The Prayer of Silence (Part One)
When the Scriptures teach "Be still and know," they reveal the practice which is the beginning of all discovery; and this practice also applies to the beginning of spiritual progress. Knowledge does not come to the individual who is habitually rearranging and expressing those ideas and impressions which are already within his mind. Before new knowledge and impressions can register, these previous activities must rest. For this reason many people are incapable of receiving an answer to their prayers. Their minds are so obsessed with past impressions that they are incapable of registering anything new. Did you ever notice how impossible it was for you to impress any idea of encouragement
or opportunity upon the mind of one who loved to rehearse his difficulties?
Perhaps some very simple illustration right at the beginning of our consideration of the subject of silent prayer, would better prepare our minds to understand just what this form of prayer involves.
It is not an uncommon practice for any of us to ask questions. That is a very common experience in human nature, and it is a perfectly natural thing to do. But it is a self-evident fact that we cannot receive an answer to a question unless we listen. And to register the full significance of the answer, we must listen completely and intently. Lots of people cease any outward noise after asking a question, but while the answer is forthcoming they are rearranging their own ideas and formulating another question; and for this reason the answer does not register. It is simple enough to understand that attentive, comprehending listening is the only possible means by which one could receive or understand the answer.
Regardless of the kind of information received into the mind, there is involved the attitude of arrested attention. Notice when one tastes something. He places it upon his tongue and handles it in the accustomed manner familiar to us all. During this period the mind is attentive. This person is not trying to make the thing taste like something he has already experienced, but he is attentive to discover the particular flavor peculiar to the object
itself. Afterwards he may liken it to some other similar flavor. However, this process usually comes after the mind has comprehended the impressions involved in this particular operation. When the mind has grasped, or experienced, the impressions resulting from the experiment, the individual is inclined to say, "Oh, I see." This is not only our experience with things we taste, but also with what we see, feel, hear, smell. Likewise, — regardless of the avenue through which the information reaches the consciousness, — when the information has actually registered in the mind, when the mind comprehends the impression involved, the same expression "I see" is always employed. "I see" defines the state of comprehension. Perhaps then, it may be possible, as a result of some consideration of the subject at least, to comprehend what the instruction given to Moses really means. "The land thou seest, that will I give unto thee as an inheritance." Surely where there is no comprehension of a thing, so far as that individual is concerned it does not exist. Imagine a person without a sense of beauty, living in an environment of beauty, and being able to grasp or comprehend it. And after all, this is the state we are all in; for there is infinite abundance of every kind and description about us at all times, but we have trained our comprehension in a field of limitation, and are incapable of grasping anything beyond our fixed mental habits. New mental habits must be formed; and in order to do this we must
understand and apply the principles of sustained attention toward an entirely new set of objects, facts, forces, and possibilities. We must seek out a new country if we would ever discover it.
After a class in which the writer was attempting to make this point clear, a woman handed him the following note, which certainly has a definite bearing upon the matter:
"You may be interested in the experiment told in the New Yorker: 'A pike and a minnow were placed in the same tank, but separated from each other by a plate glass partition. The pike, time after time, tried to get the minnow and each time received a severe blow from impact with the glass. Finally, after the pike had fully concluded that it was no use, the glass partition was removed and the minnow swam all about the pike without the pike's making any effort to get it. The implications are obvious — the pike was limited by his own concepts, and even though the food (minnow) was placed within his reach, he had not the ability to conceive that it was for him.' "
The foregoing illustration rather perfectly portrays the plight in which man finds himself; but it is a difficult thing for most of us to realize that this, after all, is the one thing that keeps us from progressing into more desirable states. We become accustomed to our difficulties, and even to limited channels of supply and all that sort of thing, and become so engrossed in the apparent that we overlook
innumerable other aspects of life and its greater opportunities. If we would only break with these old habits, silence them, and look out upon life as it is, we would discover that it is exceedingly generous with its resources and opportunities. We must, by insistent practice, train ourselves to part with former concepts and open ourselves into a new field of discovery and adventure. This is the great opportunity which the silent form of prayer offers.
Let us illustrate this principle in yet another way before we proceed with the subject itself. Consider for a moment the process involved in a court trial. The lawyers on both sides present the case of the individual who is haled into court. They cross-examine the accused and the witnesses. Then the lawyers "rest the case," and it is in this state of "resting the case" that they all await the decision of the judge. This is where the processes of law begin their operation. Presenting the case before this point was invoking the law and bringing the case within the processes of the law itself. But at the time of "resting the case" all concerned withdraw their efforts and wait to learn in what manner the law itself will move. This is not a place or time of inertia, but of keenest interest and anticipation to learn every detail of the action of the law which has been invoked.
This last illustration perhaps best reveals the attitude in silent prayer. From our previous attempts at prayer, we have been seeking to invoke the law
of God in our behalf; and all this practice has been expanding our own nature into the law, rather than changing the processes of the law. But now comes the time when we "rest from our labors" and "stand still and see the glory of God made manifest." And this is not a state of inertia, but a state of supreme interest, with every faculty of the mind alert to discover the activity of the Spirit of God in our behalf.
The Silence is the simplest operation of which the mind is capable, as it is the beginning of all the mind's processes. Any individual who discovers anything in this world, or in his experiences, applies all the principles of the Silence. Therefore, there need be no mystery about it. But the attitude involved is not an act of slowing down the mental process to a state of inertia. It is rather a means of awakening the mind's activity along new lines through an interest in new discoveries which may be made. The attitude is like the minds of children on Christmas morning as they forget all their petty cares, hurts, and anxieties, in the anticipation of what good thing is contained in the various parcels which are presented to them. Their minds are alert and full of anticipation, and their entire nature is quickened and animated by their interest. You see, they receive the actual good from their gifts before they really possess them. If men were as eagerly anticipating the good which is in store for them as they persistently anticipate evil, poverty, hardship,
and disease, they would as easily incorporate and express this same good in their lives.
You have seen children incapable of receiving and enjoying their gifts — though this state may be rare with children — because they cried or pouted about some previous disappointment. The chief difference between adults and children is that we have become more fixed and determined in the habit of pouting, and thereby decreased the expansive habit of anticipation or expecting the desirable. There must be a mental attitude consistent with the thing itself before there is a relationship between the thing and the individual. Also, when the anticipation is keen, one receives the effect for which the thing itself is designed. This anticipation becomes an irresistible force within the nature of the individual, affecting his being accordingly, and the result is the same as when the thing itself actually arrives. Sometimes the effect of anticipation is greater than the arrival of the thing, for so often the thing does not measure up to our expectations. "Anticipation is greater than realization" is at least sometimes very true. One can understand this when he realizes that creative energies do not spring from things, but come with the expansion of the nature of man, the enlargement of his mind and his inward ideals. The very essence of the thing we seek is not to be found in the things we ask for, but in the release of our own souls and in the freedom of our spirit.
There are many degrees of Silence, and the degree to which one is enabled to go into the Silence is determined by the degree of interest aroused in discovering the things of Spirit. What one discovers of God determines the degree of life and health and supply he expresses. The growth of a plant is determined by the amount of light, air, and moisture it is enabled to absorb into itself. The Prayer of Silence is therefore the means by which we increase our standard of living and enlarge our abilities in every phase of being.
The difference between "attention" as an initial form of prayer, and as applied to the Silence, is the deepening sense which accompanies it. It is that depth of attention which has passed thoughts and words, and the individual is engrossed in the process which thoughts and words but vaguely define. Have you not been too angry for words or even thoughts, and the aroused wrath swept through your whole being? Was your attention not supreme, and your entire nature enthralled with the surge of anger? Have you not been too happy to define; too grateful for expression; too full of love to define? This is that state where the realm of thoughts and words are silenced, and you are engulfed in the realization of the fact itself. There also comes a time when man's descriptions of God are inadequate, and his realization is so full that he can only pause in "adoration" of the immensity and grandeur of his supreme presence. This is the attitude in
which man begins his own individual discovery into the nature of God and all "the earth keeps silence before him." He is receiving the very essence of that toward which his search has been directed.
Let us consider another illustration which will point out very clearly our present state and the secret of effecting a complete release from it into a more desirable state. You perhaps have known boys to hypnotize chickens with straws. The trick is to catch a chicken, place it upon its back, and then wave a straw back and forth in front of the chicken's eyes. Finally its attention becomes fixed upon the straw, and its head begins to move as the straw moves. At this stage in the experiment, the straw is laid quietly across the chicken's breast. The chicken's attention remains fixed upon the straw, and she is therefore unable to get up. It is a self-evident fact that the straw has no power in itself to hold the chicken down. The chicken was bound by the law of fixed attention, and this was the only reason it was prevented from moving about in its normal manner. Continuing this experiment, after a number of chickens have been so hypnotized, some demonstration of noise such as boys might employ is indulged in. When the noise is sufficient to break the chickens' attention from the straws, they will get up, walk away, and otherwise behave themselves as normal chickens usually do. Of course the spell could have been broken by removing the straws, but even boys
know that is not necessary. Breaking the fixed attention is all that is required.
In the foregoing illustration there is revealed the whole law of bondage and liberty. It illustrates the fact that "The land thou seest, that will I give unto thee as an inheritance." "Lift up thine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh help" is the law of your release from any external limitation, for it is not the external thing which limits. It is the law of fixed attention upon external conditions. Christ said, "Look unto me all the ends of the earth and be ye saved." This is the law of salvation, for man is as free or as bound as the nature within that which occupies his attention.
Man is not separated from his good by time, space, and circumstances. He is only separated from his good by his inability to "see." His limitations, his failures, his diseases, and his poverty are all fictitious conditions impressed upon his mind until he is unable to see anything else or accept anything else. In reality they have no power to bind or limit him. Man is the offspring of God, created in his image and likeness; and when he sees this fact as clearly as he has seen its opposite, he will then be as free as he has been bound. "Look up, for your redemption moveth toward you." It was for this reason that the mystics proclaimed:
"Whatsoe'er thou seest, man,
That too become thou must;
God if thou seest God,
Dust if thou seest dust."
Man always travels in the direction his vision leads him, and he incorporates into his nature the characteristics of that which occupies his attention. That is why the Scriptures teach that "a man's enemies shall be those of his own household." Your "household" is your own being, and the enemy is only the reaction of your own mental and emotional forces.
An explorer was once asked how his men withstood the hardships involved in their adventures. He replied: "When you are interested enough in a thing there are no hardships. If you are not interested, everything is a hardship." That is true of every phase of life, and where there is an all-absorbing interest in one's progress in any given direction there is never really any such thing as opposition. This interest precludes the possibility of any reaction of his own mind and feeling, for this interest sustains his entire being in line with the objective itself.
At a certain point of attention to any one thing, condition, or circumstance, man forgets its opposite. "There are two always in the field, the one must be taken and the other left." These "two" which are "ever in the field" are the spiritual fact as it is in God and the negative appearance which man perceives as its opposite. The way of our release is to transfer our attention from, and cease to contemplate, the negative appearance; and train ourselves persistently to contemplate the spiritual
fact as it ever remains in the nature and being of God. "Turn away your faces from all your abominations and return unto me, seeking my face," saith the Lord. Notice the difference in the experiences of a student who spends his time studying the difficulties involved in a complex mathematical problem, and the one who spends his time studying the rule back of the problem until he understands its meaning.
From your own experiences you have discovered that at a certain point of attention to anything that would make you sad, you automatically become sad, forgetting that there was ever anything to be glad about. As you went about your daily rounds of life, you saw the things which previously made you glad, but in this state of mind they not only failed to arouse your joy, but even increased your sadness. If a principle works one way, it would certainly work the other way; and at a certain point of attention to anything that would make you joyous, you would become joyous, forgetting your sadness. By this same law, men become weak or strong, young or old, healthy or diseased, a success or a failure, rich or poor; for truly, "The land thou seest, that will I give unto thee as an inheritance."
At a certain point of attention to the difficulties arising in your life, you forget the available help which comes to you continually from Infinite Space. On the other hand, at a certain point of
attention to that help which God is pouring out upon you, and which is welling up within you and all men at all times, you forget the difficulty and you are freed from it. At a certain point of attention to the apparent limitations of your body, you forget your innate genius for accomplishing all things. If this is true, it must necessarily follow that at a certain point of attention to your innate genius for accomplishing all things, you forget and rise above the apparent limitations of your flesh. At a certain point of attention to the idea of lack, you forget the abundance of God and the rich treasures of his Kingdom; and you may see and manifest the reverse of lack if you will sustain your attention upon that immeasurable realm of good things which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard," and which is the "Father's pleasure" to give to all his creations. And so this same law runs through every condition and circumstance in life, and you may have in your life whatever "land thou seest."
The rightly directed sight of the mind is the parting of the ways by which you separate yourself from the undesirable and enter into that Kingdom of the desirable. The Silence is the means of purposefully directing this seeing sense of the mind into the realm of Divine reality, and it is therefore the gateway beyond which lie all the Infinite resources of God and the perfection which he has ordained for all men from the beginning.
Attention to anything makes you sensitive to it;
becoming sensitive to it, you more readily absorb it into your nature; and absorbing it into your nature, your whole being for the time is influenced and affected by it. Notice how you absorb the despondency of your neighbor when he or she recites some distressing tale of woe. You become attentive; through your interested and sympathetic attention you become sensitive, and thus you readily absorb or imbibe your neighbor's mental and emotional state. Finally you become as despondent or depressed or as sad as your neighbor. Perhaps "misery loves company," but that is not the kind of solace that promotes human progress.
The mystics recognized this law of "becoming what you see" and kept their attention directed habitually toward God. So vital and life-giving was this practice of uplifted attention that they called it the "flume of immortality."
Now let us look for further understanding of how this law works even in the mechanical creations of man. Interpenetrating the air we breathe and the light which shines upon us from the sun, there is a field of energy which we have come to know as the electrical ether. In this electrical ether is being broadcast all of the lectures, concerts, and programs of the various broadcasting stations. By the quiet adjustment of the dial of our receiving set to these various wave lengths on which the various programs move, they are picked up and amplified through our instrument. We may in this way
pick up and amplify any sort of program we may desire. If we tune in on something undesirable, we simply move the dial on beyond it until we find that which corresponds to our desire.
Here again is the mystery of the Silence. Above the electrical ether and interpenetrating all time and space is the very presence and power of God, that spiritual ether in which the great Steinmetz said would be made "the greatest discoveries of this age." Moving in that spiritual ether is all the knowledge of God; the Power of his Spirit that created all things; all the life that animates every living thing; all the love that binds us in eternal unity with himself; and all the substance out of which he fashioned every created thing. By the simple act of lifting our attention away from the apparent limitations of conditions and circumstances, the simple act of turning the dial of our mind past everything that does not correspond to our highest ideal of perfection, we may tune in upon and discover the good things of the Kingdom of God that are always moving in our behalf and seeking to fulfill the will and purpose of God in us; illuminating our minds with perfect understanding; quickening our hearts with perfect life and love; healing our bodies with the power of his word; and readjusting all our affairs with the undefeatable law of the Kingdom of the Heavens.
The point of reception for the radio is within itself, and the point of reception within man is the
deepest longing in his heart. These secret longings leading man always toward perfection are the nature of that which is moving in the will and purpose of God; and it is toward these inward and eternally moving facts that we must turn our attention for spiritual reception. True, the same facts move in infinite space; but this is our point of contact with it, and we need not go outside for it any more than our radio has to go to the broadcasting station to gather in the programs which are already moving in, through, and around it.
Let us therefore give ourselves during the following month to a deep contemplation of the fact that God is all; that his Kingdom is among us; that his will is done in us and through us; that this day and all days he is giving us our daily bread — that inexhaustible supply — out of his infinite resources; that God has forgiven us from the beginning of time by giving to us himself in place of all our shortcomings; that God is an Infinite, all-sustaining Power in every trial, and for that reason we are delivered from all that has seemed evil; and furthermore he is doing all this to fulfill his own Will and purpose in us, that he may be glorified in us and through us for the establishment of his own Kingdom, crowning all creation with his own glory.
The Prayer of Silence
I find it well to come
For deeper rest to this still room,
For here, the habit of the soul
Feels less the outer world's control;
And from silence multiplied
By these still forms on every side,
The world that time and sense have known
Falls off, and leaves us God alone.