Chapter 08—Spiritual Understanding
In the following audio and transcripts, Vera Dawson Tait provides commentary on the Correspondence School Annotations for Emilie Cady's Lessons in Truth.
096 Spiritual understanding
Perhaps you have realized, that the chapters up until this one that we’re going to start today have dealt a great deal with techniques and now we come to chapter eight, which is titled “Spiritual Understanding”. Strictly speaking, all of the other chapters have really moved to this place where you and I can actually attune ourselves to God and open ourselves to that which he wishes to reveal to us.
You will find as you go over the chapter, that there are actually close to 19 very brief definitions of spiritual understanding. Now of course, you can read the chapter, but just as a matter of interest, after I’ve read the question, I’m going to pick out one or two of these brief definitions.
097 What is spiritual understanding?
Now this is the first question in three parts. What is spiritual understanding? A. B, how is it attained? C, how did Peter know that Jesus was the Christ. Now with the A part of question one, what is spiritual understanding? Let me turn to the book and read just one or two of the brief definitions. Understanding is a spiritual birth. Revelation of God within the heart of man. Then just a little further down on this same page, intuition. Imagine just one word for spiritual understanding is intuition. Then on another page, this revelation of truth to the consciousness of a person is spiritual understanding. Let me repeat that. Revelation of truth to the consciousness of a person is spiritual understanding. I’ll just read one more. Conscious of your oneness with the Father. That’s exactly what happens in spiritual understanding.
Now one thing you and I must remember is that all of these ideas that we have` been dealing with, we said before, have a specific function to perform. It has its own character. Therefore the character and function of understanding is knowing. Now remember, this not knowing about something, it is actually knowing. You could read about an individual. You might even study his life. Many people like to read biographies of those who have done things in our world. But I wouldn’t actually know that person were I reading his biography or autobiography. I would only know about him. Therefore, there is that difference between an intellectual understanding and spiritual understanding. Spiritual understanding is actually knowing. I could study many things about God as our second chapter brought out. I could study about the nature of God, but that wouldn’t mean that I actually knew God. So spiritual understanding is a definite knowing. It almost seems as if it is such a knowing that there’s never any doubt. There may be nothing in the outer to substantiate this but because faith has had to come into play in connection with understanding, there is that inner perception of something that is true.
So let me go back again. Spiritual understanding is knowing. It is knowing the truth. It is knowing God. It is actually knowing my fellow man which is quite different to merely knowing about God or knowing about my fellow man. If we were to say that then that spiritual understanding is a revelation, what do we mean? Revelation means to uncover or to unveil a truth, at least we must say a truth when we’re dealing with spiritual things. Therefore, spiritual understanding all of a sudden uncovers a truth. That is some truth is made clear to our consciousness. Have you ever noticed that when you’ve been thinking about something and rather puzzling about it, and suddenly you say “Oh, I see. Oh, I know what you mean.” Do you see how closely both faith and understanding work together? After that, if anybody tried to dispute what you had suddenly realized, you wouldn’t accept their objection because you would know and you wouldn’t merely know about something.
Now to the B part of our question. How is it attained? At the outset, remember this. Spiritual understanding or understanding as one of the ideas that make up your divine nature can not be obtained. It can only be attained. What do I mean when I say how is it attained and then I turn around and tell you that it is attained through consciousness? I mean that somehow or other, your consciousness and mine has laid hold of this idea and the idea has revealed itself. There are many things that enter your life and mine as far as attaining the consciousness of any divine idea is concerned. I may have had the wrong conception entirely of say the idea of understanding. So in order to cleanse my consciousness of anything that I may have held that is not true, then of course I must go through the process of denial. I must begin [inaudible 00:05:41] that which is not true and then instantly I must begin to build into my consciousness that which is true. In a sense, when you and I lay hold of an idea, it enters our consciousness first only as the letter of the law.
If our consciousness is clean and has been built up with good thoughts and ideas of truth, then this idea as the letter becomes the container. We take this container as it were to God and he breathes into it His own spirit. You remember Paul said the letter killeth but the spirit give us life. Our scripture tells us in the old testament take with you words and return unto the Lord. That in a sense is what you and I do with these marvelous ideas. Therefore, in trying to attain spiritual understanding, there are many things in my outer life that have just simply have to be done. I may go through what I said, this process of denial. I may learn to affirm. I may have to spend much time in prayer until I can come to that place where I can say on any subject, “Oh, I see. Oh I know what is meant.” Then when I can come to that point, I have built into my consciousness, my understanding and my realization of this wonderful idea through which God reveals himself.
Do you remember in those brief definitions that I read from the book, one of them said conscious of your oneness with the Father. As you begin to study any amount of truth, you will realize that the very basis is to know oneness with the Father and that means that inner realization, God is here now. I’m not seeking after him. I’m not going at any great distance but God is here now. In Dr Cady’s second book that we use in the correspondence course called How I Use Truth, there is one chapter titled Finding the Christ in Ourself. Well you know as well as I do that the Christ of the God presence is never lost. So what we mean is discovering that which has always been within and in a sense when spiritual understanding ... Well, let me say just understanding comes into our consciousness as a definite awareness within us. At that moment we discover. We discover God. We discover the relationship that we have to God. You have probably noticed in this chapter a quite lengthy quotation from Emerson. Just proceeding that quotation there is a sentence that reads this way. This is a flash of the most high within your consciousness.
That word flash is worth thinking about because I obtain a consciousness of God, a consciousness of my relationship to God which comes out as spiritual understanding very often, just like a flash. Suddenly we say it was like a bolt out of the blue or we say as I mentioned before “I see.” But it isn’t merely I just see this. It is something that has gone deep into your consciousness and mine. You will find many times in thinking about spiritual understanding that is appears to you to be definitely a flash. Where before there was no understanding, suddenly there is that divine knowing.
Now to our third or C part of this question. How did Peter know that Jesus was the Christ? You recall that when Jesus was asking his disciples, what people were saying about him in the area and some said this prophet and some said the other. Suddenly, Peter said “The heart, the Christ, the son of the living God.” So our question says how did Peter know? That’s why I use that word flash. Peter knew it because there was a flash in his consciousness of the truth. Before this, he may not have realized that Jesus, not only represented the Christ but was the Christ in manifestation. But suddenly he knew and because of that, Jesus commended him and he said to Peter “Flesh and blood hasn’t told you this truth about the inner part of myself but my Father which is in heaven.” Jesus knew at that moment that if nothing else had been accomplished by Peter, he had so thoroughly opened himself to God that the understanding came right through him. Yet, we know that there were times later when Peter seemed to go against that very thing that he had recognized. Many times that happens to you and me. We have a sudden flash of inspiration, suddenly a spiritual understanding has made itself clear in our consciousness and maybe a few days later or a few weeks, we seem to go down.
But remember this, we never lose the ground we have won. Even if we seem to go down, we know that we can always come back in prayer and receive the understanding that will enable us to meet whatever problem we’re faced with at that particular time. Sometimes when people think about this subject of spiritual understanding, revelation or inspiration, they get the notion as we mentioned once before that “Oh, I don’t need teachers or books anymore.” Now bear this in mind, inspiration, spiritual understanding, does not come from books or from teachers but because these may be used as channels or vehicles for God, they may appear to come through teachers or through books. What is really happening is that this idea of understanding it seeking its outlet from God as an inlet in you and it comes through whatever channel you can lay hold of it more easily. Many a time, you and I have gone to a church service or any spiritual meeting and the minister or preacher has said something that suddenly, I’m going to use the word again, like a flash, something has come to us or we read a book and suddenly some sentence seems to cover an entire, shall I say, subject until we can say once more, “Why I know. I see what that means.”
So do not get the idea then that we are not going to use teachers and books, but you and I will know the time when we can lay some of these aside and turn within and seek further inner revelation. Then even when we come out of silence, many times things that are not as clear as they might be become clear through a book or a teacher or through some very ordinary happening in our every day life.
098 What is the relation between spiritual understanding and intellectual knowledge?
Our second question reads this way. What is the relation between spiritual understanding and intellectual knowledge? Now if we wanted, we could read the question this way. What is the relation between spiritual understanding and intellectual understanding? It’s a good idea however in the outset to think about the two words intellectual knowledge. You remember we said that spiritual understanding is knowing. Intellectual knowledge is the gathering of facts. Spiritual understanding or spiritual awareness of any truth is the revealing of truths. Do you see the difference? Now Charles Fillmore says very definitely that intellectual understanding comes first in the soul’s development. Then follows the deeper understanding of principles, something to that effect. You will find it in two of his books. But think what this means. Intellectual understanding or let us say intellectual knowledge comes first. When we are trying to teach a child, we teach him his letters. A, B, C, D and so forth. When we intend to teach him numbers, we have to teach him one, two, three, four, five. Until we give either the letters or the figures, we have nothing with which to work. We can not say “Oh well, that child can get his spiritual understanding from within and we will give him no outer knowledge.” That is not true.
It is a little like an individual playing an instrument. He must learn, if he wants to become a good musician, the techniques or the rules of that particular instrument that he’s dealing with. Once we teach a child his A, B, Cs or his numbers, his one, two, three, four, fives, then we can begin to teach him how to combine his letters and his numbers and he is on his way. One of the problems once more is this, that sometimes people feel they learn a lot of letters and they can put the letters together, make a lot of words, but what are these? They’re only the letter of the law. Until the individual adds feelings.
In the beginning the child says “C-A-T spells cat.” But eventually that child must look at a cat and then when he sees the cat, there is a certain amount of feeling. It’s no longer knowing about, now he knows that this little animal is called a cat and he begins to add to his education. Because of that, we must remember that intellectual knowledge to intellectual understanding has a very definite part in our life. In the book itself, Dr Cady speaks of intellectual perception. That is also seeing with the intellect. Now this is quite different to face that sees in the spiritual realm. However, she goes on to say that in the beginning, Jesus had to deal with the external man. He had to deal with external steps and I thought it was very interesting. In one place, she calls of these things that Jesus taught the people in the outer as being stepping stones.
So think of intellectual knowledge or intellectual understanding as being stepping stones. Just because you can read a religious book or a spiritual book or a metaphysical book, and seem to know it very thoroughly, that does not mean that you have spiritual understanding. But it does mean that you are sharpening, as it were, your intellect and also your feeling nature so that you are attuning yourself ready for the revelation by God which you and I call spiritual understanding. Now but bear in mind again, what I said that intellectual knowledge or understanding is the gathering of facts. It is often well to realize that a fact is a happening in time and space, but a reality or a verity or a spiritual principle is that which is. It is that which is so much a part of God that it can never be separated from Him. What you and I seek then is to gather certain facts even about spiritual [unfullment 00:17:53] until as I mentioned a little earlier on, we have formed a kind of container that we hold up to God and then God breathes into those words that we have gathered together into those facts and suddenly we have spiritual understanding. One of the most interesting things about spiritual understanding is of course the changes that it will bring into our life and that we will deal with a little later in this chapter.
099 Can you cure yourself by speaking words of truth from the intellect?
Our next question, number three, is also in two parts. Here is the first part. Can you cure yourself or another by speaking words of truth, now notice this, from the intellectual plane of consciousness? Let me read from the book. You may say to yourself or another may say silently to you, over and over again, that you are well and wise and happy. On the mental plane, a certain cure is affected and for a time, you will feel well and wise and happy. The sentence that follows that requires a little bit of explanation so I’m going to stop right there. Now notice what it says, on the mental plane a certain cure is affected and for a time, you will feel well and wise and happy. Do you know what comes to my mind here? The simple thing of teaching a child good manners and courtesy.
When you teach a child to do certain things that make it easier for him to fit into society, in the beginning he does those things because you’ve told him to. You ask him to step aside sometimes when an older person is going through a door or you ask him to say pardon me or excuse me when certain things are done. Have you ever stopped to think though there comes a time when you don’t want that child merely to do those things because you told him. You want him to do those acts of courtesy or kindness because it comes straight from his heart. You and I can say just the same about this speaking of words of truth from the intellectual plane of consciousness.
In the beginning, going back to the thought of intellectual knowledge, you and I learn that God is the source of our life and we learn that in God lies the power to heal. So we very obediently use our denials to get rid of any thoughts that we have that we were not going to be healed or this condition was going to stay with us forever and we begin with our affirmations to say either “God is my life, God is my vitality. God is the strength of my body.” We say these over and over. But suppose we never go any further as the chapter tells us? We might feel better for a little while but as these are only words, they’re still only the letter of the law, we may find no change. In the beginning, we may find a little because our mind wants so much to change. But until we get that sudden flash of the truth through understanding, then we perhaps don’t go any further. Many an individual has started the study of truth either through unity or any other truth movement and has really worked at it and said his denials and said his affirmations and then has found nothing occurring.
Of course we could say that perhaps he has reached his point of [chemicalization 00:21:27] and his faith must keep him on the line or on the path to heath and vitality. But if somehow his mind doesn’t expand and he does not open himself to God, he may suddenly find no changes and he says “Oh, there’s nothing in this. I don’t believe in prayer.” So you see, you and I have to go far beyond mere words of truth. In a sense, you and I have to know how far we can go with our words and then drop them. It is almost as if we drop them into the soil of diving substance and then we take our hands off them entirely and allow the life of God that is in the idea back up those words to begin to unfold in our own consciousness.
So we could say then that we can not cure ourselves by speaking words of truth on the intellectual plane of consciousness only. We may do it in the beginning but we can not stay there because what happens would be only mental. We would be, in other words, knowing merely about the truth and we would be saying “Well, God is my life. God is my strength. God is my wholeness.” And we would be speaking a truth. But when you and I can come to that place and say “Father, I know that you are my life. I know that you are my strength. I know that you are my vitality.” We have gone far beyond words spoken only from the mental plane. I doubt very much whether you and I could actually speak these words to God until we have definitely felt them because knowing always includes feeling. Will you remember that? Just as we said that in order to build consciousness, you must have thinking plus feeling. So in order for our words to go beyond the intellectual into the very spiritual, we have to have added feeling. Then when I say I know, it seems to come from the very depth of my heart. Now I am agreeing with the truth. Before I was accepting it, now I am agreeing with the truth. All right.
Our B part has practically been covered by what I said. Does true healing require something beyond this? You and I have to say yes. It is only as we are conscious of our oneness with the Father, which I refer to as one of the definitions of understanding, that we can really come to that place of definitely knowing. You and I have to know that there is within us a spring of all wisdom, health and joy within our own being. Until that time, it seems as if God is a far off. Many times we will feel that God seems a long way off, but we can, by turning within and very humbly affirming “Father I am here. I’m waiting to hear what you have to say to me.” Suddenly there comes something from deep within us and that something is intuition or the still small voice of God.
100 Can one person reveal God to another?
Question four is actually in three parts, although they do run very closely together. Let me read the entire question. Can one person reveal God to another? Where must we all seek and when do we become conscious of the in dwelling father? Let’s take the A part. Can one person reveal God to another? There’s only one answer. No, let me read from the book. I can not reveal God to you. You can not reveal God to another. If I have learned, I may tell you and you may tell another how to seek and find God each within himself. But the new birth into the consciousness of our spiritual faculties and possibilities is indeed like the wind and this is quoting from the scripture “blows where it wills and you hear the sound of it but you do not know whence it comes or whether it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the spirit.” This is taken from the third chapter of John, the eighth verse. “The new birth takes place in the silence, in the invisible.” Now you probably notice that there is really a definition there for spiritual understanding. Consciousness of our spiritual faculties and possibilities.
Therefore, as I said before, you can not reveal God to another person. You can not reveal God to anyone else anymore than you can think for him, eat for him or study for him. There are certain things in our life that we can only do for ourselves. I like this part in the book where Dr Cady says “If I have learned, I may tell you and you may tell another how to seek and find God each within himself.” When you stop to think about it, you have been reading this book. You have been listening to these tapes and yet, none of them are giving you God or revealing God. All that you are getting is a method of how to find God who has never been lost or as I said before to discover God within yourself.
Sometimes students of truth are so grateful to a teacher, a minister or a preacher that there is a tendency to transfer a certain amount of allegiance to that individual. I can very well remember about five or six years after I came in the study of truth, the leader that we had had who was teaching us, of course, our truth lessons, left and went into another country. Oh, I felt so devastated. I felt “Well, how am I going to study now?” Of course, all of us have to come to the place where we know that our truth comes from God even though at any given time in our life, it may appear to come through some individual. It is not fair to a teacher, a minister, or a preacher to put the individual on a pedestal. As a matter of fact, the true teacher, the true minister and the true preacher seeks only as the book says here, to turn the mind and the heard of his listeners or students to God and if there is a failure to do this, then somewhere along the line, the teacher may have failed or certainly the student has failed in not giving his whole allegiance to God.
Where must we all seek is the B part of our question. Of course we’ve already answered it. We have to do because we said within. A person can not reveal God to another because each man gets it within. Doesn’t it sound reasonable to you? You and I think but where do we think? We think within. You and I eat, but we seem to be eating with our outer mouth and yet actually the action had to start from within our own consciousness. When I begin to study, I may study books from other people. I may go to lectures and I may go to all kinds of classes but the study actually takes place within me. So we must all of us seek then within because that is the only place where we can contact this fountainhead of all wisdom. Probably we need to say very little on that because it has made itself so clear throughout all of our lessons.
So let us go to the C part. Now this says when. When do we become conscious of the in dwelling Father? Now naturally we’re asking a question that deals with time. If you could call it time as far as spiritual things are concerned. When do we become conscious? Now do you remember we said that conscious includes feeling? It doesn’t say when do we begin to know about the indwelling Father? It says when do we become conscious? When do we know with spiritual understanding that we have within us a presence that we call the indwelling Father? Probably the first step in becoming conscious of the in dwelling Father is that moment when we can say “Oh, I know.” Suddenly, it seems as if the whole world changes. We don’t hear God in so many words. We certainly don’t see God because we’ve been told that no man shall see God and live. Yet, in a sense, we both see Him as our loving Father through the eyes of faith and we hear him with words that are not words as Charles Fillmore said. Really and truly, we have gone so far above the intellectual understanding that we’ve come into our real plane of existence.
Sometimes you and I feel that God is so far away but we learn that as we cleanse our consciousness, even of these thoughts that God is far away, and then begin to affirm even in the beginning if we don’t thoroughly understand, God is the one presence of power in my life. Suddenly, we find ourselves unsatisfied with that and we say “Why Father I know that you are the one presence and the one power in my life.” At that moment, I become conscious of God as the indwelling presence. I may call Him presence. I may call Him Father. I may call Him the name Christ within and yet somehow I know. If everybody and all the world told me I was wrong, I would just smile because I would know that I had touched the very presence of God.
Charles Fillmore says in his book Jesus Christ Heals that “my only intercourse with God is knowing.” Sometimes you and I think that I communicate with God through words, but those words as I’ve said over and over are the pipelines that connect us with God. My only conscious realization of God is through knowing and we come back to the title of our chapter, This is Spiritual Understanding.
101 Will beseeching bring spiritual understanding?
Our fifth question reads in this manner. Will beseeching bring spiritual understanding? That is the A part. The part does spiritual understanding come to one who is seeking with selfish motives? I think my wisest plan now is to read from the book. Nor will crying and beseeching bring spiritual understanding. Hundreds of people have tried this method and have not received that for which they earnestly but ignorantly sought. They have not received because they did not know how to take that which God freely offered. Others have sought with selfish motives this spiritual understanding or consciousness of the indwelling Father. That is another brief definition of spiritual understanding, because of the power it would give them. Then we quote from James 4:3, you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passion. The answer then to the A part of question five has to be no. Will beseeching bring spiritual understanding?
If beseeching is ever used, you will find an interesting thing. It nearly always denotes fear or anxiety. It is a feeling “Well I better ask or else maybe God won’t give it. Perhaps he won’t give it even if I do ask.” There is always a sense of fear. You see that is the difference between knowing an mere intellectual understanding that tells you “Oh well, you just keep on praying and then maybe God will give it to you.” “But beseeching is as foolish, Dr Cady says, to use in connection with spiritual understanding as it would be were we to beseech the sun to shine because it is part of the nature of the sun.” In the case of spiritual understanding, it is the nature of God to give, if you would like to use that word, to His loving children that which they need to fulfill their lives to the fullest. Probably if you and I feel impelled to beseech, we’re only using what we’ve referred to as blind faith.
In other words, we do not have a complete faith in God or we may not have a complete understanding of our relationship to God. So if we feel we must say to God “Oh please give me this. Oh please answer my prayer.” Then we better do some new thinking and go back, erase from our consciousness by denial anything that seems to be standing in the way of accepting the truth which God has to give us through spiritual understanding.
Our B part will also require a no answer. Does spiritual understanding come to one who is seeking with selfish motives? We have to say no. Probably one of the most practical ways of answering this question is to say this. Spiritual understanding is on a high plane. Selfish motives are on a low plane. There is no correspondence between the two. You remember when Jesus said “You have asked amiss because you have not asked in my name.” I think it was mentioned before that whenever you read or hear the word name in connection with Jesus, you can think of nature and you can think of Jesus high nature or high state of consciousness. Therefore, there is no correspondence between selfishness and spiritual understanding which belongs to the spiritual plane. There is no meeting of understanding with selfishness because selfishness is probably more ignorance than anything. Perhaps it has fear tied up with it. There is a tendency sometimes to say “Oh, he is so selfish.” You know, in a sense, that is not showing compassion. It would be almost better for us to say “Bless him, he does not understand and the only way he knows is to seek anything through selfishness.”
If I want to know the truth, I must lift my consciousness to the only place where I can have the revelation of that truth and that is the spiritual consciousness. Sometimes when we say spiritual consciousness, we may have a feeling “Oh, it’s something so high and so far above me.” Do you know that spiritual consciousness is the natural air for you and me, the natural climate or the natural atmosphere? As spiritual beings, it’s very natural for you and me to be in a place where we can receive spiritual understanding. Have you sometimes thought “Oh well, spiritual understanding has to do with religious things.” Don’t be too sure.
Every act of my life requires that I do as well as I can that which is right and if I get out of order, I need to be brought back. There is nothing like spiritual understanding for bringing us back even for the most significant things of every day living. In your work, you want to be able to do the thing that is right. You want to be able to be skillful with your hands, quick and keen with your mind and yet, that is only possible as you are guided by the very spiritual truth within. You might say “Oh well, that’s my outer work.” But is there any difference between your outer work and that which goes on within your own consciousness?
Remember the very title of the movement that you are concerned with right now is unity which means oneness. It means oneness with God and man. That is true. But it also means oneness of man with his world and naturally with his world, it means with his fellow man and with the things that he must do in his world. His work, his social relationships, his family relationships, yes and even his finances. Perhaps you have thought that when you’ve worried about your finances that that wasn’t anything that was concerned with that which is spiritual. Are you sure? Is it not important in your life that you realize that God is the source of your good and the source of your good must have an outlet and it must be your consciousness? Therefore, all that you study in your spiritual development or as Charles Fillmore said in the quotation I gave you a little earlier on.
102 Quotation from Emerson on spiritual understanding
I would like to close this lesson with a quotation contained in this chapter from Emerson. “This energy, consciousness of God in the soul, does not descend into individual life on any other condition than entire possession. It comes to the lowly and simple. It comes to whomsoever will put off what is foreign and proud. It comes as insight. It comes as serenity and grandeur. When we see those whom it inhabits, we are apprised of new degrees of greatness from that inspiration, consciousness. The man comes back with a changed tone. He does not talk with men with an eye to their opinion. He tries them but the soul that ascends to worship the great God is plain and true, has no rose color, no fine friends, no adventures, does not want admiration, dwells in the hour that now is.”
103 When we ask for spiritual understanding and do not receive it what is the reason?
If you ask for spiritual understanding and do not receive it, what is the reason? About the only reference that we have in the chapter to this is the quotation from the bible. Let me read from the chapter. “You ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passion.” Or as it says in quotation marks “To serve selfish ends.”
This is taken from James 4:3, however let me read it from the authorized or King James version. “Ye ask and receive not because ye ask amiss that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” Therefore, our answer is we’re not asking in the right way. We’re asking wrongly. There is a sentence that proceeds the quotation from Emerson also given in this chapter which I find very interesting. This is what it says. It comes to any and all who learn how to seek it aright. Of course, we’re speaking about spiritual understanding. So the promise is that this spiritual understanding, this revelation from God comes to any or all who will, as it says here, seek it aright. In thinking over this question, my mind has to go back to the question that referred to beseeching. We realize that if beseeching denotes either fear or ignorance, then if we attempt to beseech God for spiritual understanding, we are asking amiss or we’re asking wrongly. We will always ask amiss or ask wrongly if we’re not conscious of our own divine inheritance. If we are not conscious of the fact that God has already given to us all the good we could ever desire in the form of ideas, then it means that somehow we’re thinking of our good as something that is to be added to us rather than something that is within us waiting to be drawn forth.
When we want spiritual understanding more than anything else in the world, it will come. Let me read from the book. In that day when more than riches and honor and power and selfish glory, you shall desire spiritual understanding. In that day will come to you the revelation of God in you and you will be conscious of the indwelling Father who is life and strength and power and peace. One of the poets has said “If thou a fortune be bereft and in thy store there be but left two loads, sell one and with the dole by hyacinth to feed thy soul.” This of course is indicating that food for the soul is of much more value than food for the body. So when we want the food for the soul in the form of spiritual ideas which come to us as spiritual understanding, then we may be assured that our soul will be satisfied.
There is a story told of an Indian teacher and a student who were discussing God and man’s relationship to God. The student indicated that more than anything, he wanted to know God. So the Indian teacher took him to the stream and he told the student to get in. He took his head and pushed it under the water. Well, in a few seconds, the student struggled and struggled to rise from the water. So the teacher said to him “Whenever you want God as much as you wanted that breath of air, then it is true that you will receive understanding. Frankly, I think that’s a very good indication. When we want God or spiritual understanding which is to know God more than anything else, then we were on our way toward the path of full understanding.
Sometimes we forget that fear, ignorance, envy, anxiety and all of those negative emotions actually cause us to ask amiss. You say to me “Oh, yes, but if I’m very much afraid, can’t I ask God for help?” There are two ways of looking at that. All of us will meet with fear in our outer world but when we can rise even for a moment out of that fear and know God as our protection, then we are not asking amiss. When we are saying “God I know that your power and presence is taking care of me.” Ignorance is another way of saying “I don’t know God as my protection, as my one presence and power. I do not know God as the source from which my understanding may come.” So we can realize then that all of the negative thoughts begin to close the doors in our consciousness to the very thing that we seek which is spiritual understanding. Remember for anything like understanding, we are claiming, not begging. We are actually having a sense of superiority over the lesser parts of ourself. So we are not arrogant but we are very humbly grateful. It doesn’t mean at any time that when we seek spiritual understanding, that we want it to show off, that we want it to impress others.
We want it because it is the most wonderful thing in all the world. After all, it takes spiritual understanding to know that there is but one Father of every one of us. It takes spiritual understanding for us to know the brotherhood of man. So when you and I come down to the rock bottom study of truth, we know that the thing that we really search for is God and in searching for God, we know his answer will come in the form of spiritual understanding.
104 What is the first step toward attaining spiritual understanding?
All right, now our seventh question has two parts and of course he has the same bearing on number six as many of our questions have. They seem to follow through in sequence. Have you noticed that? Number seven reads what is the first step to take toward attaining spiritual understanding? Then the B part says name some other steps. Let me read from the chapter. This is a step in the right direction and this is referring to desire. It is learning how to take God by faith for whatever one desires but in the onward growth, the time will come to every man when he will hear the divine voice saying come up higher and he will pass beyond any merely selfish desires. Then it goes on to say he will desire good that he may have more to give. When you analyze this question, you realize that the first step in attaining anything is going to be desire. So naturally, the first step in attaining spiritual understanding is also going to be desire. Suppose you are hungry, there’s a desire for food. Suppose you want to accomplish something in your education, there has to be a desire. But desire is only the first step.
Anyone could say “Oh, I wish for so and so.” Or “I desire for so and so.” But he may do nothing and it is because of that you and I must realize at the outset that desire must be followed by the action of the will. Then it is the action of the will that tells us a little bit what we need to do in our following steps because the second part of this question says name other steps. Let me read once more as I did on the other side of the cassette tape this quotation from Emerson. “This energy does not descend into individual life on any other condition than entire possession. It comes to the lowly and simple. It comes to whomsoever will put off what is foreign and proud.” Now that is the first thing to consider.
“It comes as insight. It comes as serenity and grandeur. When we see those whom it inhabits, we are apprised of new degrees of greatness.” I want you to hold this in mind. It says put off that which is foreign and proud. In other words, once you and I have had the desire for spiritual understanding, and then the action of the will begins, we want to do everything that is necessary that we may lay hold of this spiritual understanding and so we begin the process of denial to cleanse our consciousness of that as Emerson says that is foreign and proud. You know as well as I do that each one will individually come to the realization that he has certain things within his consciousness to be erased. Do you notice it says comes as insight? I suppose we could say that that is the answer to our affirmation. That it comes as a deep insight. Actually faith is insight because we said that faith is the preceding power. We learn then to take God on faith.
There is another portion of this chapter that deals with the various steps. Let me read this. When you first consciously desire spiritual understanding, you do not attain it at once. You have been living in the external of your being and have believed yourself cut off from God. Your first step after coming to yourself by the prodigal son is to say as he did “I will arise and go to my Father.” Now notice this, to turn your thoughts away from the external seeming. That’s the denial where we turn away from that which is negative. Toward the central and real. You see, that’s going toward the positive. To know intellectually, because this is our first step, that you are not cut off from God and the that He forever desires to manifest Himself within you as your present deliverance from all suffering and sin.
Well, then the chapter goes on a little further and it says this. Just as Jesus taught, we being our journey toward understanding by cutting off the branches of our selfishness. This is denial again. We try to love instead of hate. This is both denial and affirmation because love takes the place of hate. Instead of avenging ourselves, we begin to forgive. That is giving the truth for that which was error. We begin to deny envy, jealousy, anger, sickness and all perfection and then we begin to affirm love, peace and health. So you can understand from this that with all your heart to desire spiritual understanding is not enough because now you must begin the journey toward the place where you can gain spiritual understanding.
Going back to the story of the prodigal son that was mentioned right here in this portion that I read. It says “I will arise and go to my Father.” If the prodigal had said that and made no movement with his will, then he would have remained in the far country. But in the story, Jesus goes on to say that of the prodigal and he rose and went unto his father. Above all things you and I most know that there is something beyond just the desire. For instance, suppose you have been ill and you have suffered pain and more than anything you feel “Oh, if I could only be healed.” Now that seems a very worthy thought, does it not? Do you know that in the long run, there is something greater and that greater thing is that you may be healed not merely to have comfort in your own body but that you may be of greater service to God. In other words, that you may be a better channel through which God’s life and energy and strength may flow.
Suppose you feel “Oh, I need prosperity. I just don’t have much.” And you desire it with all your heart and you think “Well, it will make me happy.” But unless that prosperity includes the greater desire which is to share a good, then it has fallen flat and you would never be entirely happy. I’m reminded here of a story that was told of E Stanley Jones, the missionary to the east. He became very ill at one time, so ill that the doctors felt that he would not get better. In praying for his healing, he felt very depressed and then one day, it came to him. If God has need of me, then God will see that I am healed. In other words, he let all of the personal desires of himself go and he reached into the greater desire which was to be of service to God. After that E Stanley Jones said he was able to do some of the best work he had ever done in his life.
Now when a person is ill or a person is suffering from lack of finances, probably the larger consideration isn’t very important at the moment, but in the overall picture when you and I are able to move into the larger desire which would include all of the steps necessary to see that it is fulfilled, then we can be sure of the perfect fulfillment.
105 What are some of the results experienced by us when we attain spiritual understanding?
Our eighth question reads this way. What are some of the results experienced by us when we attain spiritual understanding. Now I am going to read from the book but I want to add after I read these, some of the very practical things or the very practical results that you and I should expect when we attain spiritual understanding. Now let me read. You will no longer dwell in darkness, for the light will be within your own heart and the word will be made flesh to you. That is you will be conscious of a new and diviner life in your body and a new and diviner love for all people, a new and diviner power to accomplish. Now these of course are very idealistic. It’s good that you and I should no longer dwell in darkness but should have the light of spiritual understanding and it is good that we should come to know our body as the temple of the living God and if it needs much healing, we should know that the power of God moves in us to heal. Probably one of the most wonderful things is the love that we will move into toward all people, toward our fellow man and also the power that helps us to accomplish. There will be also, the chapter tells us a new light on the scriptures.
Now all these are good and I do not intend to minimize them in the least, but now let’s look at these from a very practical standpoint. When I receive or shall I say attain the consciousness of spiritual understanding, then I expect that it will help me to handle the affairs of every day. If my rent has to be paid or the mortgage on the house, I expect that this spiritual understanding will help me and show me ways in which I may have to move in order to accomplish this in the outer. I know that spiritual understanding will teach me how to make better use of the money that comes into my hands. It should teach me to be a better worker in whatever the job, career, or profession I may be following at any given time. You and I must remember above all things that if this truth is to work, it must also work in a very practical way. A person could say in a very ecstatic way “Oh, I love all people. I have a new and divine love for all mankind.” But the test of that is going to be how do you get on with those with whom you work and live and associate?
No matter how you say “Oh, God’s power in me works to accomplish” yet if you don’t make a move in any direction to do that which God has revealed to you that can be done by you, bear this in mind always. There are two many people who feel “Oh, I’ll get hold of the spiritual and then someone else will take care of me in the outer.” But that is not true. Too long we have said “Oh, God will take care of our soul, but we’ll take care of our outer life.” Probably we better begin to realize that we take care of our soul because our soul is our thinking and feeling. It is our human mind and God is not going to force himself into our soul, our mind. He is going to tell us how our life should be run. He is going to say “This is the way [inaudible 00:58:08] in it.” We do not need to worry, God will take care of that which is needful in the outer.
When a person makes a statement such as this, too many people say “Oh, well, let God do it.” But it isn’t even a case of that. It is a case of saying “I will attune my mind to God. He will give me the ideas and He will give me the power and He will also give me the guidance as to what I need to do in the outer world.” When you’re thinking of results from anything of a spiritual nature, always interpret those results in practical ways as well as the inner ways. Probably the most important thing whether we know it or not that you and I want is peace of mind. But unless that peace of mind makes us easier to get on with in the home where we live or the place where we work or the society in which we function, then we really haven’t got peace of mind. Unless the love that we seek in our hearts is the kind that can be translated into kindness and courtesy and understanding, yes and wisdom sometimes to withhold things that we would like to do for others, then we do not have the fullness of spiritual understanding.
When I understand, then I know how to direct my love. When I have understanding, I know how to control even my faith center or even my imagination but can you see how infinitely necessary it is for you and me to make our inner revelations into very practical demonstrations?
106 Can one do too much spiritual seeking?
Our ninth question is a very interesting one and I say it is interesting because of something that was brought to my attention some years ago. This is the question. Can one do too much spiritual seeking? I am going to read from the chapter. Dr Cady says this “I believe that too much introspection, too much of what people usually call spiritual seeking is detrimental rather than helpful to the end desired, spiritual growth.” I’d like to tell you about this man who made the remark that almost changed a whole flood of ideas in my mind. At one time I was speaking in one of the prisons in a state adjoining Missouri. I was teaching the whole of lessons in truth but it so happens this particular Sunday, we were covering part of this chapter on spiritual seeking, spiritual understanding and spiritual seeking. So I asked the question, can one do too much spiritual seeking? Of course I was expecting the student to answer more or less what was in the book that yes, you can do too much spiritual seeking. But before there was any time for an answer from anyone else, one of the prisoners in the back of the group put up his hand and I said “Yes?” He said “I don’t believe we could ever do too much spiritual seeking.”
Well for the moment I was a little nonplussed. Then I felt as if God spoke quickly through me. I said “Tell me why?” To this man. He said “If we are really seeking spiritually, we can never do too much, could we?” I said “No, you are very very right.” So out of that question, I have come to realize that when we say can one do too much spiritual seeking? What we are really meaning is can one do too much intellectual seeking of spiritual things? Now it is possible to read so many books, attend so many classes and lectures until we’re just [inaudible 01:02:02]. I know one teacher used to say over and over again “In other words, we get mental indigestion.”
We get so much of the letter of the law that we are losing the spirit and it is only the spirit that give us life. If we seek too much in the outer and yet we have to seek a certain amount, we’ve become cluttered within. When we are cluttered within, then books and teachers have actually become a detriment to us. Now let me read a little more from this same paragraph in the chapter. Spiritual seeking is a sort of spiritual selfishness paradoxical as this may seem. From the beginning to the end, Jesus taught the giving of what one possesses to him who has none. Too much introspection could make you and me draw away from the world and because we are in the world, we have something to give. Therefore to seek God is of prime importance, so actually I could never do too much of that. But in my search, if I take many byways and many detours, then I may lose my way to the very goal that I am seeking. You know, it is quite possible to become so enamored with a book or with a teacher until we forget what it is we are really seeking.
There is always a danger of looking at something beautiful on the outer and yet forgetting that true beauty begins within the individual. Do you remember the parable of the [inaudible 01:03:47] and I’m just going to refer to the authorized version where it spoke about the scattering of seed and it said that some seed fell on stony ground and they had no root. Then when the sun came up, well, there was nothing to hold them. Sometimes when individuals rush here and there after this teacher or buy this book or borrow this book, it’s just as if they were seeking the truth in the same way that the seed has gone into rocky ground. As yet, there has not been a depth of soil and the seed can not go very far. With the first light of day, then the seed is shriveled or even the plant is shriveled and it has started to grow.
You and I must be very understanding about ourselves. We must know that we are moving step by step, as a matter of fact we’ll deal with this in our last question. We must not try to force. Do you remember one place in this book or perhaps it’s in a chapter still to come where Dr Cady speaks about the danger of straining toward the truth? We could say the same with spiritual understanding. Whenever you feel strained, you become unbalanced. It’s no wonder that many practical people have felt that those interested in religion, in metaphysics, or in anything spiritual are very impractical because there is that danger of loving it so deeply within that we strain after the very thing that lies at hand. But we may be very sure that when there is a sense of strain, we are not ready for this full light that we are seeking.
107 What is the law of growth?
It is probably a good thing that our 10th question deals with growth because too often we as individuals who are seeking the light think that it will come just like a flash and then that’s the end of it. We forget there is growth in our consciousness. Even though we spoke of spiritual understanding as coming like a flash, you and I must grow so that we can accept this gift of spiritual understanding.
Let me read that 10th question. A, what is the law of growth? Then, B, can we receive spiritual understanding of the whole spirit of God at once? The first part, what is the law of growth? Now in the beginning, we’re not talking just about spiritual growth. We’re just asking the question, what is the law of growth? As you study the dictionary, you will find the law of growth is expansion. Then you will find that it is the fulfillment of some purpose. You remember that in the first chapter of Genesis, we were told that each species came forth after their kind. We find that seeds have all a different value or evaluation. Some seeds are going to produce beauty. Some seeds are going to produce food and others are going to produce usefulness perhaps in the sense of that which is medical and can be used by man in his every day life.
Practically all seeds are bringing an increase and in many cases, reproduction but the law of growth is that which goes or reaches maturity. Goes to maturity or reaches maturity. Now bear that in mind. Therefore, if spiritual understanding or let me use just the word understanding. If understanding is one of these ideas that make up our divine inheritance, it’s neither going to expand nor to grow. So then I must question what is it that has to grow. It is your consciousness and mine. That is our soul, our mind, our thinking and our feeling. We have to grow in consciousness to such an extent that this wonderful gift of understanding or any other gift of God may enter our consciousness and then we begin to use this particular idea.
Our last part then, can we receive spiritual understanding of the whole spirit of God at once? We have to say no. We have just discussed the law of growth. Expansion, fulfillment of a purpose. Therefore it stands to reason that we could not receive understanding of the whole spirit of God at once. Nobody expects a tiny child to receive everything at once. As a matter of fact, many times people like to protect the tiny baby from too much of a direct light and it is the same with you and me and our spiritual life. We have to be protected from too great a light in the beginning. We are going to expand and as we expand, we’re going to be able to fulfill our purpose which is the expression of the God’s nature in us.
Emerson, to whom we’ve already referred, made a remark in one of his essays. “God screens us evermore from premature ideas.” I used to think that that was a very foolish thing to say because if all the ideas of God are mine, then why do I have to be screened from them? But it comes back to this growth in consciousness. Until I have grown to the place where I can use that idea to its highest and best, then it’s just as well that I be screened from the use of that idea. Remember in the use of affirmations, you and I are still working with this law of expansion. If we are praying for healing, if we are praying for abundance, prosperity, if we are praying for harmony, we know very well that all of these ideas are going to manifest in our individual life as we are able to handle them. So you can understand why spiritual growth and spiritual development are referred to so often in the unity teachings and in fact in all truth teachings.
I want to refer again to the statement that I made about Mr Fillmore mentioning the fact that intellectual understanding comes first in the soul’s development. Development is growth, [unfullment 01:10:23] you see. Only as a soul expands so that it can use these ideas, are we really safe? May I close this lesson on spiritual understanding with the last paragraph of this chapter? Seek your own Lord, take the light as it is revealed to you and use it for others and prove for yourselves whether there be truth in this prophecy of Isaiah that then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. Then a further quotation and then shall your light break forth like the dawn and your healing shall spring up speedily.