THE LIFE RADIANT
Author of "The World Beautiful," "The Spiritual Significance" "The World Beautiful in Books," "Kate Field, a Record," "Boston Days," etc.
"Follow it, follow it, Follow the Gleam."
Boston Little, Brown, and Company 1903
ARVILLA DELIGHT MEEKER (MRS. NATHAN COOK MEEKER)
IN WHOSE BEAUTIFUL LIFE PATIENCE HAS DONE HER PERFECT WORK, AND WHOSE UNFALTERING AND JOYFUL FAITH IN GOD REVEALS IMPRESSIVE TRUTH IN THE LIFE RADIANT OF HOLY LIVING
THESE PAGES ARE INSCRIBED WITH THE DEVOTION OF LILIAN WHITING
PAGE THE GOLDEN AGE LIES ONWARD.
THE SUPREME ILLUMINATION 24 CREATING THE NEW WORLD 26 ELIMINATING ANXIETIES 33 HEAVEN'S PERFECT HOUR 37 LOVE AND GOOD WILL 46 THE DIVINER POSSIBILITIES 51 THE WEIGHT OF THE PAST 64
DISCERNING THE FUTURE.
A DETERMINING QUESTION 85 IN PROPORTION TO POWER 99
THE ETHEREAL REALM.
A SCIENTIFIC FACT 124 A GLORIOUS INAUGURATION 136 FINER COSMIC FORCES 149 HEALTH AND HAPPINESS 158 A NEW FORCE 172 THE SERVICE OF THE GODS 174
THE POWER OF THE EXALTED MOMENT.
OBEY THE VISION 192 THE OPEN DOOR 201 INTERRUPTIONS AS OPPORTUNITIES 204 THE CHARM OF COMPANIONSHIP 214 A SUMMER PILGRIMAGE IN ARIZONA 226 A TRAGIC IDYL OF COLORADO 237 A REMARKABLE MYSTIC 254 THE MOMENTOUS QUESTION 261
THE NECTAR OF THE HOUR.
A PROFOUND EXPERIENCE 285 THE LAW OF PRAYER 299 CONDUCT AND BEAUTY 313 THE DIVINE PANORAMA 321 ALSO THE HOLY GHOST, THE COMFORTER 331
THE LIFE RADIANT.
"I am Merlin Who follow the Gleam."
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Know well, my soul, God's hand controls Whate'er thou fearest; Round Him in calmest music rolls Whate'er thou hearest.
What to thee is shadow, to Him is day, And the end He knoweth. And not on a blind and aimless way The spirit goeth.
THE GOLDEN AGE LIES ONWARD.
"The Golden Age lies onward, not behind. The pathway through the past has led us up: The pathway through the future will lead on, And higher."
The Life Radiant is that transfiguration of the ordinary daily events and circumstances which lifts them to the spiritual plane and sees them as the signs and the indications of the divine leading. Every circumstance thus becomes a part of the revelation; and to constantly live in this illuminated atmosphere is to invest all experiences with a kind of magical enchantment. Life prefigures itself before us as a spiritual drama in which we are, at once, the actors and the spectators. The story of living goes on perpetually. The days and the years inevitably turn the pages and open new chapters. Nothing is ever hopeless, because new combinations and groupings create new results. The forces that determine his daily life are partly with man and partly with God. They lie in both the Seen and the Unseen. We are always an inhabitant of both realms, and to recognize either alone and be blind to the other is to deprive ourselves of the great sources of energy. The divine aid, infinite and all-potent as it is, capable at any moment of utterly transforming all the conditions and transferring them to a higher plane, is yet limited by the degree of spiritual receptivity in the individual. As one may have all the air that he is able to breathe, so may one have all the aid of the Holy Spirit which he is capable of receiving. Man can never accept so gladly and so freely as God offers; but in just the proportion to which he can, increasingly, lift up his heart in response, to that degree God fills his life with a glory not of earth.
"Man may ask, and God may answer, but we may not understand, Knowing but our own poor language, all the writing of His hand."
Science has discovered the existence of that incalculable energy, the ether, interpenetrated in the atmosphere. Electro-magnetic currents of power beyond all conception are revealed, and when intelligently recognized by some happy genius, like that of Marconi, they begin to be utilized in the service of human progress. Now as this ethereal energy which is only just beginning to be recognized can be drawn upon for light, for heat, for motor power, for communication, just as this hitherto undreamed-of power can be drawn upon for the fundamental needs of the physical world, so, correspondingly, does there exist the infinite reservoir of spiritual energy which God freely opens to man in precisely the proportion in which he recognizes and avails himself of its transforming power. And in this realm lies the Life Radiant. If this transfiguration of life could only be experienced by the aid of wealth and health and all for which these two factors stand, it would not be worth talking about. We hear a great deal of the "privileged classes" and of "fortunate conditions," as if there were certain arbitrary divisions in life defined by impassable boundaries, and that he who finds himself in one, is unable to pass to another.
Never was there a more fatally erroneous conception. In the spiritual world there are no limits, no boundaries, no arbitrary divisions. Just so far as the soul conquers, is it free. Conquer ignorance, and one enters the realm of education, of culture; conquer vice, and he enters into the realm of virtue; conquer impatience and irritability and bitterness, and their result in gloom and despondency, and he enters into the realm of serenity and sweetness and exaltation with their result in power of accomplishment. The Life Radiant can be achieved, and is within the personal choice of every individual. One may place himself in relation with this infinite and all-potent current of divine energy and receive its impetus and its exhilaration and its illumination every hour in the day. The toiler in manual labor may lead this twofold life. On the visible side he is pushing onward in the excavation of a tunnel; he is laying the track of a new railroad; he is engaged in building a house; he stands at his appointed place in a great factory,—but is this all? His real work lies both in the visible and in the invisible. On the one hand he is contributing to the material resources of the world, and he is earning his wage by which to live; on the other hand he is developing patience, faithfulness, and judgment,—quantities of the spiritual man and possessions of the spiritual life which extend the spiritual territory. Faithfulness to the immediate duty creates a larger theatre for duty. There are not wanting examples that could be named of statesmen,—senators, governors, and others in high places, to say nothing of the supreme example of a Lincoln; there are not wanting examples of professional men in high and important places who initiated their work by any humble and honest industrial employment that chanced to present itself at the moment. Conquering this rudimentary realm, they passed on to others successively. Integrity is a spiritual quantity, and it insures spiritual aid. The cloud of witnesses is never dispersed. The only imprisonment is in limitations, and limitations can be constantly overcome. The horizon line of the impossible recedes as we advance. In the last analysis nothing is too sublime or too beautiful to be entirely possible. Its attainment is simply a question of conditions. These conditions lie in entering into this inner realm of spiritual energy in which the personal will is increasingly identified with the will of God.
Like an echo of celestial music are these lines by Sully-Prudhomme:—
"The lilies fade with the dying hours, Hushed is the song-bird's lay; But I dream of summers and dream of flowers That last alway."
Nor is this only the day-dream of a poet. The summers and flowers that last alway are a very immediate treasure which one has only to perceive, to grasp, to recognize, and to realize. "Surely," exclaimed the Psalmist, "goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." This dwelling in "the house of the Lord" is by no means a figure of speech. Nor is it to be regarded as some ineffable privilege to be—possibly to be—enjoyed after that change we call death. Its real significance is here and now. One must dwell in "the house of the Lord" to-day, and every day. The "house of the Lord" is a beautiful figurative expression for that spiritual atmosphere in which one may perpetually live, and in which it is his simple duty both to live and to radiate to all around him.
In these summer days of 1903, in this golden dawn of the twentieth century, the world is echoing with wonder in the discovery of a new and most mysterious force in nature,—radium. Science is, at this date, powerless to analyze or explain its marvellous power. The leading scientists of the world of learning—Sir William Crookes, Sir Oliver Lodge, and Professor Curie (who, with Mme. Curie, has the honor of being its discoverer)—believe that in radium will be found the true solution of the problem of matter. Radium gives off rays at the speed of one hundred and twenty thousand miles a second, and these rays offer the most extraordinary heat, light, and power. Yet with this immense radiation it suffers no diminution of energy; nor can any scientist yet discern from what source this power is fed. A grain of it will furnish enough light to enable one to read, and, as Professor J. J. Thomson has observed, it will suffer no diminution in a million years. It will burn the flesh through a metal box and through clothing, but without burning the texture of the garments. The rays given out by radium cannot be refracted, polarized, or regularly reflected in the way of ordinary light, although some of them can be turned aside by a magnet.
Professor Curie has reported to the French Academy of Science that half a pound of radium salts will in one hour produce a heat equal to the burning of one-third of a foot of hydrogen gas. This takes place, it must be remembered, without any perceptible diminution in the radium. It emits heat maintaining a temperature of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above its surroundings. It evolves sufficient heat to melt more than its own weight of ice every hour. Radium projects its rays through solid substances without any perceptible hindrance and burns blisters through a steel case. The light is pale blue. Down in the deepest pitchblende mines, where particles of radium have been hidden away since the creation of the world, they are still found shining with their strange blue light. The radium electrons pass through the space which separates every molecule in a solid body from another. The scientific theory is that no two molecules in any body, however dense, actually touch. The relative power of radium to the X-ray is as six to one. The rays of radium have one hundred thousand times the energy of those of uranium and over one hundred times the energy of barium radiation. The scarcity of the metal will be understood when it is stated that there is far less radium in pitchblende than gold in ordinary sea water. Radium colors glass violet; transforms oxygen into ozone, white phosphorus to red; electrifies various gases and liquids, including petroleum and liquid air.
Professor Sir William Crookes, the world's greatest living physicist and experimental scientist, said of radium in the June of this 1903:—
"In total darkness I laid a piece of pitchblende—the ore from which radium is extracted—face down upon a sensitized plate, and let it act with its own light for twenty-four hours. The result was a photograph, where the black pitchblende appeared light owing to the emanations from the radium contained in it. The photograph also shows these going off into space from the sides of the specimen.
"Radium is dangerous to handle. Once I carried a tiny piece of radium in my waistcoat pocket to a soiree at the Royal Society, and on reaching home found a blister in my side. The blisters from radium may take months to get well, as the injurious effect goes so deep. Now I carry a thick lead box just large enough to hold the little brass case in which I keep the radium itself. There it lies—a little, tawny, crystalline patch. There would hardly be a larger quantity together in one box anywhere in England.
"There are several kinds of emanations from radium. Photographs similar to those produced by the Roentgen ray tube and induction coil can be got by means of the emanations from a small quantity of radium. I took a screen made of zincblende, which will phosphoresce when the emanations of radium fall upon it. I then painted upon it, in a solution of radium, the word 'Radium.' In the dark this screen (about three inches by four inches) gives off sufficient light to read by. But the most striking way of showing the emanations is by the little contrivance I call a Spinthariscope. In this a zinc sulphide screen is fitted at the end of a short brass tube, with a speck of radium about a millimeter away from it. Looking in the dark through the lens at the other end one sees a regular bombardment of the screen by the emanations. The phenomena of radium require us to recast many of our ideas of matter, electricity, and energy, and its discovery promises to realize what for the last hundred years have been but day-dreams of philosophy.
"Although the fact of emission of heat by radium is in itself sufficiently remarkable, this heat is probably only a small portion of the energy radium is constantly sending into space. It is at the same time hurling off material particles which reveal their impact on a screen by luminous scintillations. Stop these by a glass or mica screen, and torrents of Roentgen rays still pour out from a few milligrams of radium salt in quantity to exhibit to a company all the phenomena of Roentgen rays, and with energy enough to produce a nasty blister on the flesh, if kept near it for an hour."
It is hardly possible to contemplate this remarkable element in the world of nature without recognizing its correspondence in the world of spirit. If an element radiates perpetual light, heat, and power with no loss of its own inherent energy, so the spirit can radiate love, sympathy, sweetness, and inspiration with no diminution of its own quality. Science may be unable to recognize the medium from which radium is fed; but religion recognizes the medium from which the spirit draws its sustenance in the power of God. The human will merged in the divine will is invincible. There is no ideal of life which it may not realize, and this realization is in the line of the inevitable and is experienced with the unerring certainty of a mathematical demonstration.
Yet, when one comes to examine the actual average attitude of humanity toward this subject of the divine will, one finds it is largely that of a mere gloomy and enforced resignation, even at its best, and, at its worst, of distrust and rebellion to the will of God. It seems to be held as the last resort of desperation and despair, rather than as the one abounding source of all joy and success and achievement.
The average individual holds a traditional belief that he ought, perhaps, to be able sincerely to wish that God's will be done, but as a matter of fact he far prefers his own. The petition is, in his mind, invariably associated with seasons of great sorrow, disaster, and calamity, when, having apparently nothing else to hope for, a prayer is offered for the will of God! It is somewhat vaguely held to be the appropriate expression for the last emergency, and that it implies resigning one's self to the most serious and irreferable calamity. There is also a nebulous feeling that while the will of God may be entirely appropriate to the conditions and circumstances of the aged, the poor, the unfortunate, and the defective classes, it is the last thing in the world to be invoked for the young, the gifted, the strong, and the brilliant orders of society. It is tacitly relegated to a place in some last hopeless emergency, and not to a place in the creative energy of the most brilliant achievement.
Now, as a matter of profoundest truth, this attitude is as remote from the clear realization of what is involved in the will of God as would be the conviction that the flying express train or the swift electric motor cars might be suitable enough for the aged, and the weary, and the invalid, and the people whose time was of little consequence, but that the young, the radiant, the eager, the gifted, the people to whom time was valuable, must go by their own conveyances of horse or foot under their immediate personal control. This fallacy is no more remote from truth than is the fallacy that the will of God is something to be accepted with what decorum of resignation one may, only when he cannot help it! On the contrary, the will of God is the infinitely great motor of human life. Its power is as incalculably greater over the soul than that of radium over other elements, as it is higher in the scale of being; as spirit rather than substance; and the Life Radiant is really entered upon when one has come absolutely to merge all his longing and desire into the divine purposes. It is like availing one's self of the great laws of attraction and gravitation in nature. With the human will identified with the divine will, every day's experience becomes invested with the keenest zest and interest. The events that may arise at any moment enlist the energy and fascinate the imagination. The consciousness of union with God produces an exquisite confidence in the wise and sweet enchantment of life; the constant receptivity of the soul to the influence and the guiding of the Holy Spirit make an atmosphere ecstatic, even under the most commonplace or outwardly depressing circumstances. Celestial harmonies thrill the air. In this divine atmosphere—the soul's native air—every energy is quickened. The divine realm is as truly the habitat of the spiritual man—who, temporarily inhabiting a physical body that he may thus come into relations with a physical world, is essentially a spiritual rather than a physical being—as the air is the habitat of the bird, or the water of the fish. When the divine statement is made, "Without Me ye can do nothing," it is simply that of a literal fact. The gloom, the depression, the irritation that so often prevail and persist in mental conditions, do not arise, primarily, from any outward trial or perplexity; they are the result—the inevitable result—of the soul's lack of union with God; the lack of that rapport between the spirit of man and the divine spirit in which alone is exhilaration and joy. When this union is forged, when the human will rests perfectly in the divine will, one then absolutely knows, with the most positive and literal conviction, that "all things work together for good to them that love God." The assurance is felt with the unchallenged force of a mathematical demonstration. Not merely that the pleasant and agreeable things work together for good, but all things—pain, loss, sorrow, injustice, misapprehension. Then one realizes in his own experience the significance of the words, "We glory in tribulation, also." One has heard all one's life, perhaps, of "the ministry of sorrow," and similar phrases, and he has become a trifle impatient of them as a sort of incantation with which he has little sympathy. At the best, he relegates this order of ministry to the rank and file of humanity; to those whose lives are (to his vision) somewhat prosy and dull; and for himself he proposes to live in a world beautiful, where stars and sunsets and flames and fragrances enchant the hours, where, with his feet shod with silver bells, he is perpetually conscious of being
"Born and nourished in miracles."
He is perfectly confident that every life can be happy, if it will; and he regards sorrow as a wholly stupid and negative state which no one need fall into if only he have sufficient energy to generate a perpetual enchantment. Thus he dances down the years like the daffodils on the morning breeze, singing always his hymn to the radiant goddess:
"The Fairest enchants me, The Mighty commands me,"
pledging his faith at the Altar of Perpetual Adoration that one has only but to believe in happiness and make room for it in his life in order to live in this constant exhilaration. Then, one day, he awakens to find his world in ruins. Sorrow, pain, loss, have come upon him, and have come in the one form of all others that seems most impossible to bear. If it were death, even of the one dearest on earth, he would be sustained by divine consolations. If it were financial deprivation, he could meet it with fortitude and accept Goethe's counsel to "go and earn more." If it were any one of various other forms of trial, he reflects, there would be for his pain various forms of consolation; but the peculiar guise it has assumed paralyzes him with its baffling power, its darkness of eclipse. The element of hopelessness in it,—his own utter inability to understand the cause of the sorrow which is literally a thunderbolt out of a clear sky,—plunges him almost into despair. He had endeavored to give the best, but the result is as if he had given the worst; he had come to rely on a perfect and beautiful comprehension and sympathy, but he is confronted with the most inexplicable misapprehension of all his motives, the most complete misunderstanding of all his aspirations and prayers. This, or other combinations and conditions of which it may serve as a type, is one of the phases of human experience. If pain were only the inevitable result of conscious and intentional wrong-doing, then might one even learn to refrain from the error and thus avoid the result. But a deeper experience in life, a more profound insight into the springs of its action, reveal that pain, as well as joy, falls into experience as an event encountered on the onward march, rather than as being, invariably, conditions created by ourselves. In the final analysis of being, we may have created the causes sometime and somewhere; but in the immediate sense we fail to discern the trace of our own action. A joy, a radiance undreamed of, suddenly drops into a day, making it a memorable date forever; a joy that transmutes itself into exaltation and a higher range of energy. Naturally, we count such an experience divine, and offer our gratitude to God, the giver of all blessings. But a tragedy of sorrow, a darkness of desolation impenetrable and seemingly final, also falls suddenly into a day, and inexpressible amazement and incredulity that it can be real are added to the pain. But it is real. The sunshine has vanished; the stars have hidden their light; the air is leaden where once it was all gold and rose and pearl; one is alone in the desert, in a loneliness that no voice sounds through, in an anguish that no human sympathy can reach or sustain. All that made life worth the living has been inexplicably withdrawn; and how, then, shall he live? And why shall he live? he may even question. The springs of energy are broken and his powers are paralyzed. Whatever he has hitherto done, whatever he has tried or hoped to do in the joyous exaltation of the days that have vanished from all save memory, he can do no longer. It is not a question of choice, not a decision that he would not still continue his efforts; but it is the total impossibility of doing so that settles down upon him like a leaden pall. The blind cannot see, the deaf cannot hear, the dumb cannot speak, the paralyzed cannot walk,—no matter how gladly they would fulfil these functions. So he looks at his own life. His world is in ruins, and he has no power to ever rebuild it again. In such conditions the problem of suicide may arrive like a ghastly spectre to confront the mind. It is a spectre that, according to statistics, is alarmingly prevalent. The statisticians talk of periods of it as "an epidemic." Both science and religion take note of it, discuss its bearing upon life, its tendency and its possible prevention. It is seen as the result of both great and of trivial causes. It is seen to follow a great sin, and to be the—terribly mistaken—refuge of a great sorrow. And the remedy lies,—where? It can hardly lie elsewhere than in a truer understanding of the very nature of life itself. The only remedy will be found in the larger general understanding that life cannot be extinguished. One may destroy his physical body,—he can do that at any moment and by an infinite variety of methods. But he cannot destroy himself. He may deprive himself of the instrument that was given to him for use in the physical world; he cannot escape from the duties that he should have fulfilled when he had the means of doing so in the use of this instrument we call the body. If science and religion could clearly teach the awful results that follow suicide, the terrible isolation and deprivation in which the spiritual being who has thrown away his instrument of service finds himself, it would be the one effective cure for a demoralizing tendency. If one has sinned, sometime and somewhere must he meet the consequences. He cannot escape them by escaping from his body, and the sooner he meets them, in repentance and atonement, the sooner will he work out to better and brighter conditions. If one encounters disaster or great personal sorrow, what then? One does not throw away all his possibilities of usefulness because he is himself unhappy. If he does do this he is ignoble. Life is a divine dream. It is a divine responsibility, primarily between each soul and God. It is one's business to live bravely, with dignity, with faith, with generosity of consideration and good will, with love, indeed, which is the expression of the highest energy. Yet, with his personal world in ruins, what shall he do? He must learn that supreme lesson of all time and eternity,—the lesson to accept and to joyfully embrace the will of God as thus revealed to him, in an inscrutable way.
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[Sidenote: The Supreme Illumination.]
Until he shall learn to accept this experience as divine, and offer his gratitude to God for pain as sincerely as he offered it for experiences of joy and of beauty, he cannot enter upon the Life Radiant. For the radiant life is only achieved through these mingled experiences as all equally accepted from the Divine Power.
"Ah, when the infinite burden of life descendeth upon us, Crushes to earth our hopes, and under the earth in the graveyard, Then it is good to pray unto God, for His sorrowing children Turns He ne'er from the door, but He heals and helps and consoles them. Yet is it good to pray when all things are prosperous with us; Pray in fortunate days, for life's most beautiful fortune Kneels before the Eternal's gate, and with hands inter-folded, Praises, thankful and moved, the only Giver of blessings."
The Life Radiant comes when one can as sincerely thank God for pain as for joy; when, after long groping in the darkness, clinging, indeed, to his faith in God (for without that he could not live an hour, though that faith be totally without sight), he suddenly realizes how a great sorrow has wrought in him a great result; that it has perfected and crystallized all that was nebulous in his faith, and that it has absolutely brought him into perfect rest in the Divine Will; that it has forged that indissoluble link which forevermore identifies his will with the will of God, and thus opens to him a realm fairer far than a "World Beautiful"—even a World Divine. Only in this finer ether is revealed to him the Life Radiant; in the atmosphere made resplendent and glorious by this revelation of the soul's union with God. It is a life only experienced after one who has seen before him the Promised Land is led into the Wilderness instead, and who, standing there in the midst of denial, and defeat, and desolation, can rejoice in the sea of glass mingled with fire through which he must pass. Only in this supreme surrender of the soul to God; only in this rapture of union with the divine power, lies the Life Radiant. It is a glory not of earth; it is the instant crystallization of an intense and infinite energy that pours itself into every need of the varied human life. It is the igniting of a spark that flashes its illumination on every problem and perplexity. It is the coming to "know God" in the sense meant by Saint Paul, and thus to enter into the eternal life. For the eternal life is not a term that implies mere duration. It implies present conditions. The eternal life is now. It is a spiritual state, and implies the profound and the realized union with God, rather than a prolongation of existence through countless ages. Only the eternal life can thus prolong itself. The life of the spirit is alone immortal.
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[Sidenote: Creating the New World.]
"The soul looketh steadily forward, creating a world before her, leaving worlds behind her," and "the web of events is the flowing robe in which she is clothed." That union of energy and will which we call the soul is capable of creating a new world every day, and any adequate perception of the life that now is, as well as that which is to come, suggests consolation for the ills of the day and leads one into the atmosphere of peace and joy.
When one comes into any clear realization of this life of the spirit,—of its infinite outlook, its command of resources,—the entanglement with trifles falls off of itself. Not unfrequently a great deal of time and energy is totally wasted in endeavoring to combat or to conquer the annoyances and troubles that beset one; that weight his wings and blind his eyes and render him impervious and unresponsive to the beauty and joy of life. Nine times out of ten it is far better to ignore these, to put them out of sight and out of mind, and press on to gain the clearer atmosphere, to create the new world. "The whole course of things goes to teach us faith. We need only obey. There is guidance for each of us, and by lowly listening we shall hear the right word. Why need you choose so painfully your place, and occupation, and associates, and modes of action and of entertainment? Certainly there is a possible right for you that precludes the need of balance and wilful election. For you there is a reality, a fit place and congenial duties. Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which animates all whom it floats, and you are without effort impelled to truth, to right, and a perfect contentment. Then you put all gainsayers in the wrong. Then you are the world, the measure of right, of truth, of beauty. If we will not be marplots with our miserable interferences, the work, the society, letters, arts, science, religion of men would go on far better than now, and the heaven predicted from the beginning of the world, and still predicted from the bottom of the heart, would organize itself, as do now the rose, and the air, and the sun."
The poet declares that "sorrow's crown of sorrow is remembering happier things," but there is a certain morbidness in even the sensitive delicacy and intensity of feeling that broods too deeply over the past. It is a great art to learn to let things go—let them pass. They are a part of the "flowing conditions." Even the pain and sorrow that result from failures and changes in social relations; loss of friends, the vanishing of friendships in which one had trusted,—even this phase of trial, which is truly the hardest of all, can be best endured by closing the door of consciousness on it, and creating a new world by that miracle-working power of the soul. Friendships that hold within themselves any permanent, any spiritual reality, come to stay. "Only that soul can be my friend which I encounter on the line of my own march, that soul to which I do not decline and which does not decline to me, but, native of the same celestial altitude, repeats in its own all my experience." Life has too many claims and privileges and resources to waste it in lamentations. Let one look forward, not backward. Fairy realms of enchantment beckon him on. These "flowing conditions of life" are, really, the conditions of joy, of exhilaration, of stimulus to energy rather than the reverse. They invest each day, each week, each year, with the enchantment of the unknown and the untried. They produce the possibility of perpetual hope, and continuity of hope is continuity of endeavor. Without hope, faith, and courage, life would be impossible; and courage and all power of energy and endeavor depend entirely upon hope and faith. If a man believes in nothing and is in a state of despair and not hope, his energies are paralyzed. But hope lends wings,—hope and faith are creative, and can both control and change the trend of events. Circumstances are but the crude material, which is subject to any degree of transformation by the alchemy of faith. "When a god wishes to ride, every chip and stone will bud and shoot out winged feet to carry him," and it is hope and faith that give the power of the gods.
There is, perhaps, no adequate realization on the part of humanity of the enormous extent to which the forces in the Unseen mingle with the forces of the Seen, and thus complete the magnetic battery of action. Life approaches perfection in just the degree to which it can intelligently and reverently avail itself of this aid which is a divine provision. It is not only after death that the soul "stands before God." The soul that does not stand before God, now and here, in the ordinary daily life, does not even live at all, in any true sense. "I am come that ye might have life," said Jesus, "and have it more abundantly." It is only as one holds himself receptive to the divine currents that he has life, and it rests with himself to have it "more abundantly" every day and hour.
This constant communion with Jesus, this living in constant receptivity to the divine energy, includes, too, the living in telepathic communion with those who have gone on into the Unseen world. The spirituality of life is conditioned on so developing our own spiritual powers by faith and prayer and communion with God, that one is sensitive to the presence and responsive to the thought of friends who have been released from the physical life. Shall Phillips Brooks, the friend and helper and wise counsellor when here, be less so now that he has entered into the next higher scale of being? Shall the friend whom we loved, and who was at our side in visible presence yesterday, be less our friend because his presence is not visible to us to-day? Why is it not visible? Simply because the subtle spirit-body is in a state of far higher vibration than the denser physical body, and the physical eye can only recognize objects up to a certain vibratory degree. It is a scientific fact. Musicians and scientists know well that above a certain pitch the ear cannot recognize sound; it becomes silence. But as Saint Paul says, "there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body," and the spiritual body also has its organs of sight and hearing. Clairvoyance and clairaudience are as natural, when the spiritual faculties are sufficiently developed, as are the ordinary sight and hearing. Even when there is no clairvoyance and clairaudience, in the way of super-normal development, the mind kept in harmonious receptivity to the divine world may be telepathically in more or less constant communion with those in the unseen.
"The power of our own will to determine certain facts is, itself, one of the facts of life," says Professor Josiah Royce. The power of our own will is but another name for spiritual power—that positive force to which all events and circumstances are negative.
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"There never was a right endeavor but it succeeded," says Emerson. "Patience and patience, we shall win at the last. We must be very suspicious of the deceptions of the element of time. It takes a good deal of time to eat or to sleep, or to earn a hundred dollars, and a very little time to entertain a hope and an insight which becomes the light of our life. We dress our garden, eat our dinners, discuss the household, and these things make no impression, are forgotten next week; but in the solitude to which every man is always returning, he has a sanity and revelations which in his passage into new worlds he will carry with him. Never mind the ridicule, never mind the defeat: up again, old heart!—it seems to say,—there is victory yet for all justice; and the true romance which the world exists to realize will be the transformation of genius into practical power."
[Sidenote: Eliminating Anxieties.]
A large percentage of the anxieties and perplexities of daily experience could be eliminated at once and struck off the balance, never to return again, if life were but viewed aright, and held in the scale of true valuations. Nothing is more idle than to sell one's soul for a mess of pottage; for the pottage is not worth the price. Seen in the most practical, every-day light, it is a bad bargain. Not only is it true that a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of things that he possesseth, but, conversely, as a rule, the greater the mass of things the less the life. The spiritual energy becomes clogged and fettered and strangled amid its entanglement with things. The very power of finance, that might and that ought to insure its possessor a certain peace of mind, a liberation from petty anxieties, and a power to devote himself to higher aims, too often reverses this and chains him as to a wheel. Recently there arrived at a fashionable hotel a family whose command of finance might have redeemed every day from the sordid and from any anxious efforts, and enabled them to live in the realm of high thought, of generous and beautiful expressions of sympathy and love to all. Their visit might have made the time a glorified interlude to every one with whom they came in contact by its radiation of hope and happiness and sympathy and good cheer. Instead, each and all, individually and collectively, were entangled in possessions,—weighted down with things, and quite illustrating the terse little couplet of Emerson,—
"Things are in the saddle And ride mankind."
The things which rode these unfortunate beings—for the multi-millionaires may not unfrequently be so classed—were masses of jewels, that could not be worn and enjoyed because too elaborate to be suitable, and so must be instantly consigned to the safe. Such part of these treasures as were in use, and left in rooms, suffered from losses or theft. They caused more or less vexation, anger, discord, and fret in general to the owners and every one concerned, until the onlooker was ready to exclaim, "If this is the price of diamonds and rubies and pink pearls, and rich and rare gems in general, let one escape the tyranny of purple and fine linen, and take simplicity and its accompanying peace of mind." After a certain limit of ordinary comfort, great possessions seem to enslave rather than to liberate. If the price of costly jewels is peace of mind, as well as a cheque of imposing figures, then, indeed, let one keep his peace of mind, and go without the necklace. It is often curious to see how little imagination goes into the spending of colossal fortunes. The possessors simply build more houses than they can live in; each one has more space and more impedimenta than he knows what to do with, and the multiplication of all these possessions results in perpetual anxieties, and fret, and worry, until one would prefer a crust and a garret, and his spiritual freedom, to any such life as that entailed by the golden shower of fortune.
"Are you rich? rich enough to help somebody?" There is the test. The diamond and ruby necklace, whose chief use seems to be to incite anxieties, would give some aspiring youth or maiden a college course. The costly ring left carelessly on the bureau, tempting theft, would give a gifted young girl just the study in a musical conservatory that she needs, or would make a young artist happy and encouraged by buying his picture, and some one else might be made happy and helped on to new endeavor by having the gift of the picture. Money can be transmuted into spiritual gifts, and only when thus used is it of much importance in promoting any real comfort or enjoyment or stimulus to progress. The event, the thing, is purely negative, and only when acted upon by force of spirit does it become positive.
Let one go on through the days doing the beautiful thing in every human relation. Life is a spiritual drama, perpetually being played. The curtain never goes down. The actors come and go, but the stage is never vacant. To inform the drama with artistic feeling, with beauty, with generous purpose, is in the power of every one. It depends, not on possessions, but on sympathy, insight, and sweetness of spirit. These determine the Life Radiant.
* * * * *
"I will wait heaven's perfect hour Through the innumerable years."
[Sidenote: Heaven's Perfect Hour.]
The saving grace of life is the power to hold with serene and steadfast fidelity the vision, the ideal, that has revealed itself in happier hours; to realize that this, after all, is the true reality, and that it shines in the spiritual firmament as the sun does in the heavens, however long the period of storm and clouds that obscure its radiance. The tendency to doubt and depression is often as prevalent as an epidemic. In extreme cases it becomes the suicidal mania; in others it effectually paralyzes the springs of action and leaves its victim drifting helplessly and hopelessly with the current; and any such mental tendency as this is just as surely a definite evil to be recognized and combated as would be any epidemic of disease. To rise in the morning confronting a day that is full of exacting demands on his best energies; on his serenest and sunniest poise; that require all the exhilaration and sparkle and radiance which have vanished from his possession, and yet to be forced, someway and somehow, to go through his appointed tasks,—no one can deny that here is a very real problem, and one that certainly taxes every conceivable force of will far more than might many great and visible calamities. For all this form of trial is invisible and very largely incommunicable, and it is like trying to walk through deep waters that are undiscerned by those near, but which impede every step, and threaten to rise and overwhelm one.
The poetic and artistic temperament is peculiarly susceptible to this form of trial. In work of an industrial or mechanical nature, a certain degree of will force alone will serve to insure its accomplishment whether one "feels in the mood" or not. The mood does not greatly count. But in work of any creative sort, the mood, the condition of mind, is the determining factor. And is it within human power, by force of will alone, to call up this working mood of radiant energy when all energy has ebbed away, leaving one as inert as an electric machine from which the current has been turned off?
And yet—and yet—the saving gift and grace of life and achievement comes, in that there is a power higher than one's own will, on which one may lay hold with this serene and steadfast fidelity.
Physicians and scientists have long since recognized that intense mental depression is as inevitably an accompaniment of la grippe as are its physical symptoms, and the more fully the patient himself understands this, and is thus enabled to look at it objectively, so to speak, the better it is for him. The feeling is that he has not a friend on earth, and, on the whole, he is rather glad of it. He feels as if it were much easier to die than to live,—not to say that the former presents itself to him as far the preferable course. So he envelops himself in the black shadows of gloom, and, on the whole, quite prefers drawing them constantly deeper. And this is very largely the semi-irresponsible state of illness combined with ignorance of the real nature of the malady.
The knowledge of how to meet it with a degree of that "sweet reasonableness" which should invest one's daily living, is knowledge that can hardly come amiss. One must treat it as a transient visitation of those
"Black spirits or white, blue spirits or gray,"
which are to be exorcised by keeping close to beautiful thought,—to something high, poetic, reverent. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee" is one of the most practical aids in life. It can be relied upon more fully than the visit of the physician. From the Bible, from the poets, one may draw as from a sustaining fountain. As this intense depression is a mental feature of the disease it must be met by mental methods,—of resolutely holding the thoughts to high and beautiful themes; by allying the imagination with serene and radiant ideals. Emerson is the greatest of magicians. His words will work marvels. His thought is as luminous as a Roentgen ray.
"Heaven's perfect hour" is sure to sometime dawn if one but keep his face turned toward the morning. "Heaven's perfect hour" is within one's own possibilities of creation, if he live aright and think aright; and with joy and radiance may he make it his perpetual experience; although it is the supreme anomaly in life that the social relations which are designed to offer the profoundest joy, the most perfect consolation for disaster or sorrow, and to communicate the happy currents of electrical energy, are yet those which not unfrequently make themselves the channel of the most intense suffering. There is something wrong in this. The friendships of life, all forms and phases and degrees through which regard and friendship reveal themselves, are the one divinest, perhaps it may be said are the only, part of life on earth that is absolutely divine, and the divine element should communicate perpetual joy. This is the ideal view of the entire panorama of social interchange and social relations, and being the purest ideal, it is also the most intensely and absolutely real. For nothing is real, in the last analysis, save that which is ideal; and nothing is ideal that is not a spiritual reality. Then the question recurs,—how is it possible, how can it be accounted for that the one phase of suffering which seems past even trying to endure, comes through the sources which should radiate only joy and blessedness?
The old proverb, "Save me from my friends," is founded on a certain basis of fact. "Twenty enemies cannot do me the mischief of one friend," rather cynically, but perhaps not wholly untruly, said Gail Hamilton. For it certainly is not the avowed enemy, or the person to whom one is indifferent, who has the power to greatly harm or pain him. So far as injury goes, Emerson is probably right when he says, "No one can work me injury but myself." Misrepresentation, misinterpretation, there may be, but in the long run truth is mighty, and will, and does, prevail. One need not greatly concern himself with misinterpretations, but, rather, only with striving to live the life of truth and righteousness.
Perhaps one cause of much of the unhappiness and suffering that not infrequently invests relations that should only be those of joy and peace and mutual inspiration, is an over and an undue emphasis on material things. Now, when viewed in the light of absolute truth, material things are of simply no consequence at all. They do not belong to the category of realities. Money, possessions,—the mere goods and chattels of life,—are, even at their best appraisal, a mere temporary convenience. As a convenience they fill a place and are all very well. As anything beyond that they have no place at all in one's consciousness. Whatever luxury they can offer is simply in using them to the best advantage, and human nature is so constituted that this best advantage is usually more closely connected with those who are dear to one than it is with himself. For himself alone, what does he want that money, mere money, can buy? He wants and needs the average conditions of life, in the "food, clothing, and shelter" line; he needs and requires certain conditions of beauty, of harmony, of gratification of tastes and enlargement of opportunities,—all these are legitimate needs, and are part of the working conditions of life; of the right development and progress which one is in duty bound to make, both for his own personal progress and as the vantage ground of his efforts for usefulness. Beyond that, the luxury of life lies in doing what the heart prompts. The one heavenly joy of life is in the enlargement of social sympathies; it is in the offering of whatever appreciation and devotion it is possible to offer to those whose noble and beautiful lives inspire this devotion. To have this accepted—not because it is of intrinsic value, not because it is of any particular importance per se, but because it is the visible representation of the spiritual gift of reverence, appreciation, and devotion—is the purest happiness one may experience, and that which inspires him anew to all endeavor and achievement. To have it refused or denied is to have the golden portals close before one and shut him out in the darkness. Why, the heavenly privilege, the infinite obligation, is on the part of him who is permitted to offer his tribute of love and devotion, expressed, if it so chances, in any material way,—and he is denied his sweetest joy if this privilege be denied him. There are gifts that are priceless, but they are not of the visible and tangible world. They are the gifts of sympathy, of intuitive comprehension, of helpful regard; and, curiously, these—the priceless and precious—are never regarded as too valuable for acceptance, while regarding the material and temporal, which, at best, are the merest transient convenience, there will be hesitation and pain. And this hesitation arises, too, from the most beautiful and delicately exquisite qualities, but it produces the pain that is
"——the little rift within the lute, That by and by will make the music mute."
There is in life a proportion of pain and jarring that is inevitable, probably, to the imperfect conditions with which the experience on earth is temporarily invested; and because of this, all the range of friendship should be held apart as divine, and any interchange of material gifts should not receive this undue emphasis, but be regarded as the mere incidental trifle of momentary convenience, while all the regard and devotion that may lie behind should give its mutual joy as free and as pure as the fragrance of a rose. Of all that a friend may be Emerson so truly says:—
"I fancied he was fled,— And, after many a year, Glowed unexhausted kindliness Like daily sunrise there. My careful heart was free again. O friend, my bosom said, Through thee alone the sky is arched, Through thee the rose is red; All things through thee take nobler form."
That alone is what all the loves and friendships of life are for,—that through their ministry life may take on nobler form.
"I fancied he was fled."
But a friendship that is true cannot flee; it is, by its very quality and nature, abiding. It may be silent forever; it may be invisible, inaudible, immaterial, impersonal; but once forged it is of the heavenly life, the heavenly language, and the Word of the Lord abideth forever!
* * * * *
[Sidenote: Love and Good Will.]
The stress and storm of life, however, fade away very largely before the power of simple love and good will, which is the key to all situations and the solution of all problems. "How shall I seem to love my people?" asked a French king of his confessor. "My son, you must love them," was the reply. When there is genuineness one does not need to engage in the elaborate and arduous labor of counterfeiting qualities and manufacturing appearances, and it is really easier—to say nothing of its being a somewhat more dignified process—to be what one wishes the world to regard him, than it is to endeavor to merely produce the effect of it.
Doctor Holmes had a bit of counsel for those who were out at sea,—that they should not waste any energy in asking how they looked from the shore; and the suggestion is not an infelicitous one in its general application to life. It is quite enough for one to keep his feet, as best he may, set on the upward and onward way, without concerning himself too much as to the effect of his figure in the landscape. The energy that goes towards attitudinizing is always wasted, while that which expends itself on the legitimate fulfilment of tasks contributes something of real importance to life.
And so, any significance of achievement seems to be exactly conditioned by the degree of energy involved—the finer the energy, the more potent the achievement. It would seem as if all the noble order of success hinged on two conditions,—the initial one of generating sufficient energy, and the second that of applying it worthily.
The present age is characterized as that in which new forms of force appear,—in both the physical and the spiritual realms of life. What a marvel is the new chemical force, thermite, of which the first demonstration in America was made in 1902, by the Columbia University Chemical Society in New York. Here is a force that dissolves iron and stone. An extremely interesting account of this new energy appeared in the "New York Herald," in which the writer vivifies the subject by saying of thermite:—
"Under its awful lightning blaze granite flows like water and big steel rails are welded in the twinkling of an eye.... The interior of Mount Pelee, whose fiery blast destroyed St. Pierre in a moment and crumbled its buildings into dust, would be cool compared with this temperature of 5400 deg. It would melt the White Mountains into rivers of liquid fire. Nothing could withstand its consuming power.... And what makes this stupendous force? The answer seems incredible as the claims for the force itself. It is produced by simply putting a match to a mixture of aluminum filings and oxide of chromium, both metallic, and yet, as by magic, a mighty force is instantly created."
The writer describes the discovery and processes at some length, and adds:—
"Such are the wonders of chemistry suggesting Emerson's claim, 'Thought sets men free.' By a simple process—flame applied to metal filings—prison bars melt and vaulted dungeons flow like water."
The article closes with this wonderful paragraph:—
"By chemistry the pale-faced modern Faust, working in his laboratory, makes metals out of clay and many marvellous combinations. What they will do when skilfully proportioned and exposed to heat, the story related gives a hint,—accounting, as it were, for the forces at work in space, creating heat and electricity, making suns burn with indescribable fury, colliding with peaceful planets, mixing their metals in a second of time,—and new worlds seem to leap into vision, balls of molten fire sweeping through space; vast cyclones of flame, making Pelee a cold-storage vault by comparison. All this seems simple enough as explained by modern chemistry, giving men unlimited power, making them gods, as it were, to first master themselves and then the universe."
This description of the new force, whose intensity is almost beyond realization, is hardly less remarkable than is the energy described; and it lends itself, with perfect rhythm of correspondence, to analysis on the side of the spiritual forces of life. "Cast thyself into the will of God and thou shalt become as God" is one of the most illuminating of the mystic truths. The "will of God" is the supreme potency, the very highest degree of energy, in the spiritual realm, which is the realm of cause, while the outer world is the realm of effects. Now if one may so ally himself to the divine will as to share in its all-conquering power, he partakes of creative power and eternal life, now and here, just in proportion to the degree to which he can identify his entire trend of desire and purpose with this Infinite will. This energy is fairly typified in the physical world by the stupendous new force called "thermite," and it is as resistless as that attraction which holds the stars in their courses and the universe in their solar relations.
* * * * *
[Sidenote: The Diviner Possibilities.]
It is a fallacy to suppose that it is a hardship and a trial to live the more divine and uplifting life, and that ease and pleasure are only to be found in non-resistance to the faults and defects of character. The truth is just the opposite of this, and the twentieth century will reveal a fairly revolutionary philosophy in this respect. Heretofore poet and prophet have always questioned despondently,—
"Does the road wind up hill all the way?"
as if to wind up hill were the type of trial, and the "descent of Avernus" were the type of joy.
Does the road wind up hill? Most certainly, and thereby it leads on into the purer light, the fairer radiance, the wider view. Does one prefer to go down hill into some dark ravine or deep mountain gorge? It is a great fallacy that it is the hardship of life to live in the best instead of in the worst. It is the way of the transgressor which is hard—not of him who endeavors to follow the divine leading. The deeper truth is that the moment one commits all his purposes and his aspirations into the Divine keeping he connects himself by that very act with a current of irresistible energy; one that reinforces him with power utterly undreamed of before.
There is no limit to the power one may draw from the unseen universe. "It is possible, I dare to say," says a thoughtful writer, "for those who will indeed draw on their Lord's power for deliverance and victory, to live a life on which His promises are taken as they stand and found to be true. It is possible to cast every care on Him daily, and to be at peace amidst the pressure. It is possible to see the will of God in everything, and to find it not a sigh but a song. It is possible in the world of inner act and motion to put away all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and evil speaking, daily and hourly. It is possible, by unreserved resort to divine power, under divine conditions, to become strongest at our weakest point; to find the thing which yesterday upset all our obligations to patience, an occasion to-day, through Him who loveth us and worketh in us, for a joyful consent to His will and a delightful sense of His presence. These things are divinely possible."
One very practical question that cannot but confront the world at the present time is as to whether there is any relation between religion, in its highest and most inclusive and spiritually uplifting sense, and the possibility of communication between those in this life and those who have passed through the change we call death and have entered on the next round of experience. It is a fact—albeit a rather curious and unaccountable one—that organized religion, as a whole, has been largely opposed to the idea of possible communication between what is currently termed the living and the dead. Yet when one focusses the question to a matter of personal individuality, it does not stand the test. Take, for instance, the revered name of a man who was universally recognized as one of the greatest spiritual leaders the world has known,—Phillips Brooks. When he was the rector of Trinity Church, or the Bishop of the Massachusetts diocese, no one who sought his companionship or counsel would have been regarded as being wrong to do so. Now,—always provided that there is full conviction of immortality,—why should it be wrong to seek his companionship or counsel from the unseen life? Death has no power over the essential individuality. Indeed, in being freed from the physical body, the spiritual man becomes only more powerful, and with his power acting from a higher plane of energy. Regarding ourselves as spiritual beings,—and if we are not that we are nothing,—regarding ourselves as temporarily inhabiting a physical body, but in no sense identified with it save as we use this body for our instrument of communication with the physical world; what more logical or natural than that the spiritual being, not yet released from his physical body, should hold sweet and intimate communion with the spiritual being that has been released from this physical environment? Telepathy has already become a recognized law. That mind to mind, spirit to spirit, flashes its messages here in this present life, is a fact attested by too great an array of evidence to be doubted or denied. Now the spiritual being who is released from the physical body is infinitely more sensitive to impression, more responsive to mental call, than was possible in conditions here. The experimental research and investigation in psychology, as shown in such work as that of Professor Muensterberg of Harvard in the university laboratory, reveals increasingly that the brain is an electric battery of the most potent and sensitive order; that it generates electric thought waves and receives them. Does it lose this power by the change called death? Is this power only inherent in the physical structure? On the contrary, Professor William James has demonstrated with scientific accuracy in his book called "Human Freedom," that this is not the case. If, then, intellectual energy survives the process of death,—and if it does not then there is no immortality,—the communication between those in the Unseen and those in the Seen is as perfectly natural as is any form of companionship or of social life here.
As all kinds of people live, so all kinds of people die, and the mere fact of death is not a transforming process, spiritually. He who has not developed the spiritual faculties while here; who has lived the mere life of the senses with the mere ordinary intelligence, or without it, but never rising to the nobler intellectual and moral life—is no more desirable as a companion because he has died than he was before he died. And the objection to any of the ordinary seance phenomena is, that whatever manifestations are genuine proceed very largely, if not entirely, from this strata of the crude and inconsequential, if not the vicious, with whom the high-minded man or woman would not have associated in life, and after death their presence would be quite as much to be deplored. Granted all these exceptions. One may sweep them off and clear the decks. Then what remains? There remains the truth of the unity of the spiritual universe; of the truth that the mere change of death is not a revolutionary one, transforming the individual into some inconceivable state of being and removing him, in a geographical sense, into some unrevealed region in space; there remains the truth that life is evolutionary in its processes; that there is no more violent and arbitrary and instantaneous change by the event of death, than there is in the change from infancy into childhood, from childhood into manhood. There remains the truth that the ethereal and the physical worlds are inter-related, inter-blended; that man, now and here, lives partially in each, and that the more closely he can relate himself to the diviner forces by prayer, by aspiration, by every thought and deed that is noble and generous and true, and inspired by love, the more he dwells in this ethereal atmosphere and is in touch with its forces and in companionship with his chosen friends who have gone on into that world. There is nothing in this theory that is incompatible with the teachings of the Church, with all that makes up for us the religious life. On the contrary, it vitalizes and reinforces that life. This life of the spirit must be in God. Let one, indeed, on his first waking each day, place his entire life, all his heart, mind, and faculties, in God's hands; asking Him "to take entire possession, to be the guide of the soul." Thus one shall dwell hourly, daily, in the divine atmosphere, and spirit to spirit may enjoy their communion and companionship. The experience of personal spiritual companionship between those here and those on the next plane of life is included in the higher religious life of the spirit while living here on earth. It vivifies and lends joy to it; for the joy of sympathetic companionship is the one supreme and transcendent happiness in life. And to live in this atmosphere requires one absolute and inevitable condition, the constant exercise of the moral virtues,—of truth, rectitude, generosity, and love. The life held amenable to these, the life which commits itself utterly into the divine keeping, is not a life of hardship; the "road that winds up hill" is the road of perpetual interest and exhilaration. It is a fatal fallacy to invest it with gloom and despair. It is the only possible source of the constant, intellectual energy of life, of sweetness, of joy, of happiness.
The only standard which is worthy for one to hold as that by which he measures his life is the divine one illustrated in the character of Jesus. To measure one's quality of daily life by this is always to fall short of satisfactory achievement; and still there is always the realization that its achievement is only a question of persistence and of time. It is the direction in which one is moving that determines his final destination. There is the deepest inspiration to the soul in taking for one's perpetual watchword, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." Not that this divine state is attained; but there is perpetual aid in the conviction that one's self—his spiritual self—can "press on to the high calling of God." Man is a divine being; the divine life is his only true life.
The deepest loyalty to the divine ideal involves, however, not only the striving after perfection, but the charity for imperfection. To denounce evil is a part of rectitude; to condemn sin is a moral duty; but to condemn the sinner is not infrequently to be more deeply at fault than is he who thus offended. An illustration of this point has recently been before the public. A New York clergyman preached on Easter Sunday a sermon that was not his own. He gave no credit to its writer. The sermon was published, and a minister of another church, recognizing it, at once proceeded to "expose" the matter in the daily press. Not only did he call public attention to the error, but he did it in a manner that seemed to rejoice in the opportunity; a manner so devoid of sorrow or sympathy as to fill the reader with despair at such an exhibition. Rev. E. Walpole Warren fittingly rebuked the evident malice with which the fault was exposed, and quoted the words of Saint Paul in the injunction: "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye who are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." To have gone, in a spirit of love, privately and quietly, and pointed out the error, would have been Christian-like; to exult in it must be described by a very different term. Devotion to truth is good, but it is "speaking the truth in love" that is the ideal. It is even possible to convey questioning, counsel, encouragement, or reproach without the spoken word; to send the message by the law of suggestion from mind to mind. The mental intimation will reach the one to whom it is sent if the conditions for telepathy are observed, for thought is far more penetrative than the Roentgen ray, and the atmosphere is magnetic, and carries it as the wire does the electric current. All these finer conditions are beginning to make themselves felt as practicable forces. Humanity is becoming "plastic to the spirit touch;" sensitive to those vibrations too fine to be registered by the outward ear.
"Thought is the wages For which I sell days,"
said Emerson. Thought is the motor of the future. "As a man thinketh, so is he," is one of the most practical and literal truths.
It is only by the divine law that one can measure the ethics of companionship. The frequent experiences in life of broken friendships; of those alliances of good will, of mutual sympathies and mutual enjoyment, that, at last, some way became entangled amid discords and barriers, and thus come to a disastrous end,—such experiences could be escaped were life lived by the diviner standards. Friendship need never deteriorate in quality if each lives nobly. If one conceives of life more nobly and generously than the other, it may become, not a means of separation and alienation, but a means and measure of just responsibility. There are friendships whose shipwreck is on the rock of undue encroachment on one side and undue endurance—which has not the noble and spontaneous character of generosity—on the other. One imposes, the other is imposed on,—and so things run on from bad to worse, till at last a crisis comes, and those who had once been much to each other are farther apart than strangers. In such circumstances there has been a serious failure,—the failure of not speaking the truth in love. The failure on the part of the one more spiritually enlightened toward the one less enlightened. One should no more consent that his friend should do an ignoble thing than he should consent to do an ignoble thing himself. He should hold his friend in thought to the divine standard. He should conceive of him nobly and expect from him only honor and integrity. "Those who trust us educate us," says George Eliot; and still more do they who hold us in the highest thought draw us upward to that atmosphere through which no evil may pass. Each one is his brother's keeper, and life achieves only its just and reasonable possibilities when it is held constantly amenable to the divine ideal,—when it is lived according to that inspiring injunction of Phillips Brooks: "Be such a man, live such a life, that if all lives were like yours earth would be Paradise."
Let one put aside sorrow and enter into the joy and radiance. "Omit the negative propositions. Nerve us with incessant affirmatives." If biography teaches any lesson, it is that the events which occur in life are of far less consequence than the spirit in which they are received. It is the attitude of mental receptivity which is the alchemy to transmute events and circumstances into experience, and it is experience alone which determines both the quality and the trend of life. It is in activity; in doing and giving and loving, that the joy of life must be sought. And it is joy which is the normal condition rather than depression and sadness, as health and not illness is the normal state. Disease and sadness are abnormal, and if one finds himself "blue," it is his first business to escape from it, to change the conditions and the atmosphere. The radiant life is the ideal state, both for achievement as well as for that finer quality of personal influence which cannot emanate from gloom and depression. "Everything good is on the highway," said Emerson, and the first and only lasting success is that of character. It may not be, for the moment, exhilarating to realize that one's ill fortune is usually the result of some defect in his selection, or error in his judgment, but, on the other hand, if the cause of his unhappiness lies in himself, the cause of his happiness may also lie with himself, and thus it is in his power to so transform his attitude to life as to reverse the gloom and have the joy and sweetness rather than the bitterness and sadness of life. Everything, in the last analysis, is a matter of temperament. Nothing is hopeless, for life is infinite, and new factors can be evolved whose working out will create the new heaven and the new earth.
* * * * *
Here, in the earth life, we have it in our power to seize our future destination.—FICHTE.
[Sidenote: The Weight of the Past.]
One of the most inspiring injunctions of Saint Paul is that in which he bids us to "lay aside every weight." Poet and prophet have always recognized the weight of the past as a serious problem. One has made all sorts of mistakes; he is entangled in the consequences of his "errors and ignorances," if not in his sins, and how can he enter on a Life Radiant with this burden? Well does Sidney Lanier express this feeling in the stanzas:—
"My soul is sailing through the sea, But the Past is heavy and hindereth me, The Past hath crusted cumbrous shells That hold the flesh of cold sea-mells About my soul. The huge waves wash, the high waves roll, Each barnacle clingeth and worketh dole, And hindereth me from sailing!
"Old Past, let go and drop i' the sea Till fathomless waters cover thee! For I am living, but thou art dead; Thou drawest back, I strive ahead The day to find. Thy shells unbind! Night comes behind, I needs must hurry with the wind And trim me best for sailing."
There is no question but that the past is heavy and hindereth every one. Its "cumbrous shells" cling like dead weights around man, and keep him from the larger, freer life. "Man is not by any means convinced as yet of his immortality," says Sir Edwin Arnold; "all the great religions have in concert more or less positively affirmed it to him; but no safe logic proves it, and no entirely accepted voice from some farther world proclaims it."
The one proof, of course, so far as absolute evidential demonstration goes, lies in the communication from those who have passed through death. There unfolds an increasingly impressive mass of logical probabilities that point to but one conclusion to every student of science and of spiritual laws. Biology offers its important testimony. The law of the conservation of forces,—of motion and matter,—which is definitely proven by actual demonstration, suggests with a potency which no one can evade that intellect, emotion, and will—the most intense and resistless forces of the universe—can hardly be extinguished when the forces of matter persist. The study of the nature of the ether alone pours a flood of illumination on the theory of an ethereal world,—a theory with which all the known facts of science and psychology accord, and with which they range themselves. Rev. Doctor Newman Smyth says that the facts disclosed by a study of biology, as well as the theories advanced by some trained biologists, fairly open the new and interesting question whether death itself does not fall naturally under some principle of selection and law of utility for life? "It is of religious concern as well as of scientific interest," he continues, "for us to learn, as far as possible, all the facts and suggestions which microscopic researches may bring to our knowledge concerning the minute processes or most intimate and hidden laws of life and death. For if we, children of an age of questioning and change, are to keep a rational faith in spiritual reality,—strong and genuine as was our fathers' faith according to their light, ours must be a faith that shall strike its roots deep down into all knowledge, although light from above alone may bring it to its perfect Christian trust and sweetness.... The least facts of nature may be germinal with high spiritual significance and beauty."
The twentieth century leads faith to the brink of knowledge. The deepest spiritual feeling must perpetually recognize that faith alone—Christ's words alone—are enough for every human soul; but faith grows not less, but more, when informed by knowledge. When man measures and weighs the star and discovers their composition; when he sends messages without visible means, then he may believe with Fichte, that "here, in the earth life, we have it in our power to seize our future destination." Mr. Weiss objected to any (possible) evidential demonstration of immortality, because (as he said), "If you owe your belief in immortality to the assumed facts of a spiritual intercourse, your belief is at the mercy of your assumption.... It is merely an opinion derived from phenomena." But this reasoning would not hold good regarding any other trend of knowledge; the vital necessity of the soul to lay hold on God and immortality is not lessened, but rather deepened and reinforced by understanding, when knowledge goes hand in hand with faith. And the one supreme argument of all is that a truer knowledge of man's spiritual being—now and here—with a truer conception of his destiny in the part of life immediately succeeding the change of death, would make so marvellous a difference in all his relations on earth, in all his conceptions of achievement, and would, as Sir Edwin Arnold says, "turn nine-tenths of the sorrows of earth into glorious joys and abolish quite as large a proportion of the faults and vices of mankind."
The Past is heavy with misconceptions of the simple truths of life and immortality as Jesus taught them. The Present seeks to throw off these "cumbrous shells." Death is the liberator, the divinely appointed means for ushering man into the more real, the more significant life, whose degree of reality and significance depends wholly on ourselves; which is simply the achievement—better or poorer—which man creates now and here, in the same manner in which the quality of manhood and womanhood depends wholly on the degree of achievement in childhood and youth. We do not "find," but instead, create our lives. As we are perpetually creating, we are perpetually making them anew. If we must, this year, live out the errors that we made last year, there is an encouragement rather than a penalty in the fact, as this truth argues that if we now enter on a loftier plane and realize in outward life a nobler experience, we shall, next year, or in some future time, find ourselves entirely free from the weight of the errors we have abandoned, the mistakes we have learned not to make, and the entanglements that our "negligences and ignorances" created. If we have caused our own sorrow, we can cause our own joy. For the Golden Age lies onward.
DISCERNING THE FUTURE.
As the sun, Ere it is risen, sometimes paints its image In the atmosphere, so often do the spirits Of great events stride on before the events, And in to-day already walks to-morrow.
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There exist moments in the life of man When he is nearer the great Soul of the world Than is man's custom, and possesses freely The power of questioning his destiny.
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Think of the power of anticipation everywhere! Think of the difference it would make to us if events rose above the horizon of our lives with no twilight that announced their coming. God has given man the powers which compel him to anticipate the future for something.
The unexpected and the unaccountable play so large a part in human life that they may well incite study. It is not conceivable that man should always remain at the mercy of events without conscious and intelligent choice in selecting and grouping them. Is there no Roentgen ray that will pierce the horizon of the future and disclose to us what lies beyond? Of course it is a sort of stock-in-trade, axiomatic assertion, that if it were intended for man to know the future God would have revealed it to him; and as it is not thus revealed, it is unwise, or unlawful, or immoral to seek to read it. On the same principle and with just as much logic, it might be solemnly declared that we have no right to endeavor to surprise any of the secrets of the Universe; that if it had been intended for us to know the weight and composition of the stars, to understand the laws that hold them in their courses, or to know what is conquered by the scientist in geology, or chemistry, or anything else, that the knowledge would have been ready made, and as it is not so, it is not lawful for man to explore any of these territories of the unknown. Or this assertion could be carried to a still further absurdity, and construed that if man had been intended to read he would have been born with the knowledge, and have had no need of learning the alphabet; or that if God had intended man to dwell in cities they would have sprung up spontaneously like forests. As a matter of fact, the extending of the horizon line of knowledge in every direction is man's business in this part of life; and why, indeed, if he can weigh and measure the stars in space, shall he not be able to compel some magic mirror to reveal to him his future? As it is, we all tread on quicksands of mystery, that may open and engulf us at any instant. It is simply appalling when one stops to think of it,—to realize the degree to which all one's achievements, and possibilities, and success, and happiness depend on causes apparently outside his own control. One awakens to begin the day without the remotest idea of what that day holds for him. All his powers of accomplishment, all his energy, all his peace of mind,—even the very matter of life or death hangs in the balance, and the scales are to him invisible and intangible. The chance of a moment may make or mar. A letter, a telegram, with some revelation or expression that paralyzes all his powers; the arrival of an unforeseen friend or guest, a sudden summons to an unexpected matter,—all these and a thousand other nebulous possibilities that may, at any instant, fairly revolutionize his life, are in the air, and may at any moment precipitate themselves.
Is not the next step in scientific progress to be into the invisible and the unknown?
Doctor Loeb conceived the idea that the forces which rule in the realm of living things are not different from the forces that we know in the inanimate world. He has made some very striking and arresting experiments with protoplasm and chemical stimuli and opened a new field of problems in biology. If the physical universe can be so increasingly explored, shall not the spiritual universe be also penetrated by the spiritual powers of man?
There is no reason why clairvoyance should not be developed into a science as rational as any form of optical research or experiment. Not an exact science, like mathematics, for the future is a combination of the results of the past with the will and power and purposes of the individual in the present, and of those events that have been in train and are already on their way. It is a sort of spiritual chemistry. But it seems reasonably clear that all the experiences on this plane have already transpired in the life of the spirit on the other plane of that twofold life that we live, and they occur here because they have already occurred there. They are precipitated into the denser world after having taken place in the ethereal world. And so, if the vision can be cultivated that penetrates into this ethereal world, the future can thereby be read. It is the law and the prophets.
Now as the present largely determines the future, the things that shall be are partly of our own creation.
"We shape ourselves the joy or fear Of which our coming life is made, And fill our future's atmosphere With sunshine or with shade."
There are no conditions of being that are not plastic to the potency of thought. As one learns to control his thought he controls the issues of life. He becomes increasingly clear in intuition, in perceptions, and in spiritual vision.
As the planets and the stars and the solar systems are evolved out of nebulae through attraction and motion and perpetual combination, so the present and the future is evolved for each individual out of his past, and he is perpetually creating it. Nothing is absolute, but relative,—"no truth so sublime but that it may become trivial to-morrow in the light of new thoughts." There is no relationship, no casual meeting, no accident or incident of the moment, however trivial it may seem, but that is a sign, a hint, an illustration of the human drama, perpetually moving onward, and demanding from each and all insight, as well as outlook, and a consciousness of the absolute realities involved in the manifestation of the moment. "The present moment is like an ambassador which declares the will of God," says the writer of a little Catholic book of devotions; "the events of each moment are divine thoughts expressed by created objects," and the one serious hindrance, it may be, to the acceptance of events in this spirit, lies in the fact of not being prepared for their acceptance. The problem of life, then, resolves itself into the question of so ordering one's course of living as to be prepared to receive the event of the moment; but the entire rush and ceaseless demands of the life of the present form the obstacle in the way of this harmonious recognition. One cannot accept the event of the moment because he is absorbed in the event of yesterday, or last week, and his life is not, thereby, "up-to-date." To be always behindhand is to be under a perpetual and ever-increasing burden. Empedocles under Mt. Etna was no more imprisoned than is the life of to-day which is filled with the things of yesterday. Yet where does the remedy lie? It is the problem of the hour. "In nature every moment is new," says Emerson, and it is that sense of freshness and exhilaration that one needs in order successfully to enter into the experiences of the present hour.
The world of mechanism keeps pace in the most curiously interesting way with the world of thought. Inventions came as material correspondences to the immaterial growth and demand. When in the middle of the nineteenth century the human race had achieved a degree of development that made swift communication essential to the common life, the telegraph and the ocean cable were invented; or it might rather be said, the laws that make them possible were discerned, and were taken advantage of to utilize for this purpose. The constant developments in rapid transit, in the instantaneous conveniences of telephonic communication, and, latest of all, in wireless telegraphy, are all in the line of absolute correspondence with the advancing needs of humanity.
More than a decade ago Doctor Edward Everett Hale made the prediction in an article in "The Forum" that writing (in the mechanical sense) would become a lost art, and that the people of future centuries would point to us as "the ancients," who communicated our ideas by means of this slow and clumsy process. According to Doctor Hale's vision, the writing of all this present period would come to be regarded in much the same light as that in which we look at the Egyptian hieroglyphics or the papyrus. At that time the phonograph, if invented, was not in any way brought to the practical perfection of the present, and telepathy was more a theory than an accepted fact; but Doctor Hale has the prophetic cast of mind, and already his theory is more in the light of probability than that of mere possibility. The demands of modern life absolutely require the development of some means of communication that shall obviate the necessity of the present laborious means of handwriting. There is needed the mechanism that shall transfer the thought in the mind to some species of record without the intervention of the hand. Whether the phonograph can be popularized to meet this need; whether some still finer means that photograph thought shall be evolved, remains to be seen. Thought is already photographed in the ether, but whether this image can be transferred to a material medium is the question. That telepathy shall yet come to be so well understood; its laws formulated as to bring it within the range of the definite sciences, there can be no doubt; but this result can only attend a higher development of the spiritual power of humanity. In its present status telepathy is seen as a result of wholly unconscious and unanalyzed processes that open a new region of life and a new range of possibilities. It is the discovery of a new keyboard, so to speak, in the individual, enabling him to still more "live in thought," and to "act with energies that are immortal." Science is continually revealing the truth that the world, the solar system, the infinite universes are all created as the theatre of man's evolutionary development. As Emerson so truly says, "the world is the perennial miracle which the soul worketh."
"The Discovery of the Future" was the title of an interesting lecture by Mr. H. G. Wells, given in London early in 1901, before the Royal Institute, in which the subject was speculatively discussed, and in the course of his lecture Mr. Wells said:—
"Along certain lines, with certain limitations, he argued, a working knowledge of the things of the future was practicable and possible. As during the past century the amazing searchlights of inference had been passed into the remoter past, so by seeking for operating causes instead of for fossils the searchlight of inference might be thrown into the future. The man of science would believe at last that events in A. D. 4000 were as fixed, settled, and unchangeable as those of A. D. 1600, with the exception of the affairs of man and his children. It is as simple and sure to work out the changing orbit of the earth in future until the tidal drag hauls one unchanging face at last toward the sun, as it is to work back to its blazing, molten past. We are at the beginning of the greatest change that humanity has ever undergone. There will be no shock, as there is no shock at a cloudy daybreak. We are creatures of twilight, but out of our minds and the lineage of our minds will spring minds that will reach forward fearlessly. A day will come—one day in the unending succession of days—when the beings now latent in our thoughts, hidden in our loins, shall stand on this earth as one stands on a footstool, and they shall laugh and reach out their hands among the stars."
Mr. Wells is a disciple of Darwin, and he is applying to the life of humanity certain laws of evolution. In this lecture he argued that great men are merely "the images and symbols and instruments taken at haphazard by the incessant, consistent forces behind them. They were the pen nibs which fate used in her writing, and the more one was inclined to trust these forces behind individuals, the more one could believe in the possibility of a reasoned inductive view of the future that would serve us in politics, morals, social contrivances, and in a thousand ways."
The lecturer argued that "a deliberate direction of historical, economic, and social study toward the future, and a deliberate and courageous reference to the future in moral and religious discussion, would be enormously stimulating and profitable to the intellectual life."
One incalculable aid in thus throwing a spiritual searchlight forward and discussing the future is the realization embodied by Dr. Lyman Abbott, that there is no death, and no dead; that the entire universe is life; and that we are encompassed round about by invisible companions and friends; sustained, guided, helped by forces that we see not.
To see the future as clearly as we see the past, what does it require?
Saint Paul tells us that "spiritual things are spiritually discerned." The future is visible to the spiritual sight. No one doubts but that the future is known to God, for it is He who creates and controls it. And man is the child of God, and his true life is in co-operating with God in every form of the higher activity. So far as he may co-operate with God he becomes, himself, a creative force; making, shaping, and determining this future, and thus, to an increasing degree, he becomes aware of it, or sees it, before it is realized on the outward plane. The day is not, indeed, distant, when humanity will live far less blindly than now. As man develops his psychic self and lives the life of the spirit,—the life of intellect and thought and purpose and prayer, rather than the life of the senses, he will perceive his future. To just the degree that one lives in the energies which are immortal does he perceive the future. Knowledge penetrates into the unknown and the unseen. Leverrier postulated Neptune long before his "long-distance" theory was verified. The intelligent recognition of the unseen forces and unseen presences, the intelligent conception of the manner in which these unseen forces are working out the problems of destiny, alone enables one to consciously combine with them; to enter into the processes of evolution as an intelligent factor, and thus redeem his individual life to harmony, beauty, and happiness.
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[Sidenote: A Determining Question.]
The question confronts one as a very determining problem in life,—can man control his circumstances? To go deeper still, can he create them? Or is he the product of his environment? Is every life just that which it is made? Or does there work, under all our human will and endeavor, a force resistless as gravitation and as constant as attraction? A writer, considering this subject, thus expresses his own convictions:—
"I believe that every life is the exact and necessary outcome of its environment, and that there is in reality not one particle of actual freedom in this respect from the cradle to the grave. I cannot here go into any extended proof of my position. The syllogism may be stated as follows:
"Every phenomenon is the necessary result of pre-existing causes:
"Life is but a succession of phenomena.
"Therefore every life is necessarily determined by pre-existing causes.
"I do not see how the conclusion can be escaped that from the time we open our eyes upon the world and receive our first impressions, we are thrust forward between insurmountable walls of fate that leave no room for freedom. It is true that so far as external or objective forces are concerned we may be, as a rule, under no compulsion to follow one more than another; but subjectively we are in no sense free, because the peculiar way in which the will will act under given conditions must depend upon the preponderating subjective force. To hold otherwise is to contend that a lesser force can overcome a greater,—which is absurd."