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EBUP53: The Drift of the Tide

Eric Butterworth Unity Podcast #53

Eric Butterworth Sunday Services — The Drift of the Tide

Every moment of your life, you’re at a point of decision. The crossroads of personal choice. You may be asking, “Which way should I go? What shall I buy or sell? Should I take that job I’ve been offered or remain where I am? Should I take the road less traveled or follow the multitudes in what is being done?” … Life for such folks could be best be described as, drifting with the tide.


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Every moment of your life, you’re at a point of decision. The crossroads of personal choice. You may be asking, “Which way should I go? What shall I buy or sell? Should I take that job I’ve been offered or remain where I am? Should I take the road less traveled or follow the multitudes in what is being done?” I always find it shocking to hear true students of truth fatalistic-ly say, “Que sera sera. What will be, will be.” The person may even be under the illusion that it is a positive attitude. These people may not realize that they have always, they always have a choice, in terms of how they think.

Life for such folks could be best be described as, drifting with the tide. We’re going to use as a metaphor today, a rowboat drifting in the bay. Some of you may reflect sometime in your life when you’ve been in a rowboat, rowing around. You know what it is to drift in the tide. I was thinking this morning of a experience I had many years ago when I was a youngster. My family used to take a beach house in a part called Anaheim Landing in California, which was an inlet from the ocean, forming kind of a bay, where we had all sorts of recreational activities.

If you go to the upper end of the bay, the inlet went several miles inland to tide flats. We had a little experience that we did from time to time, we’d go clam digging. We’d always go in the right time, when the tide was coming in, so then you could go and you didn’t have to row very hard. We weren’t very rich so we didn’t have a motorboat. So we’d row up several miles inland with the tide, and we’d spend several hours digging for clams. Just at the right time we’d start back, when the tide changed. We’d have the tide with us going out. Rowing with the tide made the journey easy both ways. Drifting with the tide. I want you to kind of think of this metaphor and hold it in mind as we go along, we’ll refer to it from time to time today.

One of the first steps we’re challenged to take in the study of truth, to take charge of your life, own your own thoughts. [inaudible 00:02:34] said that the greatest neglect in modern education, is instruction in the art of thinking. The whole thought process is simply taken for granted. We’re told what to think, and a lot of that, we’re rarely ever told how to think. The mind is dealt with for the most part as a fact collector and a word dispenser. Thought for the average person, is a reflex process. Things happen and we react to them in thought. We become worried or fearful or sorry or happy. We assume that thought is produced by circumstances, that the mind is simply something you have in your skull, by which you can deal with the world out there.

So life for most of us becomes a continuous reaction to the outside stimuli. You’re happy or sad, or life has meaning or is meaningless, by evidence of what happens to us from day to day. You may even check the weather report or consult with the market returns, even go to see our doctor to get the cure for our level of thought. You ask someone, “How do you feel?” They say, “Well I’ll tell you better when I go see what mood the boss is in.” So we reflect the idea that our thoughts are the result of things that happened.

But you see, experiences do not cause thoughts. The incident happens, there is no denying it, it is history. But as far as your experience is concerned, the incident is completely external. Your mind is your domain, you think what you want to think, or what you have habitually thought. Your thoughts are your reaction to the incident, the incident did not make the thought, it’s your mind.

So the first step in learning how to think, to know that no matter what happens in your world, you’re not a victim to circumstances, you always have a choice. You don’t have to be angry or disturbed or upset or fearful. You can choose to think positively and creatively, you can become the master instead of the slave. Granted, it’s not all that easy to make the change from reflex thinking to creative thinking. It’s not easy to think happiness when you’re unhappy, simply because your unhappiness is busy manufacturing more unhappy thoughts.

As Tagar rightly observes, “The slave is busy making whips for his master.” They say, “As a man thinketh, so is he.” We usually find ourselves moving in the direction of the thing we think most about. In other words, it could be said that a person is what he thinks about all day long. What are you thinking about? Where is your life moving? There’s many questions, there’s a kind of laziness in thinking. You know what you think, but you may resist the idea of controlling your thought. Perhaps you’ve come to accept the fact that thought is just a reactive process. You think about things, but you may have no sense of responsibility for the thought, to you it’s simply a reflex.

As a matter of fact, some people are angered when you tell them that they can control their thoughts. They don’t want to be told that. It’s much easier to rationalize the fact that, “I’m feeling sad because of what he did or what she said or what happened there.” So in the sense, the human race has produced a race of lazy thinkers. It’s much easier to let someone else do our thinking for us. And many persons do just this, perhaps we all do it to a certain degree.

The true progress of the race, has almost invariably come through a few great thinkers, who have occasionally appeared on the scene. These people have led the race to new ideas and better modes of living. And the majority of people have been perfectly willing to tread along behind, accepting the benefits and the effects and the influence of the creative thinkers. The problem is, with lazy thinking, is what I call drifting. In the book of Hebrews we read, “Therefore we ought to give more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest we drift away from them.” When the mind is not alert, creating a positive, working towards a definite end, we find ourselves drifting. Drifting in the tide of human events, or generally accepted concepts. What Charles Fillmore calls the race beliefs.

In the sense, most of us deal in secondhand thinking. The great thinkers, the philosophers, the leaders, may set forth a wave of powerful creative ideas; for a while we may joyously float along on their influence. But as we’re focused and disciplined, all the time, in who he is, we tend in time to drift away. I like the wisdom of Shakespeare spoken through his Julius Caesar, when he says, “There’s a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads unto fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries.” How much of our life is bound in shallows and miseries simply because we’ve drifted along in the tide of negativity?

As the song says, “Drifting along, like a tumbling tumbleweed.” How many of us drift along through the tide of life, hoping for better things, but never doing much about getting them? Not believing that we can do much about it? Thinking that things are as they are, and what’re you going to do, there’s nothing you can do about it. The current of negative thinking, fixed beliefs about life and its possibilities, is sometimes overwhelming. In order to accomplish anything in life, we have to pull ceaselessly against the tide. The tide of public opinion, the tide of achievement barriers, how subtle is the drift of the tide. How easy it is to accept as inevitable, the drift in to age and deterioration, the drift in to physical conditions that come along with certain stages of life. How easy it is to drift along with beliefs concerning world conditions, about economic upheavals, recessions, depressions, unemployment.

In other words, aware of the fact that we’re drifting, but how easy it happens. As race consciousness becomes like a current, and we move along with it. I’m convinced that drifting is one of the major problems that we have to face in life. Sometimes the tide seems so strong, although when we row against it with all our might for a while, the slightest let down, simply pausing to get your breath, you step backward. You find yourself going backward 20 yards and going forward 10 yards, if you’re not alert, keep constantly pulling against the tide.

Albert Einstein illustrates the most serious implication of the drift when he said, in the early days of atomic experimentation, and we quote, “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything, save our modes of thinking, and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” That’s a negative of course. It is our sincere prayer that the great opening up of healthy East and West relations, is a strong anchorage that will offset this drift.

There are two things you can do to prevent a boat from drifting with the tide, I’m sure you’re aware of them. One is to anchor the boat or tie it to the dock. Secondly, you can pull sturdily on the oars. Often we drift, because we do not row. We do not row because we’re never really determined where we’re going. We’re aimless, we just take things as they come. Hoping that, as Dickens character puts it, “Waiting for something to turn up.” It’s taking things as they come, drifting along. Some people think of this as nonresistance, having faith that God will work things out. Having faith that God will work things out is not drifting with the tide of human consciousness. It’s getting in to the stream, the divine process, the eternal energy, and flowing with the stream, and pulling on the oars, and directing the course in which you’ve taken.

Ending it, there was an experience that a man had a few years ago, and brought this whole thing in to focus. He was scheduled for a lecture in a strange town, the train was late, so he jumped from the train in to a taxi and said to the driver, “Please drive as fast as you can, I’m terribly late.” The driver raced off at a breakneck speed. After a few minutes, the man said to the driver, “Are we about there?” The driver said, “I don’t know sir, you never told me where you wanted to go.” How often we lead hurried, hurried lives, racing here and there, never stopping to ask ourselves where we are or where we really want to go. “I’m late, I’m late, rush, rush, rush.”

Then we plug in to the spiritual power and guidance to lead us forward, wondering why it doesn’t work for us instantly. Harry Emerson Fosdick, preached a sermon on the theme, I’m Taking The Wrong Bus. He told the story of a man who boarded a bus with the intentions of going to Kansas City. At the end of a long trip, he arrived at the destination, and found that he was not in Kansas City at all, but he was in Atlanta, Georgia. He caught the wrong bus. He points out that something like this goes on constantly in human life. People want good things, they want happiness, they want a good family life, they want success in their work, the respect of their associates, but because they do not take charge of their lives by disciplining their thoughts, they experience the subtle drift of the tide, and often find themselves somewhere else entirely.

Thinking of taking the bus, it’s time for the Allentown Retreat, and a number of people take the charter bus that takes them out there. They board the bus here and, the ride comes to bring them to Allentown, a distance of about 100 miles, and then they arrive on the campus of Cedar Crest College. As they get off the bus and get their baggage off the bus, everyone’s happy, expectant, enthusiastic. This one time, everyone was off the bus, and they saw there was a woman still on the bus. So one of our leaders went up, asked her was she coming to the retreat? She said, “No.” “Why were you on the bus?” “I saw all those happy people getting on the bus in town, I thought, ‘I want to be happy too’ so I went with them.” She took the wrong bus too, but this case by choice. In a very simple way, she was doing something positive about her experience. Kind of self diluting, but probably better than staying in her despondent state in the city.

You’ll note that the prodigal son, did not start out with the intent of going to the swine pasture. He took his inheritance, and set forth in to the far country on the quest for freedom and adventure. As time passed, he drifted away from his lofty goal, and came to know want. But he still had a choice, that’s the important part of the story. He still had a choice. He said, “I will rise and go unto the father.” He didn’t remain in despondency and despair, his lot of feeding pigs. He took charge of his mind, he went home. He was received royally in the father’s house. That’s the important part.

We drift away, get involved in all sorts of self limiting things. How important it is that we can come to ourself, see where we are, see what we’ve been doing or have not been doing, straighten out our little boat, get it in the right direction, and start pulling on your oars. The person who falls in to the clutches of alcoholism or drug addiction, certainly isn’t begging to be enslaved. Yet in a way, he’s creating the conditions that make the result inevitable. So though he would have never have set out for the dreadful place he lands in, it was made inevitable because it is the bus he boarded. It’s the way of life that he got involved in.

And again, like the prodigal, he can come to himself, he can change, he can be healed. That’s the message that we want to hold in our hearts and express in our voice, to persons everywhere. “You don’t have to stay this way, you can wake up, you can come to yourself, you can rise and go unto your Father, you can be healed.” In most person’s cases, when a person has pulled steadily on his oars for an extended period of time, then in discouragement has resigned himself to the relentless pull of the tide. He’s been rowing without any clear cut goal. How many people, especially the young, talk about getting somewhere in life? “I want to get somewhere, I want to be someone. I want to be successful.” Rarely do they ask themselves, “In what field? Doing what?” There may be no clear cut goal or objective or interest in life except being successful, whatever that means.

At first he may think he’s working towards success, he’s probably drifting with the tide of human experiences. He comes to know want in terms of great despair and disillusionment. When we get a clear vision of where we’re going, then finally we can move with the tide. Perhaps we discover a new dimension, in the boat, in the development of the sails. Because with sails on a boat, you have another dimension, a tide that blows with the wind. Perhaps you realize something very exciting, you don’t have to go where the wind blows, you can tack in to the teeth of the wind and go the way you want to go regardless of the tide. Ella Wheeler Wilcox once caught this vision as she watched the sailing ships move sleekly up and down the river here in New York Harbor. She expresses this thought in poetry, she says, “One ship goes east, another goes west, by the selfsame winds that blow. Tis the set of the sails and not the gales, which determine the way they go.” We could say, if we want to be facetious, “Do you get the drift?”

The mind is like the ocean, ceaselessly moving, ebbing, flowing, drifting. When we talk about controlling the mind, we don’t mean control in an absolute sense, but in a regulatory sense. You might as well face it, you can’t control the mind, you can’t turn it off or stop it altogether. Sometimes we wish we could. Oh to be delivered from the ceaseless flow of thoughts and images that sometimes oppress the mind. Even in sleep, there’s not cessation of this drift of the tide. It continues at a subconscious level in dreams.

Many centuries ago, oriental thinkers recognized that the mind is in constant motion, like the ocean. It is next to impossible to stop it altogether. They compared the mind to a jumping monkey. They said that the first step in getting control of the jumping monkey, is to let it jump. In other words, it’s the realization that many folks have come to, there’s been a great revelation; if you want to control the mind anyway, become an observer. Just stand back and watch what happens, watch the jumping monkey, watch the turn of thoughts, the influence of attitudes and so forth. Just watch them move, you’ll observe that it is not you, that you are not the mind. But you stand behind it and use it as an instrument. And this realization is from your own consciousness, you’re on the very verge of self mastery.

A young man went to a sage for instruction, and he said, “Master, I have a terrible temper. Can you cure me of it?” The master said, “Well show me this temper.” The young man said, “I can’t show it to you, it comes and goes.” So the sage said, “Then it is no part of you.” This realization, will enable the young man if he’s open and sincere, to stand back and see the problem objectively. He always has the choice to say no. There may be situations out here that normally anger you, if you’re anger-able. Things can upset you if you’re upset-able, if you’re disturb-able, but you always have the capacity to say, “No, I don’t have to be that way, I don’t have to react in that sense. I can say no, I can refuse to accept this condition that seems to cause temper. I can choose to be poised and nonresistant.” A tremendous realization when we get that, we don’t have to drift with the tide of human consciousness. We can stand steadfast, tack in to the teeth of the gale with our sails, row steadily with our oars, and give ourselves direction in where we want to go.

There’s an old Tamil tale that tells of a wandering fakir, who came to a certain village and announced that he had discovered a wonderful secret. He knew how to make gold. And everyone’s opened wide because they were poor people. He said, “You just put certain ingredients in to a pot, and I’ll tell you what the ingredients are. And you stir them well, until the gold appears. First, everyone in the village must pay a fee.” And they were all eager for riches, so they all paid the fee. He said if they followed his instructions, he would guarantee that they would receive gold. When the fees were paid, the head man of the village was designated to stir the pot. Just as the man was to begin, the fakir said, “Oh yes, one more thing. While you’re stirring, you must on no account think of a red faced monkey or the formula can’t work.”

So while the villagers watched their head man stir the pot, the fakir left with his bag of fees. Of course, the man could think of nothing else than red faced monkeys. That’s the way of human consciousness. And the scam always worked, because of the drifting tendency of the mind. In this case, spurred on by greed. It’s a parable that we could dwell on, remember. It has much relevance to our lives.

Then we come to the matter of anchoring, the only true and true anchor of protection, is spiritual depth. Establishing yourself in the conscious of the greatness of God. I’m reminded of the story of Sidney Lanier, the beloved poet, who at age 38, went up in to the Carolina Mountains for some relief from his consumption, they called it in those days, later called tuberculosis. He was incurably ill. After slowly sinking lower, watching his life ebb away, he grasped for something firm to hold on to. Suddenly, just before he died, he saw the truth. He wrote the immortal poem, The Marshes of Glynn. You can imagine the thoughts that must’ve been going through his mind, as he lay dying, racked by the tortures of his laboring lungs, wrung even more cruelly by the worries that he’d never been able to conquer. Longing for some strong mooring of the saw, he probably thought it was too late.

He lay there defeated, staring out upon the marshes that he loved, and yet somehow dreaded. Those dim, lonely marshes of Glynn, endlessly stretching, endlessly quaking under the tug of the tide. “So like a man’s life,” he thought. Need a man’s life be like that? Might there not be something of which a man can depend, could build, as the marsh-hen builds their nest on that seemingly anchor of sod? Suddenly, across the tide, the answer came. He saw the truth. He wrote these lines, which will forever stand like some strong out thrust hand to those caught in the slimy bogs of fear; I’ll read just the first stanza, “As the marsh-hen secretly builds on the watery sod, behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God. I will fly in the greatness of God as the marsh-hen flies, in the freedom that fills all the space ‘twixt the marsh and the skies. By so many roots as the marsh-grass sends in the sod, I will heartily lay me a-hold on the greatness of God.”

The wonderful thing is, that this kind of anchoring is an inner mooring, it’s not an outer thing at all. It doesn’t tie you down, you’re not tied to a dock, you’re not anchored with a metal anchor in the mud. You can be anchored within and still be rowing, rowing toward your goal, but secured with your inner sense of oneness, inner sense of direction. Then of course, the drift is good in this conscious. You find it effortless, without strain. “Your yoke is easy, your burden is light,” said Jesus. You begin to find that all things work together for good. You’re lifted to a higher sense of the drift of the tide, a divine action that moves us relentlessly toward our highest good. You’re anchored within, as the marsh-hen secretly builds on the watery sod, you build your nest on the greatness of God.

I would ask each of you, “Where are you going?” Could you tell me, in so many words? Are you charting a course and moving forward to the fulfillment of some definite desire? Or are you drifting with the tide, simply making the best of conditions that come? Thinking that this is the positive way of life. Something comes, “Well it’s all right. It’s all right, all things work together for good.” And you drift along in the human conscious. Are you poised in the Christ mind or are you the jumping monkeys, in control? It’s good to take a look at yourself from time to time, get an evaluation, make sure that you’re in control. That you’re setting the sails, tacking in to the teeth of the gale, rowing firmly against the tide.

Whenever you find yourself drifting in thought, in to fear, in to worry and anxiety, in to acceptance of negative eventualities, you always know this. Usually we think there’s noting you can do about it, “I’m getting angry. I’m becoming fearful.” You see the drift already taking place. It’s important to take a look at yourself objectively, see what’s happening. You’re letting the mind control you, the jumping monkey has you in control. You’re not making the progress in life that you feel you should be making, and it’s because something in consciousness you’re not doing. You can stop the drift by realizing your oneness with God, realizing the inner mooring, knowing that you’re one with His divine activity, that your mind is your mind, your mind. You can think your thoughts, you don’t have to react to the thoughts of others.

So get out of the secondhand thought business. Begin to think original thoughts, creative thoughts. Break out on your own, advance confident in the direction of that which you desire. You’ll eventually find the turn of the tide, then you can go with the tide and go easily. My yoke is easy, my burden is light. Your mind will begin to work for you instead of against you. You will move easily and relentlessly of the direction of your dreams. Join me a moment in silence.


Let’s take this metaphor of the rowboat, see ourselves in our own little boat. First of all, ask ourselves, “Where do I want to go?” And how much is there a tide, or what’s against me, how things are going to be difficult? Forget that, where do you want to go? What are the desires and ideas of your heart? Take a moment to become anchored within, to get the sense of oneness with God. In tune with the divine flow, the guidance that is ever with you. Set your goal before you. You’re going up to the tide flats, as I mentioned, to be clam digging. You’re going to a new field of success and accomplishment, moving toward and experience of healing and overcoming, a desire to find happiness and harmony in your home, a desire to be a positive influence in the community, this is your goal.

Set your sails, pick your oars from your own hand, and move directly in the direction of your dreams. When you know the truth, when you’re wisely alert to the inner influences, to the visions that you hold so strongly in consciousness, the interesting thing is, the tide is always in your favor. You always go with the tide. But only when you’ve, first of all, found yourself one with God, in tune with the divine flow. Following this simple formula, we commit you to go forth, and experience a whole new demonstration of the drift of the tide. That you’ll lead on to success and fulfillment, to healing, to overcoming, to peace. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. So be it.