Eric Butterworth Unity Podcast #2
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“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.” This is Psalm 100, usually the theme for Thanksgiving services across the land. We’re not celebrating Thanksgiving Day today, it comes Thursday. We’re celebrating the underlying principle, the attitude of gratitude. Having a day of Thanksgiving is kind of convenient, provides the way for what I call short order piety. You may have a total lack of thankfulness, perpetual attitude of ingratitude, and one day of the year, you do Thanksgiving, counting your blessings, feeling grateful for good things and happy relationships. On Friday, having done Thanksgiving, you go back to work, possibly back to commiserating, worrying about physical problems, financial burdens, ingratitude of the family, low compensation of work, and that crime and violence is so much a part of the world we live in.
I have observed, obviously tongue and cheek, we might have an annual tribulation day, one whole day tribulating. You get that from a woman who said, “when the Lord sends me tribulation, it’s my duty to tribulate.” So we could take one full day of griping, complaining, revealing the instancy of ingratitude, then go back to the glorious year of the remaining 364 days living with an attitude of gratitude. Partly kidding of course, there’s a lot in it that’s worthy of serious attention.
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, can you catch the vitality of those words? Suggesting that Thanksgiving should be observed not perfunctorily, but with enthusiasm and vitality. Old [psalm] 100 will be read, preached on soon across the land this week, how often I wonder, will it reflect a true attitude of gratitude? There’s the celebrant sometimes engaging in what Gilbert and Sullivan called, “Platitudes in Stained Glass Attitudes.” Where which is the heart really thankful? Or are the words simply mouthed to cover a heart that is worryful, lackful, fearful, careful?
A little girl was sleeping over at her auntie’s at bed time the auntie reminded the child, when she went to bed, to say her prayers. The woman sat in the room while the child got down by the bed, said her prayers of rote, and finally said, “That was beautiful dear you say the words so sincerely.” The little girl said, that’s nothing auntie, you ought to hear me gargle. Prayer to the little girl was an accomplishment of memory and imitation. Sometimes it could make our face red if analyzed the way in which we’ve gone through such things as Thanksgiving in past years.
Is it truly a joyful noise? Do we express our thankfulness with enthusiasm, true celebration? Here’s a little word association test. What word comes when we use the phrases “Pray to God”, “Worship God”, “Giving thanks to God”? Then think of the word, obligation. We need to be clear on this point, we need to expand our God concept. Your prayer is not for God, it’s an alteration of your consciousness. Worship is not a performance that you stage for God’s eyes, for his approval. Returning thanks is not an attempt to give a portion of your good back to God. There is no way you could do this. No strings attached in the abundance that comes to you. I have been known occasionally to make a shocking statement. Here’s one that I like. It makes no difference to God whether you pray, worship, or express thanks to him or not. It makes no difference to God, whether you pray or not, or give thanks or not.
Can you imagine your God sitting off in a corner sulking because of your lack of appreciation? Can you imagine God saying, such an ingrate after all I’ve done for him? Ridiculous isn’t it? It’s important to recognize that, that which we call God is too almighty, too great, too infinite to be saddened by any lack on our part of reverence. The reverence, the prayer, the worship, is not for God. It’s for you and me. Helping us to get into an awareness of the allness of God which is always present.
Meister Eckhard, a beloved parish priest, expressed some things that were certainly many years ahead of his time. Basic metaphysics we would call it. He expressed this from his pulpit, in his little parish church, things that if really understood, would have made him a candidate for burning at the stake. A typical Eckartism which I love is, “I never give thanks to God for loving me, because he can’t help himself.” Because God is love. God doesn’t love some more than others, God doesn’t love at times, and other times express resistance. God is love.
When we get into the flow of love, we express love. It comes easily through us. Thanksgiving is an important state of your consciousness. It keeps you in the awareness, the oneness of the divine flow. Some part that is yet insight. This brings us to the heart of the inner meaning of Thanksgiving. We say often “you are a spiritual being.” What does this mean, “you’re a spiritual being”? It means that life is lived from within out. That your true life is an inner life, an inner degree of essence. It is a divine fountain within which must be ready to flow freely. Health and well-being are fruits of keeping in the flow.
This has become probably the most important insight of truth to me, wherever you are, whatever your need, God is within you. The whole universe stands behind you to a degree equal to the full extent of your needs. All the power of heaven and earth are working on your side. On the side of healing, on the side of overcoming. In other words, thanksgiving is not just a reactionary emotion, something happens and I give thanks for it. Something that you feel when good things happen to you. Thanksgiving is a causative energy, an energy that listens to the highest level of consciousness, enabling us to experience the highest quality of life, is the idea of thanksgiving.
A person may say, I have so much that I’m grateful, but it may be that you have so much because you’re grateful. Gratitude is a level of consciousness that opens the way to the divine flow and attracts new good things. It brings you to the feast that Olga talked about. God prepares the table before me, you can experience blessings from the cosmic flow. I always had a belief that if I can get a view from high enough up, see from a perspective of wholeness, then I will be able to deal effectively with life. All my life, I’ve loved the mountains.
At the time of my greatest realizations, mountain top, points of inspiration, are in the mountains. In the early days of the second world war, I went through a struggle of conscience. I hated war, but then I felt a responsibility to my country. The problem was I was a ministerial student, eligible for a 4-D classification which would exempt me from the draft. I wasn’t sure about that. Took a trip to the Rocky Mountains, a favorite wilderness area of mine where I pack in back up into the hills in the mountains. Each morning I would climb the highest peak around and sit in quiet meditation. Not expecting to hear God’s voice, but I needed direction, I needed to know what to do to resolve this conflict within myself.
In two days it became clear, I would just go about my day to day affairs and let life happen. I formulated an affirmation that I’ve used through the years, and it has been used through the Unity movement.
God’s Law of Adjustment regulates all the affairs of my life, and all things are in divine order.
God’s Law of Adjustment regulates all the affairs of my life, all things are in divine order. To make a long story short, and it’s been an interesting story which I may tell some other time. I was drafted, I was assigned to the medical corps. I had a very fulfilling and meaningful experience during my years in the service. It was the view from the top. That mountain top perspective that opened the way. This I think is what Thanksgiving is, at least it is to me.
Some years ago some friends of ours are visiting us from England, we were in New York City, it was their first trip to our big city. And they came all prepared with the lurid stories about the crime, and the insecurity, and various problems in the city. I took these people to the top of the RCA building, whenever I’m showing people around the city I always give them this high perspective first. They loved it, it was one of those clear days that you could see forever.
When we were touring the city the man kept saying, I can’t forget that view from the top, it colors everything I see. That’s the helpful insight on Thanksgiving. The view from the top. Contemplating the challenging, changing conditions, and experiences and persons from the highest possible point of view. From this high perspective you can see through the clarity that we don’t have at other times. See the activity of God. Get your consciousness centered in this cosmic flow of life, look up and see the wider sphere, see the creative process at work, see the activity of God in persons, and situations. And when you do, just spontaneously find yourself in an awareness of Thanksgiving.
Many of you recall that story in the Bible of Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus, he was three days in the tomb, Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha were distraught with grief, Jesus had people roll the stone away and then he lifted up his eyes, in other words he got the view from the top. And he said, “Father I thank you that you hear me, you hear me always.” Imagine people saying Thanksgiving this is a mockery. The man is dead, thanksgiving indeed. Jesus knew that the key to power is acknowledging the availability of power. He wasn’t giving thanks for something, how could you give thanks for the fact that your friend was in the tomb? He was giving thanks from the high perspective that saw life as transcendent through death. It’s a good thing to keep in mind.
How can we say I don’t have anything to give thanks for? It’s irrelevant, you always have something to give thanks from. If you give thanks from this high perspective, tune into your awareness of the universe, then you will attract the things to give thanks for. But the thanksgiving comes first. Jesus affirmed, “I am the resurrection and the life,” not to make it true, but affirming that that was his true, from the mountain top perspective. And he cried out, Lazarus come forth. And Lazarus walked out free and whole. And in a contemporary frame of reference, there’s no way you can understand the implications of this event. I say, don’t get so involved in analyzing that you lose sight of the single fundamental.
If Jesus would lift up his eyes to get the view from the top, when dealing with the final enemy of death, how much more important for us to look up and give thanks in every experience of our lives? Actually thanksgiving can be a golden key to resurrecting the waning possibilities of any experience or relationship. There’s an old saying, a donkey may carry heavy loads of precious sandalwood on his back, and never know it’s preciousness, only it’s weight. Many persons go through life feeling only the weighted circumstances seeming unable to appreciate the precious nature of life, because of the chronic negativity.
Heads bowed down, eyes fixed on the ground, he needs to look up, get the transcendent view, cultivate the attitude of gratitude. Not just an occasional peon of thanksgiving and praise, but the perpetual attitude of gratitude. Thanksgiving comes to our minds turning it to nostalgic home and family over the years, some folks look back with fear and resentment at the early life that they fear was unhappy. Praise God I look back on a very happy life, my mind turns nostalgically to our mother. She was a great soul, and many of you have heard me talk about her at times. She was great because she was able to face up to a very difficult life, I had a father who was beloved, but terribly irresponsible. He was a gambler, and he wasn’t a very good one.
So that many times that I can remember through the years, our father would get up to his ears in debts, mortgage the house out from under us, and leave mother and four children with no resources, I emphasize NO RESOURCES. Some people today think they know what it means to be poor, to hunger, to be without. But when you’ve been through an experience of no resources, not a penny in your pocket, not a penny in the bank, nowhere to go, no food in the cupboard, you understand what a penury experience is. Mother experienced this often, but among bigger occasions I remember, she had an unswerving conviction, the universe is always seeking to give you the fullness of life.
She would always say of any need, I give thanks for abundance. I give thanks for healing. I give thanks. She always preceded her thought about anything that was a problem, that I give thanks. She was a natural truth student, she found truth over the back fence talking to a neighbor. They had many talks over the back fence, then both of them eventually went on to become ministers in truth. At home we had many experiences of standing together in oneness of prayer, often because there was a desperate need. Mother would often gather the four of us with her, we’d hold hands in a circle, she would give thanks for divine order, and for abundance, for protection.
One very memorable experience that I would like to share with you, some of you have heard me relate this before. We would listen to an opera or a symphony many times over so I guess we can listen to this story over again. It was a Saturday afternoon, the Butterworth family were all working around the house, painting, gardening, cleaning up, it was a lovely house. In a very exclusive neighborhood, I have to emphasize that because it was probably an upper class neighborhood, beautiful house we lived in. So no one knew other than these people the Butterworths were unusually industrious. Certainly no one would have thought that we were working the yard because we had nothing else to do. The fact was that on one of these occasions father had gone off, left the family destitute.
Mother was always ingenious, resourceful. I remember she went out one day and said I’m going to find a house for us to live in. She found an unrented home, it was in need of repair because they weren’t renting it. She made a deal with the landlord, he would provide materials and we would do the work in exchange for living in the house rent free. So we lived in this beautiful house as if we had abundance, it was all appearance. And the house next to us which was really an estate, it was a large garden party going on while we worked around the yard. And in the afternoon around supper time we began to congregate as children are want to do around the kitchen in the house. We noticed that nothing was going on.
Mother called us in explained that there was nothing in the cupboard, there was nothing to eat, said just join with me in giving thanks, we know that it will work out. I don’t think any of us were ever concerned because mother had a way of pulling us through all these experiences. She had us set the table, lay out the best linens and silver, which were remnants of better days. Eventually it became meal time, nothing was there, we sat around the table holding hands, Mother said grace. I do remember it was a little longer that day. The prayer was interrupted by a knock at the back door, it was a maid from this garden party, she said her employer had asked her to come over and see if we would accept some of the left overs from the party because she knew that we had been working in the yard all day, and we hadn’t had time to prepare dinner.
Well graciously we said we would be happy to accept it. Very soon the table was laden with silver bowls and tureens warm and sumptuous food, lavish feast, and beautiful things. Desserts and hors d’oeuvres, and everything. It was a happy day at the Butterworth’s. It’s only in retrospect that I looked on the experience with awe, as I say when Mother was doing this sort of thing so often. She was always in tune with the divine flow, and she knew that somehow it would always work out, and it always did. I could spend an hour telling stories like this that happened in my early life. If you have a grateful heart you can never be poor, without gratitude you’re never rich.
I remember the story of the walking dowager who was complaining of aches and pains, and she eventually went to a doctor, he gave her all the tests, and then he said, Madame there’s nothing really wrong with you, I advise you to go and get a job. She protested, “But doctor how could I work, I’m tired all the time?” He said, “My dear you need something to be tired from, not tired of.” Her symptoms which are not too uncommon, there was a little too much comfort in the house, not enough gratitude in the heart. The need for the attitude with gratitude.
Thanksgiving reminds us not just what we have to give thanks for, but to give thanks from. This puts a whole new meaning on Thanksgiving. In the old days we used to sit back and count our blessings, think of the things that we had to be thankful for, think of the good relationships, and people, and money in the bank, jobs and so forth. The hard thing is to give thanks from. I mean there are very very great degrees in the levels of state or station in life. A seemingly great variation of reasons for thanksgiving, and some may say and perhaps with good reason, that they have nothing to give thanks for. But always we have much to give thanks from. Because you’re a spiritual being, you’re the whole universe expressing itself as you. You have the whole universe in your support.
Never forget, and lose sight of this consciousness, you may grovel in the dirt, always that divine flow is within us, we always have that to give thanks from. Our spiritual ground, foundation principles of truth. When you really get the truth into your consciousness, you never face an experience in your life, where you feel there is nothing you can do. Nowhere to go. You can always go within. Never have a time when you feel there’s nothing to give thanks for, because you know you can always give thanks from the consciousness of your spiritual nature. Some people do great things, and have much in the way of health and possessions. Seemingly have important reasons for thanksgiving, but no matter what you know that you have, you can always rejoice in what others have.
Celebrate the flow. It takes a very perceptive person to realize this but try to get it into your consciousness. When you really get the attitude of gratitude, you see the consciousness that enables you to see abundance wherever it is, and celebrate it. You can do nothing more than walking down Fifth Avenue and looking in the windows, not enviously looking at the things, but celebrating their beauty. Go down to an art gallery and the celebrate the creativity that flowed through the artist. Celebrate the good that’s around you. I love the literary creation of Rostand, Chantecler. Remember the rooster who thought his crowing caused the sun to rise, he would get up before dawn every morning, prepare himself, you could see him preening his feathers, let out his loud cocka-doodle-doo. And then the sun would rise.
He did this every day, he felt a great meaning and purpose in his life, and then one day he overslept, sadly found that the sun had already risen, it was a crushing blow to him, life had no meaning, he had been kidding himself, there was no purpose for his life. Then came a flash of insight which is the great thing coming to such as the lowly creature as the rooster, he found himself saying that maybe it is not my poor the voice that brings on the day, but even if it may not cause the sun to rise, I may lift my voice and celebrate its rising. That’s the spirit of Thanksgiving.
Some marvelous insight into thanksgiving of positive power. Not just a reactionary emotion, but a causative energy, thanksgiving that causes things to happen. You can get the view from the top, you can appreciate great things, and be grateful that you can. You can celebrate the abundance that is everywhere, no matter whose life it may appear in. Think about this, what would an art museum be without art buffs? What would a symphony orchestra be without music lovers? We can’t all paint or sew, or compose, or sing, or play, but we can celebrate the creative works wherever they spring forth. Maybe appreciation is the greatest kind of creativity. Maybe affluence is not just a free flow of substance into your life, but the ability to celebrate all the abundance in the universe.
I love the attitude of the supporter of our radio work who sends a gift, occasionally with a cryptic note, “Here’s a piece of the universe. It reflects the consciousness, I live in the universe, and the universe lives in me. It is mine to use and enjoy.” The art galleries, the libraries, the museums, they’re ours to enjoy. The sunrises, and the moonlit nights, the colors of fall are all ours to celebrate. How rich you can feel if you touch this theme, this feeling of riches is the key to opening the flow. Give thanks for abundance, as Plato says, “A grateful heart is a great heart. It attracts to itself great things.” The grateful heart attracts great things. So the spirit of Thanksgiving is the consciousness of joy and celebration, that opens the way for the flow.
We ultimately have much to give thanks for, and it may have come about because you give thanks from.
And finally we need to emphasize the giving aspect of Thanksgiving. Interesting enough the Hebrew word for Thanksgiving is todah which literally means “stretching forward of the open hands.” It’s a beautiful thing if you can get the thanksgiving consciousness, find your high point. You don’t have to get into the mountains, or up a tree, top of the house. Sit in your garden, sit in the park. Stretch forth your hands in blessing to conditions and relationships everywhere. Perfectly project a positive and loving blessing to everyone and everything that has touched your life. Cultivate the attitude of gratitude, it will keep you constantly in the creative flow, Todah, stretch forth your hands.
I would like you to close your eyes for a moment, I want you to feel something welling up within you. Put yourself in tune with the creative flow, remember you can never get out of this flow.
All the wealth of the universe that is sprung up through the experience of people here and there, all the wealth that you see and the beauty of trees and the gardens, and the mountains and the sky. It’s all there as an expression, the infinite creative process that’s drawing through you. Celebrate it. Give thanks for it. Know that this depth of beauty and richness, and affluence is within you take a moment to give expression to it.
Stretch forth your hands, literally do this, now hold your hands forward, hands open as if you’re giving something, and giving way all the love, sincerity, peace, and power, and gratefulness in your consciousness. Flowing forth as a blessing to all persons, Todah. To give thanks, you give thanks, you give it away. Then Thanksgiving becomes a giving way, and giving way to the world around you. So during this Thanksgiving season try to get a new perspective.
Stop thinking what the world has given to you, that you have to give thanks for. Think of yourself giving way to the divine flow, and be grateful in this consciousness, perpetual attitude of gratitude. Remember that the grateful heart is a great heart, which ultimately attracts to itself great things. You’ll have the great things, things to give thanks for, but your focus will be on the giving way, giving of things, Todah.
May this be the most meaningful, most beautiful, most perceptive, most fulfilling Thanksgiving that you’ve ever known. Praise God for the truth that makes us free. So be it.