Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me -- Matt. 16:24.
1. All systems for spiritualizing the mind include denial. Every religion in all the ages had some sort of denial as one of its foundations. We all know how the Puritans believed that the more rigidly they denied themselves comfort the better they pleased God. So far has this idea taken possession of the human mind during some ages that devout souls have even tortured their bodies in various ways, believing that they were thus making themselves more spiritual, or at least were in some way placating an angry God. Even today many interpret the above-quoted saying of Jesus as meaning: If any man wants to please God he must give up about all the enjoyment and comfort he has, all things he likes and wants, and must take up the heavy cross of constantly doing the things that are repugnant to him in his daily life. This is why many young people say, "When I am old I will be a Christian, but not now, for I want to enjoy life awhile first."
2. There could, I am sure, be nothing further from the meaning of the Nazarene than the foregoing interpretation. In our ignorance of the nature of God, our Father, and of our relationship to Him, we have believed that all our enjoyment came from external sources, usually from gaining possession of something we did not have. The poor see enjoyment only in possessing abundance of money. The rich, who are satiated with life's so-called pleasures until their lives have become like a person with an over-loaded stomach, compelled to sit constantly at a well-spread table, are often the most bitter in the complaint that life holds no happiness for them. The sick one believes that, were he well, he would be perfectly happy. The healthy but hard working person feels the need of some days of rest and recreation, that the monotony of his life may be broken.
3. So ever the mind has been turned to some external change of condition or circumstance in pursuit of satisfaction and enjoyment. In after years, when men have tried all, getting first this thing and then that, which they thought would yield them happiness, and have been grievously disappointed, in a kind of desperation they turn to God and try to find some sort of comfort in believing that sometime, somewhere, they will get what they want and be happy. Thenceforth their lives are patient and submissive, but they are destitute of any real joy.
4. This same Nazarene, to whom we always return because to us He is the best-known teacher and demonstrator of Truth, spent nearly three years teaching the people -- the common everyday people like you and me, who wanted, just as we do, food and rent and clothing, money, friends, and love -- to love their enemies and to do good to those who persecuted them, to resist not evil in any way, but to give double to anyone who tried to get what belonged to them; to cease from all anxiety regarding the things they needed because "your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things" (Matt. 6:32). And then talking one day He said, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15:11). And He continued, "Whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you" (John 15:16). "Ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. . . I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father himself loveth you" (John 16:24-26). We have further learned that God is the total of all the good in the universe and that there is in the mind which is God a perpetual desire to pour more of Himself -- the substance of all good things -- through us into visibility, or into our lives.
5. Surely all these things do not make it look as though, when Jesus said that the way to be like him and to possess a like power was to deny oneself, He meant that we are to go without the enjoyable comforts of life or in any way deprive or torture ourselves.
6. In these lessons we have seen that, besides the real innermost self of each of us -- the self that is the divine self because it is an expression or pressing out of God into visibility and is always one with the Father -- there is a human self, a carnal mind, which reports lies from the external world and is not to be relied upon fully; this is the self of which Jesus spoke when He said, "let him deny himself." This intellectual man, carnal mind, or whatever you choose to call him, is envious and jealous and fretful and sick because he is selfish. The human self seeks its own gratification at the expense, if need be, of someone else.
7. Your real self is never sick, never afraid, never selfish. It is the part of you that "seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil" (I Cor. 13:5). It is always seeking to give to others, while the human self is always seeking its own. Heretofore we have lived more in the human region. We have believed all that the carnal mind has told us, and the consequence is that we have been overwhelmed with all kinds of privation and suffering.
8. Some people who, during the last few years, have been making a special study of the mind find it a fact that certain wrong or false beliefs held by us are really the cause of all sorts of trouble -- physical, moral, and financial. They have learned that wrong (or, as they call them, error) beliefs arise only in the human mind; they have learned and actually proved that we can, by a persistent effort of the will, change the beliefs, and by this means alone entirely change our troublesome circumstances and bodily conditions.
9. One of the methods that they have found will work every time in getting rid of troublesome conditions (which are all the result of erroneous thinking and feeling) is to deny them in toto: First, to deny that any such things have, or could have, power to make us unhappy; second, to deny that these things do in reality exist at all.
10. The word deny has two definitions, according to Webster. To deny, in one sense, is to withhold from, as to deny bread to the hungry. To deny, in another sense (and we believe it was in this latter way that Jesus used it), is to declare to be not true, to repudiate as utterly false. To deny oneself, then, is not to withhold comfort or happiness from the external man, much less to inflict torture upon him, but it is to deny the claims of error consciousness, to declare these claims to be untrue.
11. If you have done any piece of work incorrectly, the very first step toward getting it right is to undo the wrong, and begin again from that point. We have believed wrong about God and about ourselves. We have believed that God was angry with us and that we were sinners who ought to be afraid of Him. We have believed that sickness and poverty and other troubles are evil things put here by this same God to torture us in some way into serving Him and loving Him. We have believed that we have pleased God best when we became so absolutely subdued by our troubles as to be patiently submissive to them all, not even trying to rise out of them or to overcome them. All this is false, entirely false! And the first step toward freeing ourselves from our troubles is to get rid of our erroneous beliefs about God and about ourselves.
12. "But," objects one, "if a thing is not true and I have believed a lie about it, I do not see just how my believing wrong about it could affect my bodily health or my circumstances."
13. A child can be so afraid of an imaginary bugaboo under the bed as to have convulsions. Should you, today, receive a telegraphic message that your husband, wife, or child, who is absent from you, had been suddenly killed, your suffering, mental and physical, and perhaps extending even to your external and financial affairs, would be just as great as though the report really were true; and yet it might be entirely false. Exactly so have these messages of bugaboos behind the doors, bugaboos of divine wrath and of our own weakness, come to us through the senses until we are overcome by our fears of them.
14. Now, let us arouse ourselves. Denial is the first practical step toward wiping out of our minds the mistaken beliefs of a lifetime -- the beliefs that have made such sad havoc of our lives. By denial we mean declaring not to be true a thing that seems true. Negative appearances are directly opposed to the teachings of Truth. Jesus said, "Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous [right] judgment" (John 7:24).
15. Suppose you had always been taught that the sun really moved or revolved around the earth, and someone should now persuade you that the opposite is the truth. You would see at once that such might be the case, and yet as often as you saw the sun rise, the old impression, made on your mind by the wrong belief of years, would come up and seem almost too real to be disputed. The only way by which you could cleanse your mind of the impression and make the untrue seem unreal, would be by repeatedly denying the old beliefs, saying over and over to yourself as often as the subject came up in your mind: "This is not true. The sun does not move; it stands still, and the earth moves." Eventually the sun would only seem to move.
16. The appearances are that our bodies and our circumstances control our thoughts, but the opposite is true. Our thoughts control our bodies and our circumstances.
17. If you repeatedly deny a false or unhappy condition, it loses its power to make you unhappy.
18. What everyone desires is to have only the good manifested in his life and surroundings -- to have his life full of love; to have perfect health; to know all things; to have great power and much joy; and this is just exactly what God wants us to have. All love is God in manifestation, as we have learned in a previous lesson. All wisdom is God. All life and health are God. All joy (because all good) and all power are God. All good of whatever kind is God come forth into visibility through people or some other visible form. When we crave more of any good thing, we are in reality craving more of God to come forth into our lives so that we can realize it by our senses. Having more of God does not take out of our lives the good things -- it only puts more of them in. In the mind that is God there is always the desire to give more, for the divine plan is forever to get more good into visibility.
19. Intellectually we may see the fact of our own God-being, which never changes. What we need is to realize our oneness with the Father at all times. In order to realize it we deny ourselves and others the appearances that seem contrary to this -- deny them as realities; we declare that they are not true.
20. There are four common error thoughts to which nearly everyone grants great power. Persons who have grown out of sickness and trouble through prayer have found it good to deny these thoughts, in order to cleanse the mind of the direful effects of believing them. They can be denied like this
21. First: There is no evil.
22. There is but one power in the universe, and that is God -- good. God is good, and God is omnipresent. Apparent evils are not entities or things of themselves. They are simply apparent absence of the good, just as darkness is an absence of light. But God, or good, is omnipresent, so the apparent absence of good (evil) is unreal. It is only an appearance of evil, just as the moving sun was an appearance. You need not wait to discuss this matter of evil or to understand fully all about why you deny it, but begin to practice the denials in an unprejudiced way, and see how marvelously they will, after a while, deliver you from some of the so-called evils of your daily life.
23. Second: There is no absence of life, substance, or intelligence anywhere.
24. We have seen that the real is the spiritual. "The things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (II Cor. 4:18). By using this denial you will soon break your bondage to matter and to material conditions. You will know that you are free.
25. Third: Pain, sickness, poverty, old age, and death cannot master me, for they are not real.
26. Fourth: There is nothing in all the universe for me to fear, for greater is He that is within me than he that is in the world.
27. God says, "I will contend with him that contendeth with thee" (Isa. 49:25). He says it to every living child of His, and every person is His child.
28. Repeat these four denials silently several times a day, not with a strained anxiety to get something out of them, but trying calmly to realize the meaning of the words spoken:
29. There is no evil.
30. There is no absence of life, substance, or intelligence anywhere.
31. Pain, sickness, poverty, old age, and death cannot master me, for they are not real.
32. There is nothing in all the universe for me to fear, for greater is He that is within me than he that is in the world.
33. Almost hourly little vexations and fears come up in your life. Meet each one with a denial. Calmly and coolly say within yourself, "That's nothing at all. It cannot harm or disturb me or make me unhappy." Do not fight it vigorously, but let your denial be the denial of any thought of its superiority over you, as you would deny the power of ants on their little hill to disturb you. If you are angry, stand still, and silently deny it. Say that you are not angry; that you are love made manifest, and cannot be angry and the anger will leave you.
34. If someone shows you ill will, silently deny his power to hurt you or to make you unhappy. Should you find yourself feeling jealous or envious toward anyone, instantly turn the heel of denial on the hydraheaded monsters. Declare that you are not jealous or envious; that you are an expression of perfect love (an expression which is God pressed out into visibility) and cannot feel negation. There is really no reason for jealousy or envy, for all persons are one and the same spirit. "And there are diversities of operations [or manifestations], but it is the same God which worketh all in all" (I Cor. 12:6), says Paul. How can you be envious of a part of yourself that seems to you more comely?
35. Shall the foot be envious of the hand, or the ear of the eye? Are not the seemingly feeble members of the body as important to the perfection of the whole as the others? Do you seem to be less, or to have less, than some others? Remember that all envy and all jealousy are in the error consciousness and that in reality you, however insignificant, are an absolute necessity to God in order to make the perfect whole.
36. If you find yourself dreading to meet anyone, or afraid to step out and do what you want or ought to do, immediately begin to say, "It is not true; I am not afraid; I am perfect love, and can know no fear. No one, nothing in all the universe, can hurt me." You will find after a little that all the fear has disappeared, all trepidation has gone.
37. Denial brings freedom from bondage, and happiness comes when we effectually deny the power of anything to touch or trouble us.
38. Have you been living in negation for years, denying your ability to succeed, denying your health, denying your Godhood, denying your power to accomplish anything, by feeling yourself a child of the Devil or of weakness? If so, this constant negation has paralyzed you and weakened your power.
39. When, in the next lesson, you learn something about affirmations, the opposite of denials, you will know how to lift yourself out of the realm of failure into that of success.
40. All your happiness, all your health and power, come from God. They flow in an unbroken stream from the fountainhead into the very center of your being and radiate from center to circumference. When you acknowledge this constantly and deny that outside things can hinder your happiness or health or power, it helps you to realize health and power and happiness.
41. No person or thing in the universe, no chain of circumstances, can by any possibility interpose itself between you and all joy -- all good. You may think that something stands between you and your heart's desire, and so live with that desire unfulfilled; but it is not true. This "think" is the bugaboo under the bed that has no reality. Deny it, deny it, and you will find yourself free, and you will realize that this seeming was all false. Then you will see the good flowing into you, and you will see clearly that nothing can stand between you and your own.
42. Denials may be spoken silently or audibly, but not in a manner to call forth antagonism and discussion.
43. To some, all this sort of mechanical working will seem a strange way of entering into a more spiritual life. There are those who easily and naturally glide out of the old material life into a deeper spiritual one without any external help; but there are thousands of others who are seeking primarily the loaves and fishes of bodily health and financial success, but who really are seeking a higher way of life, who must take these very first steps. For such, the practicing of these mechanical steps in a wholehearted way, without prejudice, is doing the very best thing possible toward attaining purity of heart and life, toward growth in divine knowledge and fullness of joy in all things undertaken.