
that helps on with this process of lifting and bettering is a form of
Divine activity. If therefore we recognise the one Divine life working
in and through all, the animating force, therefore the Life of all, and
if we are consciously helping in this process we are spiritual men.
No man of intelligence can fail to recognise the fact that life is more
important than things. Life is the chief thing, and material things are
the elements that minister to, that serve the purposes of the life.
Whoever does anything in the world to preserve life, to better its
conditions, who, recognising the Divine force at work lifting life up
always to better, finer conditions, is doing God's work in the
world -- because cooperating with the great Cosmic world plan.
The ideal, then, is men and women of the spirit, open and responsive
always to its guidance, recognising the Divine plan and the Divine
ideal, working cooperatively in the world to make all conditions of life
fairer, finer, more happy. He who lives and works not as an individual,
that is not for his good alone, but who recognises the essential oneness
of life -- is carrying out his share of the Divine plan.
A man may be unusually gifted; he may have unusual ability in business,
in administration; he may be a giant in finance, in administration, but
if for self alone, if lack of vision blinds him to the great Divine
plan, if he does not recognise his relative place and value; if he gains
his purposes by selfishness, by climbing over others, by indifference to
human pain or suffering -- oblivious to human welfare -- his ways are the
ways of the jungle. His mind and his life are purely sordid, grossly and
blindly self-centred -- wholly material. He gains his object, but by
Divine law not happiness, not satisfaction, not peace. He is outside the
Kingdom of Heaven -- the kingdom of harmony. He is living and working out
of harmony with the Divine mind that is evolving a higher order of life
in the world. He is blind too, he is working against the Divine plan.
Now what is the Divine call? Can he be made into a spiritual man? Yes. A
different understanding, a different motive, a different object -- then
will follow a difference in methods. Instead of self alone he will have
a sense of, he will have a call to service. And this man, formerly a
hinderer in the Divine plan, becomes a spiritual giant. His splendid
powers and his qualities do not need to be changed. Merely his motives
and thereby his methods, and he is changed into a giant engine of
righteousness. He is a part of the great world force and plan. He is
doing his part in the great world work -- he is a coworker with God. And
here lies salvation. Saved from self and the dwarfed and stunted
condition that will follow, his spiritual nature unfolds and envelops
his entire life. His powers and his wealth are thereafter to bless
mankind. But behold! by another great fundamental law of life in doing
this he is blessed ten, a hundred, a millionfold.
Material prosperity is or may become a true gain, a veritable blessing.
But it can become a curse to the world and still more to its possessor
when made an end in itself, and at the expense of all the higher
attributes and powers of human life.
We have reason to rejoice that a great change of estimate has not only
begun but is now rapidly creeping over the world. He of even a
generation ago who piled and piled, but who remained ignorant of the
more fundamental laws of life, blind to the law of mutuality and
service, would be regarded today as a low, beastly type. I speak
advisedly. It is this obedience to the life of the spirit that Whitman had in mind when he said: "And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy
walks to his own funeral drest in his shroud." It was the full flowering
of the law of mutuality and service that he saw when he said: "I saw a
city invincible to the attacks of the whole of the rest of the earth. I
dream'd that it was the new City of Friends. Nothing was greater there
than the quality of robust love; it led the rest. It was seen every hour
in the actions of the men of that city and in all their looks and
words." It is through obedience to this life of the spirit that order is
brought out of chaos in the life of the individual and in the life of
the community, in the business world, the labour world, and in our great
But in either case, we men and women of Christendom, to be a Christian
is not only to be good, but to be good for something. According to the
teachings of the Master true religion is not only personal salvation,
but it is giving one's self through all of one's best efforts to
actualise the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. The finding of the
Kingdom is not only personal but social and world-affirming -- and in the
degree that it becomes fully and vitally personal will it become so.
A man who is not right with his fellow-men is not right and cannot be
right with God. This is coming to be the clear-cut realisation of all
progressive religious thought today. Since men are free from the
trammels of an enervating dogma that through fear made them seek, or
rather that made them contented with religion as primarily a system of
rewards and punishments, they are now awakening to the fact that the
logical carrying out of Jesus' teaching of the Kingdom is the
establishing here on this earth of an order of life and hence of a
society where greater love and cooperation and justice prevail. Our
rapidly growing present-day conception of Christianity makes it not
world-renouncing, but world-affirming.
This modern conception of the function of a true and vital Christianity
makes it the task of the immediate future to apply Christianity to
trade, to commerce, to labour relations, to all social relations, to
international relations. "And, in the wider field of religious thought,"
says a writer in a great international religious paper, "what truer
service can we render than to strip theology of all that is unreal or
needlessly perplexing, and make it speak plainly and humanly to people
who have their duty to do and their battle to fight?" It makes
intelligent, sympathetic, and helpful living take the place of the tooth
and the claw, the growl and the deadly hiss of the jungle -- all right in
their places, but with no place in human living.
The growing realisation of the interdependence of all life is giving a
new standard of action and attainment, and a new standard of estimate.
Jesus' criterion is coming into more universal appreciation: He that is
greatest among you shall be as he who serves. Through this fundamental
law of life there are responsibilities that cannot be evaded or
shirked -- and of him to whom much is given much is required.
It was President Wilson who recently said: "It is to be hoped that these
obvious truths will come to more general acceptance; that honest
business will quit thinking that it is attacked when loaded-dice
business is attacked; that the mutuality of interest between employer
and employee will receive ungrudging admission; and, finally, that men
of affairs will lend themselves more patriotically to the work of making
democracy an efficient instrument for the promotion of human welfare. It
cannot be said that they have done so in the past.... As a consequence,
many necessary things have been done less perfectly without their
assistance that could have been done more perfectly with their expert
aid." He is by no means alone in recognising this fact. Nor is he at all
blind to the great change that is already taking place.
In a recent public address in New York, the head of one of the largest
plants in the world, and who starting with nothing has accumulated a
fortune of many millions, said: "The only thing I am proud of -- prouder
of than that I have amassed a great fortune -- is that I established the
first manual training school in Pennsylvania. The greatest delight of
my life is to see the advancement of the young men who have come up
This growing sense of personal responsibility, and still better, of
personal interest, this giving of one's abilities and one's time, in
addition to one's means, is the beginning of the fulfilment of what I
have long thought: namely, the great gain that will accrue to numberless
communities and to the nation, when men of great means, men of great
business and executive ability, give of their time and their abilities
for the accomplishment of those things for the public welfare that
otherwise would remain undone, or that would remain unduly delayed. What
a gain will result also to those who so do in the joy and satisfaction
resulting from this higher type of accomplishment hallowed by the
undying element of human service!
You keep silent too much. "Have great leaders, and the rest will
follow," said Whitman. The gift of your abilities while you live would
be of priceless worth for the establishing and the maintenance of a
fairer, a healthier, and a sweeter life in your community, your city,
your country. It were better to do this and to be contented with a
smaller accumulation than to have it so large or even so excessive, and
when the summons comes to leave it to two or three or to half a dozen
who cannot possibly have good use for it all, and some of whom perchance
would be far better off without it, or without so much. By so doing you
would be leaving something still greater to them as well as to hundreds
or thousands of others.
Significant in this connection are these words by a man of wealth and of
great public service:[D]
"On the whole, the individualistic age has not been a success, either
for the individual, or the community in which he has lived, or the
nation. We are, beyond question, entering on a period where the welfare
of the community takes precedence over the interests of the individual
and where the liberty of the individual will be more and more
circumscribed for the benefit of the community as a whole. Man's
activities will hereafter be required to be not only for himself but for
his fellow-men. To my mind there is nothing in the signs of the times so
certain as this.
"The man of exceptional ability, of more than ordinary talent, will
hereafter look for his rewards, for his honours, not in one direction
but in two -- first, and foremost, in some public work accomplished, and,
secondarily, in wealth acquired. In place of having it said of him at
his death that he left so many hundred thousand dollars it will be said
that he rendered a certain amount of public service, and, incidentally,
left a certain amount of money. Such a goal will prove a far greater
satisfaction to him, he will live a more rational, worthwhile life, and
he will be doing his share to provide a better country in which to live.
We face new conditions, and in order to survive and succeed we shall
require a different spirit of public service."
I am well aware of the fact that the mere accumulation of wealth is not,
except in very rare cases, the controlling motive in the lives of our
wealthy men of affairs. It is rather the joy and the satisfaction of
achievement. But nevertheless it is possible, as has so often proved, to
get so much into a habit and thereby into a rut, that one becomes a
victim of habit; and the life with all its superb possibilities of human
service, and therefore of true greatness, becomes side-tracked and
There are so many different lines of activity for human betterment for
children, for men and women, that those of great executive and financial
ability have wonderful opportunities. Greatness comes always through
human service. As there is no such thing as finding happiness by
searching for it directly, so there is no such thing as achieving
greatness by seeking it directly. It comes not primarily through
brilliant intellect, great talents, but primarily through the heart. It
is determined by the way that brilliant intellect, great talents are
used. It is accorded not to those who seek it directly. By an indirect
law it is accorded to those who, forgetting self, give and thereby lose
their lives in human service.
Both poet and prophet is Edwin Markham when he says:
We men of earth have here the stuff
Of Paradise -- we have enough!
We need no other stones to build
The stairs into the Unfulfilled --
No other ivory for the doors --
No other marble for the floors --
No other cedar for the beam
And dome of man's immortal dream.
Here on the paths of every day --
Here on the common human way,
Is all the stuff the gods would take
To build a Heaven; to mould and make
New Edens. Ours the stuff sublime
To build Eternity in time!
This putting of divinity into life and raising thereby an otherwise
sordid life up to higher levels and thereby to greater enjoyments, is
the power that is possessed equally by those of station and means, and
by those in the more humble or even more lowly walks of life.
When your life is thus touched by the spirit of God, when it is ruled by
this inner Kingdom, when your constant prayer, as the prayer of every
truly religious man or woman will be -- Lord, what wilt Thou have me to
do? My one desire is that Thy will be my will, and therefore that Thy
will be done in me and through me -- then you are living the Divine life;
you are a coworker with God. And whether your life according to accepted
standards be noted or humble it makes no difference -- you are fulfilling
your Divine mission. You should be, you cannot help being fearless and
happy. You are a part of the great creative force in the world.
You are doing a man's or a woman's work in the world, and in so doing
you are not unimportant; you are essential. The joy of true
accomplishment is yours. You can look forward always with sublime
courage and expectancy. The life of the most humble can thus become an
exalted life. Mother, watching over, cleaning, feeding, training, and
educating your brood; seamstress, working, with a touch of the Divine
in all you do -- it must be done by some one -- allow it to be done by none
better than by you. Farmer, tilling your soil, gathering your crops,
caring for your herds; you are helping feed the world. There is nothing
"Who digs a well, or plants a seed,
A sacred pact he keeps with sun and sod;
With these he helps refresh and feed
The world, and enters partnership with God."
If you do not allow yourself to become a slave to your work, and if you
cooperate within the house and the home so that your wife and your
daughters do not become slaves or near-slaves, what an opportunity is
yours of high thinking and noble living! The more intelligent you
become, the better read, the greater the interest you take in community
and public affairs, the more effectively you become what in reality and
jointly you are -- the backbone of this and of every nation. Teacher,
poet, dramatist, carpenter, ironworker, clerk, college head, Mayor,
Governor, President, Ruler -- the effectiveness of your work and the
satisfaction in your work will be determined by the way in which you
relate your thought and your work to the Divine plan, and coordinate
your every activity in reference to the highest welfare of the greater
However dimly or clearly we may perceive it great changes are taking
place. The simple, direct teachings of the Christ are reaching more and
more the mind, are stirring the heart and through these are dominating
the actions of increasing numbers of men and women. The realisation of
the mutual interdependence of the human family, the realisation of its
common source, and that when one part of it goes wrong all suffer
thereby, the same as when any portion of it advances all are lifted and
benefited thereby, makes us more eager for the more speedy actualising
of the Kingdom that the Master revealed and portrayed.
It was Sir Oliver Lodge who in this connection recently said:
think that the day of the Messiah is over are strangely mistaken; it has
hardly begun. In individual souls Christianity has flourished and borne
fruit, but for the ills of the world itself it is an almost untried
panacea. It will be strange if this ghastly war fosters and simplifies
and improves a knowledge of Christ, and aids a perception of the
ineffable beauty of his life and teaching; yet stranger things have
happened, and whatever the churches may do, I believe that the call of
Christ himself will be heard and attended to by a larger part of
humanity in the near future, as never yet it has been heard or attended
to on earth."
The simple message of the Christ, with its twofold injunction of Love,
is, when sufficiently understood and sufficiently heeded, all that we
men of earth need to lift up, to beautify, to make strong and Godlike
individual lives and thereby and of necessity the life of the world.
Jesus never taught that God incarnated Himself in him alone. I challenge
any man living to find any such teaching by him. He did proclaim his own
unique realisation of God. Intuitively and vividly he perceived the
Divine life, the eternal Word, the eternal Christ, manifesting in his
clean, strong, upright soul, so that the young Jewish rabbi and prophet,
known in all his community as Jesus, the son of Joseph and Mary and
whose brothers and sisters they knew so well,[E] became the
firstborn -- fully born -- of the Father.
He then pleaded with all the energy and love and fervour of his splendid
heart and vigorous manhood that all men should follow the Way that he
revealed and realise their Divine Sonship, that their lives might be
redeemed -- redeemed from the bondage of the bodily senses and the
bondage of merely the things of the outer world, and saved as fit
subjects of and workers in the Father's Kingdom. Otherwise for millions
of splendid earnest men and women today his life-message would have no
To make men awake to their real identity, and therefore to their
possibilities and powers as true sons of God, the Father of all, and
therefore that all men are brothers -- for otherwise God is not Father of
all -- and to live together in brotherly love and mutual cooperation
whereby the Divine will becomes done on earth as it is in heaven -- this
is his message to we men of earth. If we believe his message and accept
his leadership, then he becomes indeed our elder brother who leads the
way, the Word in us becomes flesh, the Christ becomes enthroned in our
lives, -- and we become co-workers with him in the Father's vineyard.
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