Happy is the man that findeth wisdom,
And the man that getteth unsilver,
And the profit thereof than fine gold.
She is more precious than rubies:
And none of the things thou canst desire are to be compared unto her.
Length of days is in her right hand;
In her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
And all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: vAnd happy is every one that retaineth her. . .
With all thy getting get understanding. --
Prov. 3:13-18; 4:7
1. What is this understanding on the getting of which depends so much? Is it intellectual lore, obtained from delving deep into books of other men's rocks (geology), or stars (astronomy), or even the human body (physiology)? Nay, verily, for when did such knowledge ever insure life and health and peace, ways of pleasantness, with riches and honor?
2. Understanding is a spiritual birth, a revelation of God within the heart of man. Jesus touched the root of the matter when, after having asked the apostles a question that was answered variously, according to the intellectual perception of the men, He asked another question to which Peter gave a reply not based on external reasoning, but on intuition. He said to Peter, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 16:17).
3. You may have an intellectual perception of Truth. You may easily grasp with the mind the statement that God is the giver of all good gifts -- life, health, love -- just as people have for centuries grasped it. Or you may go further, and intellectually see that God is not only the giver, but the gift itself; that He is life, health, love, in us. But unless Truth is "revealed. . .unto thee" by "my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 16:17), it is of no practical benefit to you or to anyone else.
4. This revelation of Truth to the consciousness of a person is spiritual understanding.
5. 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 effect, and for a time you will feel well and wise and happy. This is simply a form of hypnotism, or mind cure. But until, down in the depths of your being, you are conscious of your oneness with the Father, until you know within yourself that the spring of all wisdom and health and joy is within your own being, ready at any moment to leap forth at the call of your need, you will not have spiritual understanding.
6. All the teachings of Jesus were for the purpose of leading men into this consciousness of their oneness with the Father. He had to begin at the external man -- because people then as now were living mostly in external things -- and teach him to love his enemies, to do good to others, and so forth. These were external steps for them to take -- a sort of lopping off of the ends of the branches; but they were steps that led on up to the place of desire and attainment where finally the Master said, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16:12).
7. He told them of the Comforter that should be in them, and which should teach them all things, revealing the "deep things of God" (I Cor. 2:10) to them, showing them things to come. In other words, He told them how they might find the kingdom of heaven within themselves -- the kingdom of love, of power, of life.
8. The coming of the Comforter to their hearts and lives, giving them power over every form of sin, sickness, sorrow, and over even death itself, is exactly what we mean by understanding or realization. The power that this consciousness of the indwelling Father gives is for us today as much as it was for those to whom the Nazarene spoke. Aye, more; for did He not say, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do" (John 14:12)?
9. All the foregoing lessons have been stepping-stones leading up to the point where man may realize that ever-abiding inner presence of the Most High, God. "Know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you?" (I Cor. 6:19).
10. I cannot reveal God to you. You cannot 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 that "bloweth where it will, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is everyone that is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8). The new birth takes place in the silence, in the invisible.
11. Intellectual lore can be bought and sold; understanding, or realization, cannot. A man, Simon by name, once attempted to buy the power that spiritual understanding gives, from another who possessed it. "But Peter said unto him, Thy silver perish with thee, because thou hast thought to obtain the gift of God with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right before God" (Acts 8:20,21).
12. 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 the power it would give them. "Ye ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that ye may spend it in your pleasures" (or to serve selfish ends) (James 4:3).
13. Understanding, or realization of the presence of God within us, is as Peter said, "the gift of God" (John 4:10). It comes to any and all who learn how to seek it aright. Emerson said, "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"
14. "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13). 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.
15. One may so desire a partial revelation of God within himself, a revelation along one line -- as, for instance, that of health -- as to seek it with all his heart. And if he has learned how to take the desired gift, by uncompromising affirmation that it is his already, he will get understanding, or realization, of God as his perfect health. So with any other desired gift of God. This is a step in the right direction. 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 within him saying, "Come up higher," and he will pass beyond any merely selfish desires that are just for his own comfort's sake. He will desire good that he may have the more to give out, knowing that as good (God) flows through him to others it will make him "every whit whole" (John 7:23).
16. In the beginning of Solomon's reign as king over Israel, the divine Presence appeared to him in a dream at night, saying: "Ask what I shall give thee" (I Kings 3:5). And Solomon said: "Give thy servant therefore an understanding heart" (I Kings 3:9).
17. "And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.
18. "And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life, neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies, but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern justice;
19. "Behold, I have done according to thy word: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there hath been none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.
20. "And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honor, so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee, all thy days" (I Kings 3:10-13).
21. Thus in losing sight of all worldly goods and chattels, all merely selfish ends, and desiring above all things an understanding heart (or a spiritual consciousness of God within him as wisdom, life, power), Solomon received all the good or good things included, so that there was none among the kings like unto him in worldly possessions. "Seek ye first his kingdom (consciousness), and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33). "For whosoever would save his life (the things of his life) shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake (that is willing to forget the so-called good things of this life for the Truth's sake, choosing before all things the finding of God in his own soul) shall find it" (Matt. 16:25).
22. 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 like the prodigal son is to say as he did, "I will arise and go to my Father" (Luke 15:18) to turn your thoughts away from the external seeming toward the central and real; to know intellectually that you are not cut off from God, and that He forever desires to manifest Himself within you as your present deliverance from all suffering and sin. Just as Jesus taught, we begin our journey toward understanding by cutting off the branches of our selfishness. We try to love instead of to hate. Instead of avenging ourselves, we begin to forgive, even if it costs us great mental effort. We begin to deny envy, jealousy, anger, sickness, and all imperfection, and to affirm love, peace, and health.
23. Begin with the words of Truth that you have learned, and which perhaps you have as yet only comprehended with the intellect. You must be willing to take the very first light you receive and use it faithfully, earnestly, to help both yourself and others. Sometimes you will be almost overcome by questions and doubts arising in your own mind when you are looking in vain for results. But you must with effort pass the place of doubt; and some day, in the fullness of God's time, while you are using the words of Truth, they will suddenly be illumined and become to you the living word with you -- "the true light, even the light which lighteth every man, coming into the world" (John 1:9). 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 more divine life in your body, and a new and more divine love for all people, a new and more divine power to accomplish.
24. This is spiritual understanding. This is a flash of the Most High within your consciousness. "The old things are passed away, behold, they are become new" (II Cor. 5:17). this will be the time when you will not "talk with men with an eye to their opinion." This is when you will suddenly become plain and true; when you will cease to desire admiration; when all words of congratulation from others on your success will fill you with an inexpressible sense of humility; when all mere compliments will be to you as "sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal" (I Cor. 13:1). Truly, for that inspiration a man comes back with a changed tone!
25. With spiritual understanding comes new light on the Scriptures. The very Spirit of truth, which has come to bide with you forever in your consciousness, takes the deep things of God and reveals them to you. You will no longer run to and fro, seeking teachers or healers and rely solely on them for guidance. You will gladly let them help you reach the point where you will know that the living light, the living word within you, will "guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13).
26. What we need to do is to seek the revelation of the living Christ within our own being, each for himself, knowing that only this divinity come forth can make us powerful and happy.
27. Every person in his heart desires, though he may not yet quite know it, this new birth into a higher life, into spiritual consciousness. Everyone wants more power, more good, more joy. And though to the unawakened mind it may seem that it is more money as money, or more goods that he wants, it is, nevertheless, more of good (God) that he craves; for all good is God.
28. Many today are conscious that the inner hunger cannot be satisfied with worldly goods, and are with all earnestness seeking spiritual understanding, or consciousness, of an immanent God. They have been seeking long, with a great desire of unselfishness and a feeling that when they have truly found God they will begin to do for others. Faithful service for others hastens the day-dawning for us. The gifts of God are not given in reward for faithful service, as a fond mother gives cakes to her child for being good; nevertheless they are a reward, inasmuch as service is one of the steps that leads up to the place where all the fullness of God awaits men. And while spiritual understanding is in reality a "gift of God," it comes to us more or less quickly in proportion as we use the light that we already have.
29. I believe that too much introspection, too much of what people usually call "spiritual seeking," is detrimental rather than helpful to the end desire -- spiritual growth. "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.
30. "Is not this the fast that I have chosen (said the spirit of God through the prophet Isaiah): to loose the bond of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free?
31. "Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him.
32. "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy healing shall spring forth speedily. . . Then shalt thou call, and Jehovah will answer. . .Here I am.
33. "And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in darkness, and thine obscurity be as the noonday;
34. "And Jehovah will guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in dry places, and make strong thy bones; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not" (Isa. 58:6-11).
35. Stagnation is death. A pool cannot be kept clean and sweet and renewed unless there is an outlet as well as an inlet. It is our business to keep both the inlet and outlet open, and God's business to keep the stream flowing in and through us. Unless you use for the service of others what God has already given to you, you will find it a long, weary road to spiritual understanding.
36. We cry out and strain every nerve to obtain full understanding, just as sometimes we have heard earnest people, but people wholly ignorant of divine laws, beseech God for the full baptism of "the Holy Spirit" (Luke 3:16) as in the day of Pentecost. Jesus said, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16:12). We grow by using for others the light and knowledge we have. We expand, as we go on step by step in spiritual insight, until in the fullness of time -- which means when we have grown spiritually up to the place where God sees that we are able to bear the many things -- we receive the desire of our hearts, understanding.
37. 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 thy light rise in darkness, and thine obscurity be as the noonday" (Isa. 58:10) and "then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy healing shall spring forth speedily" (Isa. 58:8).