WHAT THE SILENCE REALLY IS
In presenting this second lesson on the silence, it is taken for granted that you have read and thoroughly practiced the first lesson. This is not a book to be read like fiction, but it is to be treated as you would treat a book on mathematics. Practice each point until you begin to realize results from it, and then pass on to the next point. Do not be in a hurry to cover the entire text, but be persistent in accomplishing the purpose of each part of the book.
Many people fail to gain a realization of what the silence really is, because they have some false ideas regarding the silence and are practicing these ideas instead of seeking a clearer understanding of it.
The silence is not an end in itself; it is merely a means to an end. It is only the threshold to greater things, for beyond the silence lie all the infinite resources of God. To open the door and pass this threshold into the presence of Being, consciously living and moving and having your being in God, is your privilege. Once you have entered into the light, continue to walk in the light, for the light becomes your life.
Man's life is as limited as his ideas. If his ideas have been developed through material associations alone, his life is held in confinement to the measure of material standards. In other words, knowledge is to man what light is to the plant. Only the measure of light that the plant succeeds in incorporating into itself becomes its life. The Scriptures teach clearly that eternal life is in knowing God, and Jesus Christ, whom "he hath sent."
As has been said, the silence is very simple; in fact, it is one of the simplest functions of the mind. Every time we stop to listen, every time we open our mind to receive a new idea, a new impression, or a new inspiration, we practice consciously or unconsciously, all the processes of the silence. Whether we receive the intended idea, impression, or inspiration is another thing, for these impressions pertain to the realm that we have designated as "beyond the silence." The only difference between the attitude of mind here mentioned and the practice of the silence as referred to in these lessons is that the silence is a state of open-mindedness toward God, the one and only presence and power in the universe. The processes are identical, but the objects are to gain knowledge of different kinds from different sources. In the first instance the knowledge gained is of the external world, and in the second instance the knowledge gained is of the inner, spiritual facts back of the external world.
The process of the silence might be simply illustrated by the case of a child saying to its mother, "Mother, tell me a story." There necessarily follows a period of stillness between the asking for a story and the time when the telling of the story actually begins. This period may be long or short, according to conditions in the mind or conduct of both the child and the mother. However, sooner or later the revelation of the story begins, and while the child continues to be silent he is at the same time receiving the revelation, which comes only after he has become still. The revelation continues only so long as the child remains still. The child's stillness is the silence, and the unfoldment of the story is what we refer to as "beyond the silence."
Receptivity to impressions depends largely on the importance that we place on the thing or condition that we wish to know about. The less important it seems to us, the less likely we are to be still, with interested attention. On the other hand, the more important it seems to us, the stiller we automatically become and the more intent is our interest. In proof of this statement, observe what takes place when we sit in an audience before a lecturer. If the speaker is a person of note, one in whom we have great interest and from whom we expect great things, we instantly become still when he arises to speak, and one could literally hear a pin drop. This stillness is in direct proportion to the interest of the audience in the speaker. If the speaker lives up to our expectation, we continue to keep still, but the moment he fails to interest us, we begin to plan ways of possible escape. A speaker who was considered of no importance would have great difficulty in quieting an audience so as to be heard at all.
The greatest possible degree of stillness should come to a person when he realizes that he is in the presence of God, a presence that would be awe-inspiring to anyone realizing the facts of the situation. As a simple turn of the radio dial will bring one in contact with almost any sort of music or entertainment, so man, by the simple turning of his attention, is immediately in tune with the wisdom, the strength, the life, the power, and the substance of God. In fact, no need can develop in the life of man for which he cannot, by the simple act of turning his attention to the thought of God's presence, immediately experience fulfillment. What other fact could be more fascinating? If God is omnipresence, all places are holy, and you are continually standing in His presence. When you realize this, the truth of God's omnipresence dawns on you; it instantly quiets every disturbed or troublesome thought and fills your whole being with an infinite calm, bringing you to a state in which you hear distinctly the "still small voice" within. Then, add to this realization the eternal command to all men, "Be still, and know that I am God," and there will be no difficulty whatever in keeping silence before Him. You may gain further help in this direction by saying to every disquieting thought, "Peace, be still." When silence is realized, look well to that which is to come to you out of this stillness. The silence is but the hem of His garment, while the whole robe of righteousness is for you.
The question naturally arises at this point: What part does affirmation play in the practice of the silence? You may best understand the place and function of an affirmation if you will consider it in the same relation to the divine principle as you would consider a mathematical rule in its relation to the principle of mathematics.
Affirmations may be presented to our consciousness in any one of three ways: firstly, by someone's formulating a thought and stating it to us either verbally or in written form; secondly, by our formulating in our own intellectual mind a thought that expresses a certain truth or condition which we wish to realize; thirdly, by a spontaneous expression of some truth about man's being, which the very soul realizes is the fulfillment of divine purpose. This is the most potent form of affirmation and carries the greatest degree of creative power. You can say "I am happy," affirming a desired condition, and such a statement will be helpful; but when you say "I am happy," expressing an inward joy, it carries the power of your conviction.
Affirmations that are taken from outside sources may or may not have in them a great deal of quickening energy for the one that uses them. The effect of an affirmation is determined largely by the individual's understanding of the Truth and meaning back of the words. The Scriptures state clearly, "In praying use not vain repetitions." Just as with any other process in life, the effectiveness of affirmation lies in its intelligent, understanding use as a process designed to produce a desired result.
An affirmation, as used in applying the principles of practical Christianity, is generally expected to be a statement of absolute Truth from the viewpoint of Being. One can affirm that 2 and 2 equals 5, yet the statement is not an affirmation of mathematical truth. An affirmation of spiritual Truth must conform to the principles of Truth, regardless of apparent facts. If you saw "2 plus 2 equals 5" on the blackboard, you would immediately say, "2 plus 2 equals A." The power of your statement, the authority with which you speak, and the results that follow are all determined by the fact that your declaration expresses the underlying Truth, regardless of all appearances.
The incorrect problem on the blackboard and your declaration of the mathematical truth about it brings up another important point in the use of affirmation. Do you make the correct declaration to compel something to be so, or is it because it is already so ? The fact is that you make the declaration because it is true, and this truth causes a rearrangement of the figures on the board. Always remember that the power of an affirmation is in the spiritual fact described, and this, when understood and applied, compels a corresponding change in outward appearances. Herein lies the true effectiveness of affirmation: It is true in God and, being true in God, it is an unalterable fact in life and all external things must give way to express this fact.
God is omnipresent, therefore everything that is true of God is true at every point in the universe; therefore it is true of me, of every other member of the race, and within every atom of the universe. Truth is the same yesterday, today, and forever; therefore everything that was true at one time, or that ever will be true in the future, is true now. When we make an affirmation or declare anything that is true of God, with this realization of Truth, we see at once that the moving force within our affirmation does not arise from our own mind, but is a power that infinitely transcends the activity of our mind. That which is true universally has within it the moving force of the universe, the moving force of God, of the Spirit which moved "upon the face of the deep" in the beginning. This is the spirit that "giveth life." This is power supreme, and when we allow this power to move through us in the same degree, the result will be the same as came about in the life of Jesus when He declared, "The Father abiding in me doeth his works."
In the first place, affirmation is to be used merely for the purpose of educating the conscious self to a knowledge of that which is true in a universal sense. When our mind is purified and lifted up to the knowledge of Truth, we shall be forever free from the multitude of false beliefs that inhabit our mind at the present time and we shall know ourselves as we are known in God. However, this change is not complete with the change of thoughts in individual consciousness. The process must be carried on until the whole manifest world is changed to conform to the standards of universal Truth.
There are three questions that a person may well ask of every affirmation that comes to him, questions that will help him to arrive at an intelligent understanding of its meaning and the process of Truth involved in it. The first of these questions is: What does it mean? The second may be stated as follows: Is it true to Principle—true to the fact that God is omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, embodying all life, all love, all substance, all intelligence, and being the same at all points in the universe? In the third place he may ask: Do I believe it? Faith is your vital contact with anything in life. If you understand your affirmation, if it is true to Principle, and if you thoroughly believe it, then make it in the fullest assurance that it will inevitably bring forth perfect results, for it has back of it all the authority and power of the universe.
Finally, through use of the intellectually formed affirmation the conscious mind becomes sufficiently purified to enable it to record the pure impulses of the soul. The affirmations are spontaneously formed from within and are spoken in the realization of Truth rather than for the purpose of developing a realization of Truth. It is like the change that takes place with a child in studying the piano. First he practices that he may become a musician. Finally, when he arrives at a certain point of musical development, his playing is an expression of his developed musical sense. However, the preliminary practice helped him to attain to this point.
The point in connection with affirmation that we wish to make very clear is this: In the use of affirmations, feel that they are but a means by which you are carried into a realization of the Truth which they describe. Try to feel that as you are making these statements you are being carried closer and closer into the very heart of the one Presence and one Power, and that your words derive their power from the infinite action of the one Presence and one Power.
In selecting affirmations try to be reasonably sure that they are true from the viewpoint of God. Then use them to lift yourself into a clearer realization of the Truth involved in each statement. To practice an affirmation in the silence is to accept it as a vehicle through which the activity of Spirit is manifesting in your being.
Like the calm that follows the storm, there come times when affirmations or other methods of prayer do not seem to suffice, when one wishes merely to be still in the presence of God. Such a time is really a phase of the silence—that phase which intervenes between the activity of an idea which has fulfilled its mission and the coming forth of a new idea which is related to one's next step in spiritual evolution. It is accompanied by a sense such as is expressed in the sentence, "Jehovah is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him." At such times it requires no effort to remain silent in order that one's spirit may mingle, as it were, with the great Spirit of God. These are moments of high revelation when God speaks to the very heart and mind of man.
But, you may ask, how may I know when I have touched the presence of God? You may know it because there is no other presence to touch, unless you have a belief in another presence. If you will stick to the premise with which we started, there will be no mistaking the divine presence. However, there are many degrees of contacts with God, and we gain the blessings of each degree by acknowledging Him continually.
The Hem of His Garment
Another way of describing the silence itself is that it is a period of stillness which intervenes between the activity of our own ideas and the time when we become conscious of the activity of God-Mind. This is true in one sense, yet in another sense this very stillness is in itself our very first conscious contact with God-Mind, if we but realize it. Is not God the great silent force moving in and through all creation? If so, the moment we come into a sense of stillness we have actually become aware of the very first attribute of God—we have touched the hem of His garment. To acknowledge this sense of stillness as the very presence of God—which it is—is to take the first and most vital step toward actual revelation of further degrees of the divine nature, which lie beyond this hem of His garment, this outermost nature of the divine presence.
In further connection with the period that intervenes between the activity of an idea which has fulfilled its mission and the activity of a new idea which takes its place, let us know this once for all: The ideas of yesterday are inadequate to meet the demands of a growing soul. No matter how great yesterday's experience may have been, we should look forward each day in anticipation of still greater revelations. Sometimes, however, because of our own mental lethargy or for some other reason we do not pass quickly over the transitional period; consequently we experience a depression. We are quite likely to reach the condition that Jesus had reached during the Crucifixion when He cried out: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" This cry preceded His resurrection by only a short period. So it does with us. Such periods are not only evidence that our former ideas have run their course, but are prophetic of a new cycle of experience, the dawn of a new creation in us, the herald of the next step in our spiritual growth. Instead of being times of despondency or discouragement, they should be times of keenest anticipation, of a new hope arising from the fact that we have arrived at the point of spiritual revelation. At such times one's expectancy should be at its highest, for God is about to speak to one. At such moments in the future, let us look forward to a new revelation that shall, for another period of progress, be our very meat and drink.
At this point it would be well for us to consider the idea of "going within" and its application to the silence. The idea of going within originates from the scriptural teaching regarding the kingdom of heaven's being within us, and from the directions regarding prayer given by Jesus in His instruction to "enter into thine inner chamber." This going within literally means going to the spiritual fact that lies back of the outer manifestation. Let us go back to our reference to mathematics in a previous paragraph. To consider the mathematical fact back of the figures on the blackboard is equivalent to going within. The figures themselves are the without, the appearance; whether they are right or wrong, the inner fact, or the within, is the truth. In addition to this, however, a knowledge of the fact must exist in the consciousness of the individual.
Again, to be conscious of the inner facts of Spirit involves a faculty of the mind not understandingly used in man's daily affairs; this faculty is the discerning power of the intuitional nature. Intuition has its seat in the more sensitive portion of man's sympathetic nervous system, known as the solar plexus; man's spiritual revelations come through this inner sense, which seems to have its means of contact with man's consciousness in the very innermost parts of his being. Going within therefore has a double significance. God is Spirit, and the things of God are spiritually discerned: that is the revelation sought in the process of going within, for it is through discernment by the inner intuitional nature that this revelation actually comes into consciousness. But one should remember that the inner facts of life —the spiritual facts—are the same at every point in the universe; also that things which are true at any point in the universe, the facts pertaining to God, are also present and true within your own being. If, in your search for this underlying truth, you go beyond your own body, beyond your own ideas, to that point where all sense of self ceases, then you stand face to face with the allness of God; then you have truly found the silence.
Again, the silence may be likened to the experience that was the writer's when he first saw the Grand Canyon. The train arrived early in the morning, and before the tourists went into the hotel for breakfast it was quite natural for them to run over to the rim of the canyon for a first glimpse of it. It was so immense and beautiful that the mind could not take it in. After breakfast another visit to the rim, and still there was the utter inability of the mind to grasp the grandeur of the scene. In fact, the canyon was so immense that one's attempt to comprehend it seemed to paralyze the mind. After each visit to the rim it seemed necessary to retire into the quiet of the surrounding woods in order that the mind might adjust itself to the grandeur and beauty and immensity of this marvelous spectacle. It was awe inspiring. This absolute enthrall-ment of the mind is quite similar to the experience that man has when he really enters the silence, conscious that in so doing he actually enters the presence of God. Here he realizes how futile his own thinking is, for as the heavens are high above the earth, so are the thoughts of God above the thoughts of man. This is the silence of the gods, where man so closely touches the divine nature that his own independent thinking processes are lost to sight in contemplation and realization of the infinite activity in the processes of God. Here one begins to realize the infinity of the "Spirit of God" that "in the beginning . . . moved upon the face of the waters," and feels it as the life-giving power of the inspiration of the Almighty.
The simplest and perhaps most effective means of making the silence, and the process of entering it, perfectly clear is the illustration of the echo. No doubt you have at some time stood in a canyon or other place where you could hear the echo of your own voice. After you said "hello" and paused for a moment, there came back to you from the depths of the canyon the echo of that same hello. Your call echoed and re-echoed, softer, fainter, and farther away, until it eventually died away entirely. Many people are interested only in the echo and they keep the canyon vibrant with the noise of their own voices. One who might be interested beyond this point has but to continue to listen, and finally a great sense of stillness and perfect calm seems to settle down around him. In that moment he touches a phase of life that is never known to those who busy themselves only with the processes of their own minds or voices. The stillness of the canyon is identical with the silence as we refer to it, except that in the silence one has paused in the presence of God and has sent forth his call to know the nature of Being. As man waits until the reaction of his own thought processes ceases, he finds himself face to face with the Infinite. This is the real silence, and, while but the threshold of the Infinite, it is the very hem of His garment, with healing and illuminating power for any who will persist until he touches it.
"Be still, and know that I am God." Do not worry about appearances or lack of appearances. In perfect confidence look toward the land that lies beyond the silence, knowing that from beyond the stillness—from beyond your own unformed states of consciousness, from beyond your doubts and fears—will come the light that "shineth in the darkness," and in the light will be revealed a vision of that which you are in God. Thus each day you will bring forth more of the image and likeness of God, in which you were created in the beginning.
Hear this, all ye people;
Give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world . . .
My mouth shall speak wisdom;
And the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.