Eric Butterworth Unity Podcast #75
This is Eric Butterworth’s answer to "Why does God allow evil and suffering?" If you listen, you will find that there are two parts to Eric’s answer.
He acknowledges that evil and suffering is caused by what we refer in Unity to “by right of consciousness.” But Eric concludes that we should not ask “why doesn’t God, but why don’t I? ... Let God be the answer through you. Let God be the flow of love, of life, and protection, and you’ll be the channel.”
In my opinion this is an example of how Metaphysical Christianity offers a much better story than traditional Christianity.
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Let’s begin today by reading a poem, the shortest poem in all literature. “I, why?” From the very beginning of time, the word why has been the most active word in the evolving vocabulary of human species. In the childhood of the race and every person’s childhood today, why has led the way to a persistent quest for knowledge. Some of you probably remember some years ago on radio the great comedienne, Fanny Brice, through her inimitable role as Baby Snooks. She characterized the persistence of every child and the bane of every parent. She would say, “Why, daddy? Why?” Why does the sunshine, why does it move across the sky? Why does the apple fall to earth instead of shooting off into space? Why am I alive? Why do these things happen to me as they do? And why do some people get all the breaks?
Actually, there are three reasons for asking why. One of them is the why of wisdom, which comes from the childlike quest for understanding. The second one, however, is the why of resistance, which is an expression of rebellion against some undesirable situation. It really doesn’t want to know the answer to the question of why. It prefers to consider itself the victim of an evil frame-up. The third why is the why of self-pity, which expects no answer because it believes that there is none. This why is born of failure and frustration.
It is unfortunate that as we grow up in years, we tend to stop asking the why of wisdom, which is the only constructive and logical reason for asking why. The child asks why out of curiosity. He really wants to know. He’s trying to understand more and more about this exciting world in which he lives. But do you really want to know why when you asked the question why was I laid off work right when I need the income so desperately? Why did I have that accident? Why does everything happen to me?
Do you really want to know why? This kind of why usually means that you believe that you’re the innocent victim of a cruel fate, that forces of evil have ganged up on you, unfairly giving you more than your share of ills. It leads to a direct or implied criticism of God. Why did God allow this to happen? Why doesn’t God put a stop to all this? Where was God when these things were taking place? This gives rise to the often heard questions: why doesn’t God stop the war? Why doesn’t God heal this condition? Why doesn’t God?
In Clarence Day’s delightful book God and My Father, talking about his father’s peculiar attitude toward God, he says, “In moments of prayer when my father and God tried to communicate with each other, it wasn’t his own shortcomings that were brought on the carpet, but God’s. He expected a great deal of God. It seemed that God spread his plans and this rouses wrath. He would call God’s attention to such things. He didn’t actually accuse God of gross inefficiency, but when he prayed, his tone was loud and angry like that of a dissatisfied guest in a courtesy managed hotel.
Actually, the mere question why doesn’t God do something about this or that evidences a complete lack of understanding of the nature of being. God’s will is not a capricious and arbitrary determination. Not something that God decides to do or some inscrutable reason of his own. On the contrary, the will of God is the ceaseless longing of the creator seeking to perfect that which he’s creating. A ceaseless longing. It’s a part of the natural flow. It’s the vis medicatrix naturae of medicine.
Neither war nor sickness have any place in God mind. There is no war in God. We’ve heard that before. There’s no sickness in God. The God mind is to appear to be whole and equity. These things exist only as a need for guidance, a need to rely, a need to understanding. And God is the answer to that need. We may sense the longing to help and heal. More than not we misread the meaning. It may be felt as inquisitiveness that leads to conquest, or a love that leads to peace. It may be felt as a hunger that leads to overindulgence. Or as a yearning for truth that leads to faith and wholeness.
We use the same power, the same energy, whether we’re rising to success or floundering in mediocrity. Whether we’re in radiant health or suffering in disease, the same power, the same presence is involved, same activity. It’s our consciousness. The dynamic power of God in us is to each of us what we are to it. It always responds to us by corresponding with our mental attitudes. If we put a car in reverse, the power carries the car backwards. If we shift into drive, the same power carries the car forwards. We understand that it’s so much a part of everyday experience. We miss this understanding when we begin thinking about the activity of God.
The question is, are we willing to ask the why of wisdom? Are we willing to consider what quirk in our consciousness may have attracted all this to us? That’s not easy to do because we’re so engaged in feeling sorry for ourselves, and resisting things, and our paranoid feelings that something is picking on us. The why of wisdom will help us to realize that though we have been upset by the unexpected, yet the unexpected is really a trap that we have previously set for ourselves.
It’s a great truth. It is ours to learn sooner or later that within every person lies the cause of whatever comes to him. No disease can enter our bodies unless it finds therein something corresponding to itself that makes it possible. In the same way, no evil or undesirable condition can enter into our lives, unless there’s already in them that was invited and so it makes it possible for it to come.
That’s a hard teaching. Many of us will go a long way before we are able to acknowledge the possibility of such a thing. We may well keep right on asking the why of resistance for a long time before we are ready to face the fact that life is consciousness and that consciousness precedes experience.
There’s a classic question that we hear from a religious seeker: why did the good suffer? Have you ever heard that? Why do the good suffer? Here’s a person, for instance, who has been faithful to her church. She goes to services regularly, two or three times on Sunday and many times during the week. She lives an exemplary life of love and service, and yet she’s been plagued with unbelievable troubles. Why? Why doesn’t God reward her with good health and the security? Why do the good suffer?
You may be shocked at the answer: because they’re not good enough, which calls for a broader definition of the word good, you see. We thought of goodness as theological goodness. Goodness, in terms of keeping rituals and other performances. But the word good means so much more. A good person may also be a very negative person, a fearful person, a worrier. It may not be that she’s sinned in a theological sense, but she may have been vibrating on the wavelength of limitation, even if only by fear and resistance. But outward, she’s good, a good person.
This is not a condemnation or a judgment. It’s a matter of trying to understand that we’re dealing with law. Jesus said, “There’s nothing from without the man that going into him can defile him. But the things that proceed out of the man are those that defile a man.” In other words, don’t fool yourself by the appearances. Whatever your trouble, it’s an inside job. You make the difference.
Some persons look at God through their troubles. Other persons look at their troubles through God. And the difference in perspective makes the difference in their lives. If you look at God through your troubles, you’re saying in effect, “All right, God, if you’re so great, how could you prevent this to happen? Or how could you allow this to happen? If you’re so wonderful and so omniscient, why couldn’t you know that I had this need, and fill my need?” You’re looking at God through your troubles. And, of course, you see a very anemic, very elusive activity of God.
If look at your troubles through God, it’s to begin with a basic premise God is the ground of your being, realizing that God the good is all-present, omnipresent, all-knowing. Remember Jesus says in the beatitudes, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” In the purity of consciousness, you see God because you see from the awareness of God, you project that awareness, that energy and it becomes a force in your life.
So you see God is everywhere presence you know that goodness come through the experience. It’s a vital key to healthy mindedness. Ask yourself: am I seeing God through my troubles? Am I seeing my troubles through God? Take a look in your life today. The things that you consider to be the problems that you’re facing, we all have them, how are you looking at them? Are you saying, “Why doesn’t God change this for me?” Are you saying, I begin with the realization that God the Good is all there is. And I see from this consciousness of God’s good, God’s omnipotence. It enables me to see rightly to understand the situation and to find the way to correct it.”
The great treatise on the subject of why do the good suffer is the Biblical Book of Job, which is actually an ancient mystery play, possibly the most ancient in Bible manuscripts. Job is almost universally misunderstood for one basic reason, because we think of Job as a historical character. We think of this as a story of a man, the story of a man being picked on by forces of evil or by God. Actually, Job is a character in a play like he’s in every man, sort of like The Prodigal Son.
In the play, Job is a model of a pious prosperous man with large flocks of sheep, a large and happy family. And it says, “Job feared God and turned away from evil.” In the prologue of the play, which again is very confusing to persons who think of an anthropomorphic God and have a heaven up there, somewhere, the adversary talking in a figurative heavenly counsel says that, “Job was pious simply because he’s been blessed. He would quickly renounce God if his possessions were taken from him.” Understand this is not the devil of Jewish and Christian dogma. The closest parallel might be the wrestler who struggled with Jacob all night.
Truth is, when you set a course of righteousness for yourself, you tend to invariably run into what I call the crosscurrents of your own static thought. This is dramatized in the form of the adversary. Some folks fail to understand that when you set a new course for yourself, such as you begin to study the truth, begin to work out, spiritual consciousness in your life, sometimes for a while things get worse, you stir up a lot of stuff. Consciousness begins to rebel. You have a kind of a crosscurrent within yourself, both against this what I call the force of inertia that pulls against you. You’re trying to go in one direction, it’s pulling you back in the other because it wants to go the way it always has been. So you set up all these crosscurrents in consciousness.
This is symbolically set forth in the play of Job as the adversary. The adversary was the state of Job’s own mind. It wasn’t a force outside that was trying to test him or tempt him. So he goes through a series of unbelievable experiences. Again, this is simply part of the play and it’s exaggerated and it’s symbolical. He loses all his wealth, his body is covered with boils, and his children are killed. How could God allow this to happen to a good man? It would seem to be terribly unjust. And, of course, this is how it seemed to Job. He was angry. He ran to God, “How could you do this to me?” You see, if the adversary had left Job alone to live his life in peace and security, Job might rather remain a worthy and conventional man, honored, and self-satisfied, living on a static level of consciousness.
But something within Job desired to progress. That’s how it all started. And the action of the adversary forces Job out of his safe piety into a hunger for truth so great that it dared to demand satisfaction. Actually, it was a great service for it changed Job from an active believer into an active seeker. As a believer, Job went through the why of resistance and self-pity. “Why should this come to me? I’m a good man. I’ve done no wrong.” But, what does it mean to be good? As we say, we need a new insight into what goodness really is. In absolutely sense, goodness means oneness with God completely in thought and action. Perfection, in other words.
Jesus realized that as an ultimate that even he was working toward. A man came to him one time and knelt down before him and grasped his garment and said, “Good master.” Jesus cut him off immediately. He said, “Why callest thou me good? None is good save God. So even Jesus didn’t think of himself as good.
You see, we’re dealing with law in which there’s no tolerance. There’s no room for near misses. We say, “But I really meant well. I had the best of intentions.” You remember the road that’s paved with good intentions paved to hell. To almost keep one’s balance is to fall. I almost kept from falling off the cliff. To almost put a satellite into orbit is to see it come crashing down to earth and it goes flying out of control into oblivion. To almost insulate a wire is to have a short circuit. To almost have enough money to avoid bankruptcy needs to go bankrupt.
So, what this means is, startling as it may seem, if there is suffering, there must be sin. That’s a strange thing to come from Eric Butterworth. Expect that from a fundamentalist. I’ll say that again. If there’s suffering, there must be sin. But we’re talking about sin in terms of the true meaning, missing the mark of perfection. The word sin comes from the Anglo-Saxon word S-Y-N-E, syne, which is a word used in archery target practice. The archer aims his arrow at the target. If he missed the target entirely, this was a sin. Many in learning to shoot bow and arrow made many sins. In other words, we’re talking about consciousness. The focus of Job’s thought was on the negative. He was a good person. He wanted to do the right things in life. He kept all the outward good great stars. But the focus of his consciousness was on the negative.
Contrast to admit this to ourselves. When something happens, why did this happen to me? Well, what did I do wrong? It’s not that you did anything wrong, but there must’ve been something in your conscious and your nature that enabled it to happen. Like the person who is driving down the road and somebody runs into the side of his car. “He ran into me. I didn’t know how I attracted it to me.” You were there. You were a hundred yards back or hundred yards forward, you were at that spot at that time. It was an appointment in consciousness. It’s hard to admit this to ourselves. “It’s his fault,” “It’s their fault,” “It’s not my fault.” In other words, we’re talking about the focus of thought. And the focus of Job’s thought was on the negative. He believed in error. He believed in sickness. He believed in poverty. Perhaps he worried about it. Certainly, he feared it. Later he said, “That which I feared has come upon me.”
Much of the play of Job depicts a dialogue with Job’s friends, three patriarchs who had come to comfort their strange-stricken friend. As you read the words, it’s anything but comfort as we know it. They’re really crepehangers. Along with the three characters, there’s a young man Elihu, who at first kept himself quiet in deference to the other folks. The friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, symbolize that nature of Job struggling to retain his hold on the ego: the sense man, the human desire and the intellect. They symbolize degrees of consciousness between the human Job and the transcendent Job. Job continues to justify his human moral qualities and start to save himself. But when eventually light did come, Job discovered that the only salvation would come in losing Job. He had let go of himself.
The Hindus say, “The cause of pain is self.” You can only have pain if the ego is involved in resisting and resenting. The ancient Chinese say, “Without personality, how should I suffer?” A holy man in India sat in the forest in prayer. The tiger came toward him, crouched and ready to spring upon him. The more the man denied the tiger the more menacing the tiger appeared. When he denied himself, the tiger turned and walked away. And this may be symbolical. I’s certainly indicative of the way we deal with life. The more we resist it and resent it the more it becomes a power in our life. When we let it go and let go of the ego, “He had no right to do that to me,” as long as we think of to me, then we’re in trouble.
It always called to me the fish hook. Let go of the fish hook and don’t hang up on it. Then you can ask the question, why did he do it? Then you’re willing to say, “Perhaps he did it because he deserved, because he has a problem.” So he didn’t really do it to me. If I’m resistant toward it, on what he’s done, and I do it to me because I’m caught up in the fish hook. Let go of the to me and ask the question, why did he do it? Why did these things happen? In the why of wisdom, we’re willing to understand, to ask the question and to see ourselves in the context.
So we find that Job begins to ask the why of wisdom, symbolized by the entrance of a new character Elihu, who leads him on the quest for truth. Elihu says in effect that God is not a person meting out punishment, but a law of that cannot be broken. Only broken upon. One is not really punished for his sins, he’s punished by his sins. It is the level of one’s thought that sets him at cross purposes with the law of God. Now only by changing his thought can he find forgiveness. The startling thing is to understand the truth of being, God doesn’t forgive. God can never forgive you. We say, “Well, if God would just forgive me.” God can’t forgive you because forgiveness is not in God, because there’s no unforgiveness in God. God loves eternally. We’re told he loves me with an everlasting love. It is our limited thought that obstructs the love. By changing our thought, we release that love. If you call that forgiveness, then fine. But be sure you know that it comes as a result of your changing your consciousness, not God changing his thought towards you.
So we see then that Job suddenly began to realize that he had been meeting his tragedy on the side of the effect. He decided to meet it on the side of the cause, the side of the growth of his soul. So the Elihu consciousness began to express in him influence that led to a whirlwind, a voice in the whirlwind. In effect, the voice said, “I am the light within you that never wanes. I’m the answer to your questions and the guide for your quest. You have been resisting the order of things and you should be acknowledging it. So cast off the rage of your wrath. You have been through a refining fire of pain and suffering. It has been a very difficult road, but the light of truth has been stretched out on the whole experience like sharp stones on the mare. The secret fire of truth had been boiling in the waters of the soul to make it a spring of healing.
Job had to lose Job. It seemed that he had to lose everything material or he could really lose himself. Symbolical of the need to really let go. Then, Job was like a blind man whose eyes were suddenly opened. The veil was lifted. And he said, significantly, “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee.” Now he had what Emerson called “a firsthand and immediate experience of God.” He could only have that when he’s willing to let go of self.
In a sense, the question raised by the drama of Job, why did the good suffer is not completely answered. If we’re looking for answers, then we go away empty. But we’re carefully made to realize that the suffering is not by divine decree, but by man’s consciousness. One thing we get clearly in Job is that, despite the suffering, there is within it the opportunity for growth and betterment. And we’re told in the end Job demonstrated twice as much as he had before and says the latter end of Job is more than the beginning.
It’s symbolical. The fact is, this whole thing is an illustration. It’s a parable. Job really didn’t lose his loved ones and family. This is all part of the story. It’s a figurative illustration of letting go of everything that’s important. Letting go. And it says he had everything more in the end than he had in the beginning. If you want to, you can put to story back together and say that he got his family back, got his possessions back, got his loved ones back. Listen, get out of your consciousness. The idea of this unjust thing of people going through a terrible suffering in order to grow, it’s a symbol. It’s a parable.
A few years ago, there was a Broadway play by Archibald MacLeish entitled J.B. You may have seen it. It was a story of Job in a modern setting. It’s a very controversial play, especially among theologians. In the final lines of the play, J.B. says of God, “He does not love. He is.” His faithful wife, Sarah, replies, “But we do. And that’s the wonder.” There was a great theological flap over this because some took it to mean that the good suffer because God is not good, because God doesn’t love people. But the statement God does not love, he is seems to mean that God is not loving as people are loving. Loving one and hating the other. We’ve always thought that of God, that God hates certain people and God loves others. But God doesn’t love. He is. God is love. And where love is there is God. God is the source. God is the principal. Sarah says, “But we love, and that’s the miracle.” God has the capacity and the potential, but we release it through our love, our faith, and our works.
God doesn’t love. He is. It’s so important to know that. “Oh, if God just loved me a little more.” God can’t love you anymore. There’s no way that God can love you any more than he always has because God loves you with an everlasting love. Love is principle. Dynamic changeless law. God is a loving force within you always. God can never think less of you no matter what you do. “Oh, if God would just forgive me for how terrible I’ve been.” I said, God can’t forgive you. Don’t expect God to do the changing. The love of God has always been a part of the energy force in your potential. If you restrict it and frustrate it, this is the sin and you bring about difficult experiences. When you’re willing to let go of the sin, let go of yourself, and let the divine process of love flow forth in you again, then if you will, you’re forgiven you. You forgive yourself really. You let go of the limitation. You’re willing to accept yourself at the level of your divinity.
As Thomas Traherne, 17th century poet says, “The easiness of thinking we received from God. But the difficulty of thinking well proceeds from ourselves.” Easiness of thinking we receive from God, but the difficulty of thinking well proceeds from ourselves. That’s something to hold to, isn’t it?
Some years ago in a mine disaster in England, a number of lives were lost. It was a great tragedy in this community. Dr. Hanley Moule, Bishop of Durham, is said to have gone to the scene of the accident, speak to a crowd at the entrance to the mine, relatives and loved ones, grief-stricken members of the families of two miners. And he said to them, “My friends, this is not an easy thing to do, not an easy thing to talk about. It’s difficult to understand such an experience. But we know God. We must trust him. We know that somehow there’s an answer even if we can’t yet see it.”
And he said, “I have at home in old bookmarker that my mother gave me. It’s worked in silk. When I look at the wrong side of it, I see nothing but a tangle of threads crossed and recrossed in wild confusion. It looks like one big mistake. I would think that the person who did it had no idea what she was doing. And when I turn it over and look at the right side, I see there beautifully embroidered the letters ‘God is love.’ So, my friends, we’re looking at all this today from the wrong side. As time goes by, we will find the faith to turn it on over and see it from another standpoint. We will then see the divine pattern.”
So, returning to the question why doesn’t God, maybe we need to rephrase the question. Instead of why doesn’t God, ask why doesn’t man? We cannot contract the infinite, but we can expand the finite. We must expand our awareness to the point of conviction that we are dealing with a power to which all things are possible. As Jesus said, it will be done as you believed, but you make the difference.
Why doesn’t God? Why doesn’t God do this, do that? Why doesn’t God change that? Right? And doesn’t God stop the war? Why doesn’t God heal the person? Why don’t you? It maybe little that you can do physically or materially, but you can always do something. You always have a choice. You can stop worrying. You can stop railing against luck or the universe or God. You can stop resisting things saying, “Why did this happen?” You can stop tuning in on the vibration of the negative as it appears. Instead you can get yourself in tune with the divine flow and let yourself become a channel for the projection of spiritual power.
Of course, God can stop the war and God can heal the condition, but not in the way in which we suppose. God cannot and will not do it for us, but he can do it through us. And he will, if we’re willing to let go and let his peace that passes understanding and his healing life have their way in us. So, it’s not why doesn’t God, why don’t I? Meister Eckhart puts it clearly when he says, “God expects the one thing of you. And that is that you should come out of yourself insofar as you’re a created being and let God be God in you. Let God be God in you. Let God be the answer through you. Let God be the flow of love, of life, and protection, and you’ll be the channel.”
Another startling thought, God will establish peace when you become peaceful. God will make you whole when you become wholesome. God will become the spark and spirit of success in your life when you are successful. In other words, when your consciousness is full of the ideas of success. God doesn’t do it for you. God can’t do more for you than he can do through you. You’re the channel. You’re the instrument.
Why doesn’t God? Why don’t you? So, keep asking the question why, but let it be the why of wisdom where you really look for answers and you have the will to accept them and to profit by the experience. It has been said the only complete catastrophe is the catastrophe from which we learn nothing. There’s a growth possibility in every experience. To whatever the experience is, much as you hesitate to express it, it’s your divine appointment. Don’t miss it through indulging, and resistance, and self-pity.
According to ancient custom, when wires are stretched between the walls of the castle that form the strings of an Aeolian harp, so long as the weather is calm the harp is silent. But when the storms begin to rage, the harp gives forth the most exquisite melody. The harp uses the storm and transforms its fury into a song. In this way, Job learned the secret of using pain to transform mortal sorrow into mortal joy, to transform the weight of affliction into the freedom of divine love. And, in this way, paraphrasing Tennyson, “You may rise on the stepping stones of your struggling self to higher things.”
Let’s all be still for just a minute. It’s nice to deal with some words, some intellectual concepts. It’s so important to know that growth is not a matter of words. It’s a matter of thought, feeling, consciousness. So let’s make a commitment before we leave this place today.
Let’s use the illustration expressed by the Bishop of Durham, Dr. Handley Moule. He talks about the bookmark that his mother had, the backside of which was a confusion of threads joining hands with disarray. Let this symbolize that part of your life, minor this may seem to be or major to some folks where life seems to be confused, where we have a constant disorder of experiences and situations that have no rhyme or reason, things about which you may have asked and may even be asking now, why? Why did this happen? Or even why doesn’t God do something about it? Think about this aspect of your life for a minute and see it again as the backside of the bookmarker. Look at it, recognize it. It’s not to be denied. It’s there. It’s an experience. It’s what you’re seeing.
[Lost part of the audio] Jesus says, “Judge not according to appearances, but judge righteous judgment.” So the righteous judgment that he’s talking about, let’s turn the bookmark over, look to the other side of your experiences. Let yourself believe, entertain the possibility that somehow, symbolically, it says God is love. God is good. It’s one presence and one power, God the Good, omnipotent. The divine order is established. Let yourself believe that there is the divine pattern. Even if at present perspective you can’t see it, but in faith, you can believe it. Somehow there’s good in this. The good will begin to manifest in your life when you let yourself turn away from the resistance, the why of resistance and self pity, and ask the why of wisdom. Why did it happen? Why in terms of my spiritual growth? Why in terms my overcoming? Why in terms of the divine good that’s unfolding in my life? Why in terms of the next step of my spiritual growth? Why in terms of what I can do? Take the good from it and leave the rest. Let’s have the faith and the vision, the perception, see our lives in the context of divine order.
Do you know that behind every appearance and back of every experience is a lesson of growth and opportunity to progress.
Divine order is established. Divine order is established in all my affairs, I accept the truth that God the Good and omnipotent, and God is present at every hand.
Believe that. In other words, you experience the Elihu consciousness [missing audio] You experience the positive and the unfoldment of good manifesting in your life. You will find this consciousness. It will set you free.
Let’s just feel those words. You shall know the truth, the truth, the ornaments, the kingdom of God possibilities, the spiritual law. You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. So turn the pattern over, reveal order, symmetry, design, and divine pattern. You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. We’re grateful for this. Amen.