In this changing world it is necessary for man, if he would stabilize his life, to have some dependable foundation upon which to build his life's structure and from which to evolve his ideals. Experience has taught him that this stable foundation is not to be found in the visible world, for, as Paul says, "What is seen hath not been made out of things which appear." Indeed, "God is Spirit," and the things of God are "spiritually discerned." It is therefore our purpose to bring into practical use in life the practice called "the silence," for through its exercise the theory that God is omnipresent may become a vital realization.
The silence is not in any sense the discovery of a new process of mind, but is a practice known very well to every genius, every inventor, every philosopher, and in fact every individual who has in any degree outstripped his fellow men and brought back to the world some new idea or invention from beyond the range of habitual thought and experience. The silence is clearly taught in the Scriptures, and is one of the most vital aspects of prayer. "Be still, and know" is a clear command to let the mind rest from its own activities and record knowledge that the Infinite waits to reveal.
Longfellow caught the vital nature of this form of prayer when he wrote the following:
Let us, then, labor for an inward stillness—
An inward stillness and an inward healing;
That perfect silence where the lips and heart
Are still, and we no longer entertain
Our own imperfect thoughts and vain opinions,
But God alone speaks in us, and we wait
In singleness of heart, that we may know
His will, and in silence of our spirits,
That we may do His will, and do that only.
To gain new knowledge, man must be willing to leave his former ideas behind. No mind is capable of receiving instruction from any source when it is preoccupied with other ideas. We therefore suggest that you approach the practice of the silence in the spirit set forth in the following verse by Ella Wheeler Wilcox:
Let there be many windows in your soul,
That all the glories of the universe
May beautify it. Not the narrow pane
Of one poor creed can catch the radiant rays
That shine from countless sources. Tear away
The blinds of superstition; let the light
Pour through fair windows, broad as Truth itself,
And high as heaven.
Shakespeare said, "All the graces of mind and heart slip through the grasp of an infirm purpose."
Much of the difficulty experienced in connection with the silence is due to the fact that many people have no clearly defined purpose in view. These people try to get still, to stop the turbulent activity of their minds, to put ideas out of consciousness, or to go through various other processes that are wholly negative. Others merely give their time to holding specific thoughts, affirmations, and the like. Each of these methods has its rightful place, but there is a purpose above and beyond them all, and in attaining this higher purpose, these negative phases of the silence take care of themselves.
The fundamental purpose of the silence is to establish a means of conscious communion between God and man. It is literally seeking first "his kingdom, and his righteousness," knowing that in the discovery of the kingdom itself the lesser objectives are attained. If this purpose is understood as the objective and is strictly adhered to, the greatest possible benefit will be derived from the practice that we are considering in these pages. On going into the silence, a person should remember that he is going into the presence of God. He should go into this presence in an expectant attitude, knowing that he is to receive, and therefore should be in a receptive mood. It is foolish for one to go to a spring for a bucket of water, without a bucket in which to receive the waters thereof. Likewise a person going into the presence of God should be as an empty vessel into which may be received in full measure all the elements of that divine presence.
The following paragraphs deal with attitudes of mind and body. While the suggestions given are helpful, remember that they are not arbitrary rules, nor are the methods suggested to be considered as ends in themselves. They are only the grooming of oneself for a race, and the race itself is the important thing. However, the first step that we shall consider is fundamentally important, for it deals with the basic principle of the silence itself and the fundamental purpose of this booklet.
"Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
The ancient philosophers voiced this Scriptural statement in the idea that "only the single-eyed succeed." To some degree we understand the application of this principle in everyday life, for we recognize the fact that if a musician is to succeed he must devote himself to his music. If a student is to become a mathematician, he must devote himself to mathematics. The businessman must devote himself to his business. Irrelevant thinking, irregular practices, conditions foreign or opposed to our undertakings must delay our progress and defeat our purpose to the very degree to which they occupy our attention. Complete devotion to a single purpose is the secret of true and quick success. For this reason we set forth one idea as basically important in the schooling of the mind of the individual who would enter the path of the silence. This idea is that "there is but one presence and one power in the universe, the presence and power of God, the good omnipotent." The student should spend days, weeks, months, yes, even years, in schooling his mind to this realization and in training his feelings to respond to this all-important premise, which is to become the basis of all his future calculations. This is the foundation upon which his spiritual consciousness is to be built, and by which the integrity of his spiritual nature is to be preserved. It is the very essence of the foundation upon which Christ built His life and the only power to which He yielded homage. It is therefore the foundation upon which we may build the Christ Mind in ourselves.
To deny the one Presence and one Power, or to proclaim a power opposed to it, is to deny the very nature of God, who is described in the Scriptures as omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. Paul's realization of the omnipotence of God is described in the 8th chapter of Romans: "If God is for us, who is against us?" And again, "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." The fact that "in him we live, and move, and have our being" is not sufficient. It is our contemplating and studying this fact to the point where it becomes a living reality in our consciousness that is the important thing.
To be true to the fact that there is but one Presence and one Power is to be possessed of the key to a correct solution of all life's problems. To the degree in which we recognize other powers, we fall short of even the possibility of a correct answer. This might be well illustrated in mathematics. The basis of all mathematical calculation is the unit, or 1. If in any of our figuring we assume that 1 is ever more or less than 1, our answer is incorrect. We must be true to this basic fact in mathematics, for in being true to it is the secret of successful computation. The rule "The Lord our God is one Lord" is just as important in calculating life's problems. It may not always seem easy, in facing life, to recognize that there is nothing but God, for we have trained ourselves to believe in much that to us is not godly. But let us not try to explain as God that which we do not understand. Let us just remember that back of all creation, no matter what its appearance, there is always the moving Spirit of God, sometimes mysteriously hidden from us but always working to fulfill the perfection of Being itself.
The Silence Not Negative
The silence is not a negative or an inert state of the mind. Many persons, not realizing this, have allowed their minds to become inert, and through this false conception of the silence they have lessened their executive ability to no small degree. These persons, when attempting to practice the silence, often fall asleep. Can you not see how utterly ridiculous this is, to say the least? One would hardly say that this is respectful of the presence of Divinity. Think for a moment what the condition of your mind would be should you have the privilege of being ushered into the presence of Jesus. Think, if you will, of the condition of Moses' mind when in the presence of the burning bush he heard the command "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." Can you picture anything but the most perfect attention, the most absolutely awake and alert mind, the most profound interest? Of course not, and yet when we enter the silence we are approaching this same presence.
Before you enter the silence it is well to take into account the fact that you are approaching the presence of Divinity, that you are entering into the presence of all the power, wisdom, majesty, love, and healing radiance that you have ever attributed to the historical Jesus, or to the God of the universe. Did not Jesus say, "Lo, I am with you always," and is not the highest report of God that which declares Him a being who is "Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all"? In this connection it might also be helpful to ponder long upon David's marvelous conception of the immanence of God, in the 139th Psalm, which is often quoted:
Whither shall I go from thy Spirit?
Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there:
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me,
And thy right hand shall hold me.
After reading this lesson, one should be thoroughly alive and awake with a divine enthusiasm. Approaching the silence in this attitude of mind one would be alert with vital attention, lest something of the divine nature escape one's notice. When a person's interest in God lifts him above the activities of his own personal thought, to the borderland of the Infinite, he has truly found the silence.
In the practice of the silence many persons have moments when they seem to touch the presence of God, but for some reason, which they cannot then explain, they are unable to retain their realization. Much of this difficulty is due to either mental strenuousness or physical tenseness. This state of mind and body is very often the direct cause of extreme emotional conditions. These conditions are usually very successfully met by cultivating a calm state of mind and a relaxed condition of body. It is said, "You cannot pour into a vessel already full." This is true of the individual whose mind and body are already preoccupied with some tense or strenuous state of mind or feeling.
The Scriptures say, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee" (Isa. 26:3). By your developing a consciousness of the presence of God as the point of dependence for yourself, for your ideas, and for all the affairs of your life, the burden of self-direction is lifted from your own personal self. This frees both the mind and the body. This general thought would be especially helpful in attaining such an attitude: "Into the care and keeping of God I give myself, all my ideas, all the affairs of my life, and all the people in whom I am concerned or who are concerned in me." "I rest from my labors, that I may do the works of Him that sent me." Then be still that you may learn what work He would have you do. If you seem not to know what to do, do the next thing before you, as if you were doing it for God.
Much can be accomplished in the way of bodily relaxation by quietly telling the body to relax, to let go, to cease from its struggle; for the things of God are not accomplished by might or by power, but by His Spirit. The true function of both mind and body is service to Spirit. They are vehicles through which God expresses Himself in the world of affairs. This was the secret of Jesus' great power; we may attain to that same power by employing the same method. "The words that I say unto you I speak not from myself: but the Father abiding in me doeth his works." Relaxation is not lapsing into a state of inertia, nor is it sinking into physical negation. True relaxation, as we refer to it in this connection, is a complete surrender to the presence and power of Spirit. It is not a surrender to a tired or worn-out feeling, but a complete giving up to God. Relaxation is the state of complete mental and physical freedom—freedom from the limitations of the mind and flesh, and realization of the infinite power and presence of God actively expressing itself through every department of your being. Truly there could be no burden to mind or body in such an attitude, and relaxation would come naturally.
In contemplating the fact that it is the Father-Mind working through man that accomplishes all things that man does, and as the realization of this fact begins to be felt, one instinctively begins to relax and to let go of the mental and physical tension in which one is accustomed to live and work. This is part of the receiving process by which we appropriate the gifts of Spirit and incorporate them into our being. Nothing ever becomes ours until we accept it, because acceptance is the first requisite to ownership. Any amount of wealth may be yours potentially, but until you lay hold of it you do not possess it for any practical purpose.
Physical relaxation is not inertia. It is a state of absolute physical freedom. It is that state in which the body cells are free from the consciousness of strife and strenuous effort, and are perfectly responsive to Spirit.
Tendency to Sleep
Many persons, in their attempts to practice the silence, have great difficulty in overcoming the tendency to go to sleep. This tendency arises from two general causes. The first is that the individual needs a greater realization of physical vitality. Sleep is a process of revitalization of the body, and in sleep the same thing happens to the individual that happens to the storage battery when it is being recharged. The energies projected during the day reverse their direction and are reabsorbed by the body. If you have a tendency to get sleepy during your periods of silence, try preceding the period with a strong realization of the quickening power of God's perfect life as it fills every fiber of your being.
The second reason for this tendency to sleep is lack of genuine interest. Have you not at some time been deeply interested in reading a book of fiction? During the reading of that book you did not get sleepy. You found difficulty in going to sleep once you felt it your duty to lay the book down. Undoubtedly your mind was thoroughly interested in and awake to the action of the story. When you become as much interested in what God has to reveal to you as you are in your storybook, you will have no further difficulty in that direction.
Difficulty sometimes arises in the control of the mind because one does not realize the basis from which all mental action evolves. For instance, one strives through various methods to control the course of thought and feeling, whereas the basis of all mental control is in the point of mental focus, which we might call attention—the eye of the mind or the vision of the mind. "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." Where the vision is centered the thoughts forgather, and the character of the thought is determined by the object on which the attention rests.
The necessity for one-pointedness is easily discerned by anyone who knows the laws of mind. To make the discovery of underlying Truth the supreme objective is to lay the foundation for the greatest possible attainment.
To contemplate the fact that God is the one presence and one power is all that an individual needs to do in order actually to begin his spiritual progress. Gradually, from that center of attention, the revelation of the actual facts of that presence will begin to draw on his waiting consciousness.
The matter of centering the attention on an invisible force is not a difficult thing. Just sit quietly for a moment and give your attention to the air. You cannot see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, or feel it though you may have heard and felt its action. Likewise you can contemplate the fact that there is an electrical ether, finer than the air, existing in you, through you, and around you, just as the air is. Transcending the electrical ether is the spiritual ether, the very essence of everything that has being, and it is from this spiritual ether that every lesser force or thing emanates. Contemplation of the fact of its presence is just as easy as contemplation of the fact of the presence of the air. It is impossible to hold the attention of the mind on nothing. But when you realize that Spirit is a presence, a reality as the air and electricity are realities, yet infinitely finer than these, infinitely more important, it is but a slight task for the mind to comprehend its existence.
Attention is only the beginning of one's mental evolution in relation to this most important fact in life. The spiritual ether is not only omnipresent, "over all, and through all, and in all," but it contains all life, all substance, all power, all love, and in fact all that has being, for it is infinite. The mind therefore should be allowed to expand in its concepts of this one Presence and one Power. The mind should go on to speculate, as it were, on the character of the spiritual ether, on what it contains, how it moves, and what it conveys to the mind of man as it moves in and through his being. This mental speculation, this allowing the mind to expand in its estimate of the nature of the one Presence and one Power, is what we might call meditation.
True meditation consists in allowing the mind to make unlimited flights of speculation regarding the nature of the Mind of God, the power of this Mind, the love of this Mind, the wisdom contained in this Mind, the substance that comes from this Mind and out of which all things are formed, the instant availability of all the elements of this Mind to the individual who is open and receptive to it, and so on until man becomes conscious of the presence of God as he is now conscious of the presence of warmth, of light, or of any other element with which he is familiar. Meditation is a process of association with the divine presence, a method of forming an acquaintance with it.
The student can see how much this method differs from the false notion that the silence consists in simply making the mind a blank and how it is that many persons have thwarted the development of their minds because they would not allow their thoughts to grow and expand with each moment of association with the silent presence of God. Does not your mind grow and expand through your association with nature? Much more ought the mind to grow in comprehension through its association with the presence of the All-Good.
Concentration is singleness of mind or purpose. The mistaken idea of concentration is that it is attention held fixedly to a point, or to a word, or to a thought. Fixity is limitation. True concentration is that sort of interest in which all the forces of your being are intent on a given objective, or unified in a given purpose.
Concentration, like relaxation, is attained not through strenuous effort but through quiet means, reasonable processes, by which the mind's interest is awakened and complete attention is attained. This concentration of the silence is best attained by continually turning the attention to the infinite nature of God, in whom "we live, and move, and have our being." Reading the 139th Psalm should be one of the most helpful means of awakening the interest, leading the attention, and gaining concentration of the most effective and desirable sort. Above all, make the approach to the silence pleasant, interesting, joyous. Have you in the olden days thought what your attitude would be when you should enter the kingdom of heaven that the race has pictured as being in the skies? When you enter into the silence in the fullest sense of the word, you are literally approaching the kingdom of heaven that the Scriptures teach is "within you." Therefore rejoice and be glad. "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise."
The Scriptures say, "There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration [breath; A.S.V.] of the Almighty giveth them understanding." This has been more or less a mystical statement to us, for we have not understood just what this inspiration is. Have you not at times noticed yourself taking on or absorbing something of your environment, particularly when you have been thrown into close and prolonged touch with that environment? You simply absorb the impressions coming to you from the environment, and these impressions give you a new understanding of your surroundings, which in turn affects your nature to some extent. In like manner he who associates much in thought with his divine environment receives impressions from it, and his nature is altered accordingly. The inbreathing or the impressions coming to him from the divine presence enable him better to understand the Almighty, and his mind and body are changed accordingly. The very nature and being of God is within reach of your mind; He is within you, throughout your being, surrounding you, above you, beneath you—as the only power, the only presence, in the universe. Listen, wait, watch, until you recognize His presence to be more truly your environment than are the things of the world. Within this holy presence is the very word of God, the formulated ideal that God has of you, and for you, waiting to speak itself into full and perfect expression in every department of your being and in all the affairs of your life. Listen! This is the approach to the secret place of the Most High. What could more fascinate your mind? What could more absorbingly hold your interest to the exclusion of everything else?
Length of Silence Period
The question is often asked, at this point in the lessons, "How long should one remain in the silence?" It is just as impractical to attempt to answer this question as it would be to tell a person how long he should take for eating his meals. However, we might say that, in the beginning, rather short periods are to be recommended.
It should be remembered that man develops in his nature that which he exercises. In practicing the silence, therefore, one should exercise only the attitudes of mind that tend to bring out the most desirable experiences. For instance, many persons put forth so much effort in holding their attention on what they consider the silence that "effort" is the dominant factor in the practice. The effort habit is therefore developed until it becomes the dominant experience, and the entire being rebels at the thought of the silence, because it seems to man nothing but hard work.
"Come now, and let us reason together, saith Jehovah." In this passage is revealed one of the most important secrets of life. "Let us reason together" does not apply only to a relationship between persons. It applies likewise to the various departments of your own being. Interested attention can be cultivated by a reasonable appeal to the mind, rather than by a resort to forceful or dominant measures. Just as you respond to reasonable methods more readily than to forceful measures, so does your mind follow and respond to processes that are agreeable to it. Talk things out with yourself. Even talk aloud, if need be, to get your mind's attention. Remind yourself that in the infinite Mind of God, which is present within you, are the very knowledge, power, and ability that will meet every situation in life. What could be more interesting than to delve into the realm that contains everything that a being could wish or desire? Such is the realm of the divine presence. By reminding yourself of this fact, you will find the mind eagerly giving its complete attention to this wonderful communion. When you have reached this conception of the silence, you will find that the length of the silence period will increase. Genuine interest has little regard for the passing of hours.
However, we do not recommend that the period of silence continue for too long a time. The silence is to soul and mind what food is to the body. What is gained in the silence must be converted into action; must be incorporated into the very cell structure of our being. We but gain the incentive for growth in the silence. Real growth is in expression of what we have gained in moments of communion with the Most High. In other words, we gain in the silence just what the automobile gains by stopping at the filling station—just so much motive power to be used in attaining an objective. Knowledge and realization gained in the silence become motive power that governs the outer life of man and quickens him with the magic power of attainment.
The most important thing to consider in connection with the silence is the conscious revelation that comes from Spirit. The Spirit of God will and does reveal that which your being is ready for and open to receive. This revelation is not at all likely to continue beyond the point of your actual readiness to appropriate. Therefore when you seem to have been fed, when you have received, it is time to leave the silence in order that the realization gained therein may be continued in your daily activities.
Place and Position
The questions are often asked: "Where should one go for the practice of the silence," and "In what position should the body be placed." As to the place, it is well in the beginning for one to find a place as free as possible from disturbing influences. But one should remember that it is in distracting circumstances that realization of the presence of God is most needed. Therefore, the quiet place should be looked on only as a retreat for special communion. In leaving the quiet place, endeavor to feel that the Presence, of which you become aware in the silence, is a tower of strength to you in every way.
As to one's physical posture: The only suggestion that we would make is that one should be physically comfortable, free from strain, so that the body itself is not a disturbing factor or a distracting influence. The seeker should plan in all ways to be totally unconscious of his body, his thoughts, his surroundings, and in fact everything but the power and presence of God. This is the supreme objective, and the more this objective is kept uppermost in mind the more nearly complete will be the realization.
Every time we turn our thoughts toward the indwelling Spirit of God to contemplate its power and presence, we turn our face toward the light, "the light which lighteth every man, coming into the world." In this light we can not only learn who and what we are, but we can also learn what is the will of God for us in every phase of life. In the days that follow, ask yourself many times whether you are truly interested in receiving this light. If you are interested, keep your attention turned toward it, that you may not lose a single ray of its radiance. Keep physically relaxed so that every ray of this light may penetrate the innermost and the outermost parts of your being. In the light of Spirit you will not only realize the truth about life but you will be blessed with an everlasting blessing by the one and only presence and power in the universe, the presence and power that God is. "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of Jehovah is risen upon thee."