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METHODS AND IDEALS for CONDUCTING CENTERS AND STUDY CLASSES
The Field Department of Unity School of Christianity
917 Tracy, Kansas City, Mo.
What to Teach
A great responsibility rests upon those who are most active in the work of a center. That responsibility consists not only in interpreting and explaining practical Christianity and the workable nature of divine law, but in demonstrating those principles in the teacher's everyday life, in order that the center may naturally radiate a Truth consciousness which promotes harmony and inspires confidence. The question of what shall be taught in a Truth center, or what textbook a study class shall use, is of importance. This question is almost solved when one understands the underlying purpose of a center or study class. However, there are many other points which may be considered in this connection.
When the mere accumulation of ideas about Truth becomes the paramount issue in connection with the operation of a center or study class, a great deal of confusion usually results. When a person has busied himself only with the accumulation of ideas of Truth, his mind becomes so filled with ideas that he loses the discrimination which enables him to classify these ideas in right relation to the fundamental principles of Truth. It is well, therefore, for the leader of a center or study class to select textbooks and ideas that have a direct bearing upon the development of the individual himself.
The fundamental purpose of a class or center being to establish each individual in his own conscious relationship with God, it is well to select literature and to present Truth with a view to directing individuals to a search within themselves for a conscious contact with the Spirit of truth within them. When one is constantly brought face to face with a maze of ideas he is more than likely to be carried away from his own inner spiritual realization. Sometimes leaders who maintain centers are called narrow because they do not embrace the various angles of Truth which are presented by other teachers. The idea of being broad must not be confused with that which is sometimes called broad but is only a scattering of one's ideas and forces. To be broad is to recognize that Truth is universal and then set about the actual realization of Truth within oneself. This does not require that one study Truth from the angle presented by all the teachers who are teaching and who are writing textbooks upon the subject of Truth. Textbooks and verbal teachings but convey the views of the various teachers and may or may not have any direct bearing upon the evolution of the individual student.
Better is a simple truth thoroughly applied than an assimilation of much teaching about many truths. We earnestly recommend that each center use only such fundamental textbooks as help the individual to obtain the clearest possible realization of his own inner Spirit of truth. The entire practice of the center should aim to develop the realization of this fact within the student. After the student has once gained the realization of this fact within himself, he can, through his own awakened discrimination, better know just what kind of books he should use and just what teachers he should attempt to follow. He will not be inclined to read books or to follow teachers that do not point him back to the realization of his own indwelling Lord.
There is an old business adage which runs something like this: "That which is obtained by force must be retained by force." The statement expresses a universal law. Whatever you produce in life can be sustained only as you continue the methods by which the thing was produced, and a permanent work can be built only by following principle. When a work is built upon the ideas of one individual, the institution never outgrows those ideas. When the ideas have run their course the institution naturally falls with the decline of the ideas. On the other hand, when an organization is built upon some great underlying principles, the institution will endure as long as these principles are adhered to.
The only permanent work that a Truth center or study class can accomplish is the thorough grounding of its students and workers in an understanding of the underlying Principle of life, which we call God. If the consciousness that God is the working principle of each individual life is constantly and persistently developed and expressed in the individual members of the center or study class, it becomes an abiding, stable influence in the work, and the work goes on regardless of who may be the particular leader at any given time.
Other Foundation Can no Man Lay
Is it not said that no foundation can be laid other than that which is laid in Christ Jesus? And what was the foundation laid in him other than his conscious knowledge of the presence and power of God dwelling in him?
In conducting a center or study class the leader should remember that his purpose is not to attain the praise of men, but to gain the commendation of God. In other words, the purpose of a center is not to promote the purpose of individuals who wish their own ideas carried out. The leader must learn to set aside his own personal ideas, and in all instances, both in teaching and in practice, adhere to the, principle which was paramount in the life of Jesus Christ. Only then are we practical Christians.
The teachings of practical Christianity are simple, rather than complex. Never was there another teacher who taught with such simplicity as Jesus Christ taught. His teaching was such that leaching a wayfarer, even though a fool, might not err therein. The "isms" and "ologies" taught under various names will never find any logical place in the work of a study class or center whose purpose is to teach Truth, if the members of the class or center adhere to the Christ standard. It is said that God has a second best for those who will not have his best, but the real ministry of a Truth center is to give forth to the people the very highest and best that is obtainable. Therefore when people come asking for Truth, let the center be in a position to give them Truth and not the limited ideas of any teacher.
The True Teacher
The Truth teacher is not the promulgator of philosophies and "isms." He merely presents a fundamental principle by which an individual may find himself and his conscious unity with God. Through that conscious unity with God each individual will become his own teacher and will evolve his own philosophy of life.
The Way of Life
The knowledge of greatest importance to the seeker of Truth is not in what some one else is teaching, or in what some one else has taught or written, or in what any religious system is teaching; it is in what the Spirit of truth within the individual reveals to him. The inspiration of Truth within each individual is the only source from which real understanding can come to that individual. No man really knows the things of God except the Spirit of God in him reveal them. It is well for each leader to realize the importance of this fact, for only in this realization is each individual placed upon his own sure foundation.
Keeping the Vision
Before entering upon the work of a center or study class the teacher should try to gain a clear vision of the ministry and its great underlying purpose. Once he has taken up the ministry he should constantly endeavor not only to keep this vision before his mind, but to foster its growth as he progresses in the work. Where there is no vision the people perish; an individual ceases to grow unless his vision also grows. When the vision or purpose of the work is always kept in the foreground, the teacher or leader is necessarily kept in the background. This eliminates personality, which as a rule is the greatest handicap in attempts to establish Truth ministry.
Help for the Individual
We should remember always that it is not the individual teacher or the teaching that is important. The important thing is to help each individual to a realization of Truth for himself.
Realization in Stillness
This readily leads us to the realization that with the teaching presented in a center there must be ample provision for meditation by the leader and by the student. Only in the stillness can each individual come to a realization of his own indwelling Lord. We constantly become more and more conscious of the things to which we listen. If we expect to become conscious of the power and presence of God working within our own hearts, it is required that we listen to the indwelling Lord; therefore ample provision should be made for silent meditation in all centers and classes. The periods for meditation may be given in connection with study classes, or in special meetings wherein meditation is the primal object. These periods of meditation need not necessarily be long.
God as the only Objective
The great purpose of meditation is man's realization of the power and presence of God as an actual working principle within the life of the individual, and not only for his own enlightenment and physical exaltation, but for the radiation of Spirit for the uplift of his fellow man everywhere.
It is quite natural that Unity students who attend the sessions of a center or study class are desirous of finding the Unity presentation of practical Christianity. We recommend that any center or study class desirous of contacting and working with the various Unity students carry on study classes in "Lessons in Truth," by H. Emilie Cady, and in "Christian Healing," by Charles Fillmore. However, the class may study any other textbook which has for its foundation purpose the awakening of Truth within each individual and establishing him in his own conscious relationship with the Spirit of truth.
We all should learn the need of teaching the fundamental principle of life as the omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience of God, and the oneness of each individual with God. Theories and dogmas and systems do not fulfill this purpose. Only that which is true to the fundamental fact in creation -- that "God is all," and man is one in and with God -- is worthy of the name,Truth. This rule applies also to any center or class bearing the name, Truth.
- What is the object of studying Truth?
- Why is it better to conform to one standard of teaching than to embrace many ideas?
- What is the one recognized source of understanding?
- Is there any place for personality in the work of a class or center?
- What do you understand by laying the foundation of your work "in Christ Jesus"?
- Is the leadership of a center for the promotion of any individual?
- Why is it good practice to avoid teaching the various "isms" of the day?
- What is the "inspiration of the Almighty"?
- Of what value is clear, spiritual vision in the growth of this work?
- Where is the place of contact between God and man?
- What is the avenue through which we contact God?
- Of what value to the class is the period of silent meditation?
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