THE TRUE CHARACTER OF GOD
- Explain the following aspects of the nature of God: God as Principle; God as Law; God as Divine Mind.
- What is meant by "God immanent in the universe"?
- How does God dwell in man?
- Is man capable of understanding God?
- What is man's inheritance from God? How is it brought into manifestation?
- From what source did Jesus feed the multitude?
- What idea was back of Jesus' work in healing the sick and raising the dead?
- How shall we do the works that Jesus did?
- Why are we not always conscious of our oneness with God?
- How are we awakened to the knowledge of God?
Explain the following aspects of the nature of God: God as Principle; God as Law; God as Divine Mind.
The science taught in these lessons is founded on Spirit. Spiritual science is truly eternal, unlike the everchanging facts of the intellectual sciences, which often are based primarily on appearances. Spiritual science is the one true science and it does not change. All who are seeking Truth accept this premise, but before one can understand it he must be consciously in Spirit, for the things of God are spiritually discerned.
"There is a spirit in man.
And the breath of the Almighty giveth them understanding" (Job 32:8).
It is not necessary that one be fully aware of his spiritual nature or his spiritual identity before he begins the study of spiritual science. One's consciousness is quickened by Truth, and if these lessons are studied faithfully, the living word of Truth that is in them will enter into one's mentality, and will quicken the faculty of understanding.
The very foundation of Truth is right understanding of God. Everyone has some idea of a Being who is supreme. This idea is often very indefinite, and many persons would have difficulty in expressing it. Let us ask ourself definitely what God is to us -- what our idea of Him is.
The concept of God as a large, powerful man seated on a throne far away is erased when spiritual understanding illumines the mind. Jesus said, "God is a Spirit." Divine Mind and Spirit are virtually the same. If we know about Mind, we know about Spirit or God. We perceive that the whole universe is moved by one immanent intelligence and power. Realizing that God is the omnipotent Mind, we have a principle for a philosophy that will answer every question that we ask.
People sometimes say: "God as Principle seems cold and abstract. Is there no personal God?" When we understand and realize that God as Spirit is individualized in man, the abstract concept gives way to an indwelling, concrete identity that seems personal but has none of the limitations of personality. God is not a personality in the sense of being in any way apart from man's own self. Anything is personal when it is one's own possession. God is personal to us when we become aware of Him as the Father-Mind or Christ Mind within us and turn to it as our counselor, guide, and friend. God is to us whatever we conceive Him to be. When we learn the essential nature of God (Absolute Good) through becoming acquainted with Him in our mind, when we learn that God is wisdom, love, power, good, then we will produce experiences of wisdom, love, and goodness. Jesus so fully recognized and acknowledged this presence and power that He could say, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30), and "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9).
God is individualized in each one of us as inspiration, life, strength, wisdom, power, and love, and any good we can conceive.
To know God in this personal way, we need to get very still, to withdraw our attention from everything in the outer and direct it within us, centering it near our heart. Then we can repeat quietly and confidently, "Thou only," knowing that we are speaking to the Father within us -- and we feel His loving, quickening presence. We come to realize that we are not alone and that God is not a cold, abstract principle too far away to have loving compassion for us. We find that He is near us, even within us, loving more than earthly parents love their offspring. "Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet" (Tennyson, "The Higher Pantheism").
The realization that God is Principle forms a sure foundation for faith. It is the assurance that the everlasting arms of Being are ever present to support; that perfect, unchanging law directs the whole universe. The "Father of lights" is the steadfast Spirit "with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning" (James 1:17). God as Principle is the unchangeable life, love, substance, and intelligence of Being. Principle does not occupy space nor has it any limitations of time or so-called matter; it exists eternally as the one underlying source or cause out of which all proceeds.
Divine law is without variation. It is never changed to suit the convenience of man but is "the same yesterday and today, yea and forever" (Heb. 13:8). When man understands this law and conforms to it, then "all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26).
It will be noted from the foregoing that there are two phases of Principle:
1. There is the passive phase or essence which we designate as the "Source," from which everything proceeds. It is the great reservoir of unexpressed good, the mind substance in which all ideas inhere.
2. There is also the active phase, the law, the "Cause," which is the rule or the working power that produces the results.
A parallel may be found in the principle of mathematics or of music. Arithmetic is probably the simplest part of mathematics. The principle or foundation of arithmetic is the unit. All numbers proceed from the unit and are related to it and to one another according to the value of each. The value of a number remains forever the same, and three never can be the same value as six nor can six ever be the same value as nine. A simple illustration of principle, looked at as rule or law, is that two times three are six. If we know the value of numbers, then wherever we use this rule or law we know that the result will be the same regardless of whether it applies to apples, horses, stars, or dollars. As an outer symbol of the numbers, we use figures. The figures themselves have no value; they are simply a form we use to symbolize values.
God as Principle is the one infinite Mind in which all ideas inhere, the unit, the essence, the substance that is the beginning, the origin, the foundation of all this is. As used in the first chapter of Genesis, "In the beginning God" (Gen. 1:1), beginning has nothing to do with time but has reference to the primordial substance from which everything proceeds. Just as we study the principle of mathematics and learn the value of the numbers, so must we study the attributes of God, those ideas that inhere in the primordial substance, and become acquainted with their character.
All things in the universe function according to law and order. The same is true in the spiritual realm. God as Principle is that fundamental Truth or law from which all other laws or principles proceed and which from the beginning is of God's very nature -- Absolute Good. God as Principle is impersonal in His action, in producing an effect for every cause. Man may study the principle of mathematics until, like Einstein and others, he becomes a wizard at unfolding and solving its intricacies. The principle of mathematics then becomes such a personal thing to him that it reveals to him the answer to any mathematical problem.
Through meditation, concentration, prayer, and the silence, we associate with ideas that inhere in the mind substance that we call God. By becoming familiar with the character and value of these ideas, in our own consciousness, we make ourselves open and receptive channels through which God as Principle may express. When we know spiritual values and spiritual laws, we will know just how to relate, interrelate, apportion, and make righteous use of divine ideas. Then we are able to work wonders in handling any situation that arises in life. Since God is Principle, in this capacity He moves as law or the governing power in all creation. Not until we have consciously woven divine principles into our human consciousness can we be sure of our results. The unfolding of the knowledge of divine principles is an individual matter.
We shall study the One Almighty God as Principle, as Mind. Different nations and religions have different names for this One, whom they recognize as supreme. The Christian and Jew call Him God; the Hindu, Brahma; the Muhammedan, Allah. Metaphysical students call Him First Cause. This sounds abstract and may be unsatisfying to some unless they know also that this Cause is Absolute Good and that it is manifest in the least as well as in the greatest of its creations.
What is meant by "God immanent in the universe"?
God is all-pervading Spirit, the life and intelligence permeating the whole universe. Immanent means "indwelling." When we say that God is immanent in the universe we mean that God dwells in and reveals Himself through forms. We mean that God pervades every atom of the realm of manifestation, the realm known to the five senses. God "transcendent" is absolute, unbounded Spirit; but God "immanent" is Spirit dwelling within the form. Every form of manifestation owes its existence to this indwelling God, and any human form can achieve immortality only as it is lifted up and transmuted by this saving and redeeming God that dwells in and operates through it. Paul clearly sets forth the revelation of God both transcendent and immanent in these words: "Over all, and through all, and in all" (Eph. 4:6). "In him we live, and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).
How does God dwell in man?
We should seek earnestly to know the all-pervading, omnipresent One. When we clearly discern the science of God-Mind, we shall understand the mysteries of creation. If we understand that Spirit and Mind are synonymous, we can readily see that there is no mystery about spiritual things, for they are not far removed from our daily thoughts and experiences. The text, "Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (I Cor. 3:16), simply means that God dwells in us as our mind dwells in the body. God creates and moves creation through the power of His Mind, and the highest manifestation of God-Mind on this planet has built for itself "a temple of the living God" (II Cor. 6:16). This creative idea immanent in man has built from universal substance a form through which this individualization of God is manifesting itself. Through our minds we shall find God and do His will, for God dwells in man as I AM, Jehovah God, and expresses in man's soul as the superconscious or Christ Mind -- as the cause and ruler over the body, its earthly temple.
Is man capable of understanding God?
To know God as Principle helps us to understand many things about Him that we cannot conceive when we think of Him as "personality." For instance, if we know Him as Principle, we can readily understand how He can be omnipresent. The principle of mathematics is everywhere present. Anyone anywhere can use it, and even if millions of people are using it at the same time, there is no lack of it, no friction, no discord because of the many who are using it to solve problems. All receive its full benefit as wholly and as freely as one individual would if he were the only one using it.
To know God as Mind helps us to understand omniscience. Science implies orderly knowledge, knowledge that is systematic and arranged with reference to general principles that are interrelated and interactive. Omniscience is all orderly knowledge. God, Divine Mind, embraces all knowledge and understanding, and is the origin of all ideas, the source of every expression of true intelligence. Mind is the essence, the substance, in which ideas live and move and have being, just as fish live and move and have being in water. Mind is wholly immaterial and is all-pervading. God-Mind cannot be separated or divided; hence it is not strictly correct to say that man's mind is a "part" of Divine Mind because this implies separation. Man has consciousness in Divine Mind. The expressions of mind that have consciousness in Divine Mind manifest only bits of its knowledge so that there seems to be a myriad of minds, each with its own knowledge. Intelligence in individuals is Mind expressing itself as consciousness. All knowledge, wisdom, and understanding are expressions of ideas in the one Mind, pressing forth through different channels according to the capacity of each channel. When man thinks that he has a mind separate from God-Mind, he builds a state of consciousness that is adverse to Truth. The Scriptures call this adverse state the "adversary" or "Satan."
Mental laws are being discovered and studied as never before in the world's history, but those who are investigating nature and her laws simply from the intellectual and physical viewpoints must fall short of complete understanding because they fail to trace all things back to the causing Mind. The objects we see in nature are but symbols of ideas. There is an idea back of everything that appears.
"The material forms that we see about us are the chalk marks of a mighty problem being outworked by the one Mind. To comprehend that problem and to catch a slight glimpse of its meaning, we must grasp the ideas that the chalk marks represent; this is what we mean by studying Mind back of nature" (Charles Fillmore Christian Healing 12-13).
To deal with nature effectively one has to discover what particular idea is manifesting itself, and deal with that idea.
Studying nature alone, one finds apparently contradictory laws in operation. Studying ideas, learning their character and the right relation between them, one finds harmony and gains true knowledge. He is able to comprehend the creation of the Almighty by grasping the ideas in Divine Mind. In this way we are "studying Mind back of nature."
What is man's inheritance from God? How is it brought into manifestation?
Man is the offspring of God, Divine Mind. He is God's idea of Himself and as such is capable of comprehending the one Mind from which he springs; he is never for an instant separated from the ideas of Divine Mind. He has only to open his consciousness to receive whatever understanding he requires. Man is created in the image and after the likeness of God. In the book Christian Healing 13, Charles Fillmore states quite clearly the importance of ideas:
"Divine ideas are man's inheritance; they are pregnant with all possibility, because ideas are the foundation and cause of all that man desires. With this understanding as a foundation, we easily perceive how 'all ... mine are thine.' All the ideas contained in the one Father-Mind are at the mental command of its offspring. Get behind a thing into the mental realm where it exists as an inexhaustible idea, and you can draw upon it perpetually and never deplete the Source."
Many of us do not appreciate the word idea. An idea is a live thing, and it will express itself in some way. In order to express divine ideas it is our part to study God-Mind, learn the right relation and order of the realm that produces the manifest world. Divine ideas are truly expressed when limited thoughts of self are put aside; when we are ready to acknowledge God as all, the only Presence and the only Power.
The "kingdom of heaven" so often referred to by Jesus, the kingdom that He prayed might be brought into reality on earth, is the realm of harmony within that results from laying hold of the ideas of the kingdom of God, or Divine Mind. "Thy kingdom come ... on earth" (Matt. 6:10) is a prayer that the emanation of spiritual ideas from the kingdom of God within, into the thoughts of men, will set up right states of consciousness followed by harmonious conditions. Through the development of the "kingdom of God . . . within you" (Luke 17:21) will be fulfilled the prayer,
"Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth" (Matt. 6:10).
In order to express God's kingdom on earth, man must first comprehend and establish it in his own consciousness. He enters into conscious unity with Divine Mind (or the kingdom of God "within you") through coming to the realization that "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). In other words, he eliminates from his consciousness all thoughts that do not accord with Absolute Good, thus producing a state of harmony (heaven) within his own mind. This elimination of untrue concepts and the establishment of true ideas within man cause him naturally and without effort to come into right relations with his fellow man. Thus he has allowed the kingdom of God to come through him and enabled heaven or harmony to be established "on earth."
Scripture asserts that "the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21), but that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 3:2). The deeper meaning of the word heaven, from the word auranos which Jesus probably used, is "expanding." As man's human consciousness is developed spiritually and he becomes conscious of the kingdom of God and its inhering ideas, his consciousness expands so that the ideas of the kingdom of God may be expressed. The true expression of these divine ideas produces order, peace, and harmony in the outer world.
From what source did Jesus feed the multitude?
Jesus understood the realm of ideas or, as he termed it, "the kingdom of God ... within you" (Luke 17:21), and He drew upon it continually.
All that goes to make up the visible universe is held in the Mind of Being as ideas of life, love, substance, and so forth. These ideas, like the tones in music, may be combined in many ways and thus produce infinite variety in expression. There is a right combination that constitutes the divine order, the kingdom of heaven on earth. Jesus Christ admonished His hearers to "seek ... first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" (Matt. 6:33 A.V.). We often use the quotation, "Seek ... first the kingdom," but do we not sometimes overlook the part of the quotation that has to do with the right use, or knowing the law of the right relation, of all ideas? Our real power lies in knowing how to use these powers of mind. The right relation of ideas and the science of right thought will form an important part of the subsequent lessons of this course.
It was from the inexhaustible idea of substance that Jesus increased the loaves and the fishes and fed the multitude. He had faith in the omnipresence of God, the all-providing essence that is in us all, through us all, and around us all -- "In him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Jesus had made Himself consciously one with this omnipresent substance through His faith, His love, and His devotion. He knew the one Presence and the one Power so completely that He was identified with substance. He had faith that His thought was one with the Mind of God and could, therefore, materialize out of this substance that which was needed to meet the need of those who hungered. It was an opportunity for Him to help His fellow men and also to glorify God, by putting into operation the spiritual law with which he had made Himself so familar. His recognition, faith, and love acted as a magnet that drew into manifestation what was needed at the time.
What idea was back of Jesus' work in healing the sick and raising the dead?
As Jesus had familiarized Himself with the idea of substance, so also had He become acquainted with the life idea. He understood what it is to live abundantly, to have abundant life -- life without beginning and without end. Because of this consciousness, He could make use of the life idea in healing the sick and raising the dead, and His familiarity with the idea enabled Him to overcome death in His own organism. He undoubtedly knew that a divine idea never passes away, that life is always present in all its purity, and that what man needs is to become conscious of the presence and power of life.
Jesus' mighty works were done in the consciousness of oneness with the Father. "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30) was His manner of demonstration, and it must be ours. We must follow Him, keep His sayings, do as He did, if we expect to obtain the same results that He obtained. We must definitely acknowledge our oneness with God as Jesus did.
How shall we do the works that Jesus did?
We may do the works that Jesus did by coming into the consciousness of Divine Mind (Spirit, the Father within) which Jesus recognized as the One who did the work, and by bringing its ideas into expression and eventual manifestation.
Mind has ideas, and ideas have the power of expression. These steps in mental development should be well fixed in the understanding, for all manifestation is the outer expression of ideas held in mind. In order to do the "greater works" (John 14:12) that Jesus said we should do, we must make conscious contact with the inspiration and the power that enabled our Elder Brother to express God-Mind perfectly. For a musician to make music three things are needed: (1) the idea that he is seeking to express; (2) the ability or power to perform; (3) and the instrument on which to make the music audible. If man would play the harmonies of heaven, he must first establish contact with ideas in God-Mind; then he must hold to the needed idea through all difficulties. He must have faith that the idea needed can be manifested through him because he is a vehicle for divine grace. His body and affairs are the instruments through which he expresses thoughts in the personal realms of consciousness, so these must be responsive to the keynote of love, otherwise there will be discord.
Jesus Christ said, according to the Authorized Version, "wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (Luke 2:40 A.V.). Man is "in training" to enable him to carry on the "Father's business." In the business world a boy may begin as a messenger and learn a business from the ground up. He must study and engage in all phases of the work. So it is with man in his spiritual progress; he must know what God is, what the aim and purpose or the will of God is, and then he must seek to accomplish that purpose. The best way to broaden our concept of God is to study Him from the standpoint of His attributes or ideas; i.e., study Him as life, power, love, substance, as everything that we can conceive an belonging to His nature. If we study God as power, the one supreme force of the universe, we will come to understand what is meant by "the omnipotence of God."
Not only must we study the one Mind as the source of all ideas, but we must let these ideas unfold so that they may be brought into manifestation in our life. We must make conscious union with Divine Mind. The point of contact is a willingness and a seeking on our part -- "Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matt. 7:7). The term consciousness (as has been very evident throughout this study) has a twofold meaning: It is direct knowledge or perception of the presence of an object, state or sensation, and it also refers to our mind or our soul. We frequently refer to the "human consciousness."
"Man's consciousness is the totality of his conscious states ... The word conscious applies primarily to that which is felt as within one's self. . . .it is made up of desires, sensations, emotions, thoughts, feelings, perceptions, any soul quality. . . .man thinks and man feels, and the result is consciousness" (Series 1 Lesson 6 Annotation 5).
Why are we not always conscious of our oneness with God?
Very often we find the words aware and conscious being used synonymously, but in the strictest sense this is not accurate. The following quotation is very clear on this point:
"Aware pertains to that which is external to oneself, to outer impressions driven inward; conscious, to that which is internal, to the inner feeling that may be held within or be forced out to manifest itself in reaction of some sort."
(The above quotation is taken from a book, now out of print, by John Opdycke.)
Consciousness is related to what a person has actually experienced, either mentally, emotionally, or physically. Then the question may arise, "If we are the offspring of Divine Mind, why are we not naturally conscious of its presence and of our oneness with it?" The answer is that while we may be aware of being sons of God through intellectual study or our religious beliefs, we do not actually feel this to be true. Thus our belief in separation has produced states of mind that have formed a "consciousness of separation."
We are not always conscious of our oneness with God because of the states of mind that have accepted belief in God as a Being apart from us, and of our self as merely a flesh-and-blood being. Part of our divine inheritance is free will, and this means freedom to think, feel, speak, and act as we choose. If we believe in separation from our Creator, then our thinking, feeling, speaking, and acting build a consciousness of separation, and we are not conscious of our oneness with God.
How are we awakened to the knowledge of God?
No one can impart Truth to another. It must be individually experienced, and it is experienced only as we become conscious of it. Meditation and prayer are the processes by which we first become aware of the truth of our relationship to God, but it is only as we enter into the silence that we are actually awakened to His Presence and are then conscious of our oneness with Him. The quickening of our soul to the knowledge of God involves definite action on our part; our positive, Truth-filled words (affirmations) become the invitation to the God-Presence to reveal itself to our soul.
The third chapter of the Gospel of John is very enlightening with regard to the development of divine consciousness or the awakening to the knowledge of God (John 3). The following quotation sums up the "True Character of God" and our relation to Him:
"The truth is then:
That God is Principle, Law, Being, Mind, Spirit, All-Good, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, unchangeable, Creator, Father, Cause, and Source of all that is;
That God is individually formed in consciousness in each of us, and is known to us as 'Father' when we recognize Him within as our Creator, as our mind, as our life, as our very being;
That mind has ideas and that ideas have expression; that all manifestation in our world is the result of the ideas that we are holding in mind and are expressing;
That to bring forth or to manifest the harmony of Divine Mind, or the 'kingdom of heaven,' all our ideas must be one with divine ideas, and must be expressed in the divine order of Divine Mind" (Charles Fillmore Christian Healing 16)