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Merton Thorpe at Unity of NYC — Hold It

Eric Butterworth Unity Podcast #54

Merton Thorpe - Guest Speaker at Unity NYC — Hold It

This recording is a of a meditation and lesson given by Merton Thorpe at the Unity Center of NYC. He was filling in for Olga and Eric Butterworth. The lesson is wonderful, certainly one that fans of Eric Butterworth will appreciate.

Thank you, Philip DiCostanzo, for sending me this audio file. Philip writes, “Dear Mark: I have in my Butterworth @ Lincoln Center tape archives a lecture by Merton Thorpe that is a Unity classic, titled, “Hold it” ( Circa 1986 ). Merton Thorpe would give several lectures every year while Eric and Olga were away on vacation. He was funny, insightful, and had a very unique way of delivering the message of Truth. Eric and Olga really were fond of him.”


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You step off a curb and you’re halfway across the street and a loud voice behind you says, “Hold it.” What do you do? Do you stop? Not if you’re like 99% of people you don’t. You run the rest of the way across or you pretend it doesn’t mean you and you just keep on sauntering.

Have you ever wondered why when you’re driving, you come to a crosswalk and the sign has just flashed, “Stop,” or put up the hand or whatever it does, and about six people arrive at the curb and go across? Ever wondered why that is?

I guess it’d be a good study for operant conditioning or Skinnerian psychology. I think it’s because people have made up their minds they’re gonna cross about halfway down the block, and no sign is gonna stop them. It’s not because they’re stubborn. It’s just that it’s hard to switch directions.

It is not easy to stop doing something that you’ve already started to do, is it? All your life they said, “Don’t chew your nails. Don’t do this, don’t do that,” and it’s hard to stop. Not because we’re perverse. I guess it’s really because of Newton’s Law, one of Newton’s Laws of Motion.

It is that things tend to keep going in a particular direction unless moved from that direction by an external force. Sometimes the external force was your mother telling you to cut it out. Sometimes the external force was the doctor told you better stop. And sometimes even those external forces aren’t enough.

That’s why when we make up our minds to worry about something, now comes the switch. It’s not an easy thing to stop. I think it’s more important for people to stop worrying than it is to stop smoking. Don’t think that I’m suggesting that there’s a good thing in either of them, but worry can really drive us bananas.

Make up your minds to worry. Well, we do, don’t we? We think, “Oh, I can’t help it. Anybody with half a brain would be worried when it saw what I had to see.” But we do make up our minds to be worried.

Now, you know if you drive that your foot has to come off the gas pedal before you can apply the brakes. Well, it really doesn’t. You can get away with it but it won’t stop.

Some drivers drive all around the city, you can see the brake light on. They’ve got one foot on the brake and the other on the gas pedal and they think, “Well, if anything happens, I can stop faster.”

The only problem is, that over a period of time they wear out the brakes and then they can’t stop at all. You realize that’s what we do with our lives sometimes? We’ve got just enough stop on it to say, “I shouldn’t be doing this,” but just enough go going to keep us doing it.

In our mental world saying, “I must stop this,” or, “I ought to stop this,” or somebody says I should, well, accelerating our worry by affirming all the reasons we have for doing it is precisely the same thing.

If we keep it up, we can’t stop at all. We wear out our mental brakes. So, we need more than signs and we need more than limp advice to engage our more powerful selves to creative thinking.

Now, let’s examine what Eric said I was gonna explain to you. What “hold it” can really mean to a truth student. It has something to do with imagination.

Imagination seems like a potter at a potter’s wheel, which is, of course, only one of the many ways of making pottery. But the use of the wheel goes back beyond Egypt, but the first known record of it, I guess, is Egypt about 6,000 years ago.

We’ve learned that the potter throws a lump of clay on a wheel and starts the wheel spinning and then shapes and pulls and caresses a form out of the clay. You don’t fight with clay. You caress it. And that’s what imagination does.

You can’t fight with imagination. You caress with it. If you start fighting with imagination, it turns into worry. But if you caress with it, it turns into demonstration. Real imagination never pushes or pulls or tugs or jerks or hauls at things. It caresses a form until it comes into visibility.

I often tell people who tell me, “I don’t have any imagination.” They just don’t have any imagination. “Oh, I can’t picture things.” I ask them if they’ve ever worried. “Oh, yeah.” Well, then you’ve got a vivid imagination.

“But I can’t picture things,” they say. Well, next time you’re worrying, if you have time, see how well you’re picturing things. The problem is that worry seems involuntary, doesn’t it? But it isn’t. We make a conscious decision to accept the power of a condition and then the worry reflex takes over.

That’s where imagination would caress something into visibility. Worry sits looking into the shadows saying, “I wonder what’s gonna come out of there now.” Mentally accepting whatever walks out is a power over them. Oh, protesting the unfairness of it and the injustice of it, but accepting it.

In truth, that’s imagination at work, but not for our benefit. We live in a culture that makes worrying a virtue. I don’t know whoever started that. I guess the people who tried to cure our worries. We have euphemisms for it like, “concern.” Oh, that’s a lovely word. Get concerned. Come climb the wall with us.

“Involvement.” There’s another one. If you’re not involved, you’re stupid. Some even try to call it, “ethical integrity.” That makes you feel real righteous or fear for our safety. “Oh, we must stop this. Stop! Stop!” What do you do instead? “Oh, I don’t know. Just stop.”

Whatever the name, it’s not the best use to which we can put our minds. Minds are made for thinking and for creating. Remember a very basic, elemental, metaphysical truth, that what you hold in consciousness will manifest in your life. It’s axiomatic. It just will.

And it doesn’t matter that you only hold the negative for a friend, you know. “Hold onto my worry for a little while. I’ll be back and pick it up in five minutes,” and they come back in five minutes and you’re gone with it. Hold it for the unfortunate or the world. Worry with us.

It seems all so important, but there’s nobody on the other side of the worry doing something about it. Let’s suppose you were given a burning branch from a campfire and friend said to you, “Hold onto this for a minute, for a while. I’ll be back. Only five minutes.” It doesn’t take three minutes to burn through your hand.

What we hold in consciousness doesn’t have its effect because of the length of time we hold something, but by the nature of the thing we hold. And some of the things that we hold, some of the thoughts we hold, are amazingly caustic.

When we understand the implications of the Unity phrase, “I behold the Christ in you,” it takes on a new meaning. There’s no caustic, no acid, no hostility, nothing in that. You can’t behold the Christ by saying, “Gee, it’s there but I sure wish you’d display it more.” That really is none of your business, if you’re really gonna behold it.

It doesn’t mean that you ought to get a reward from them. When we behold something or hold in mind the Christ in someone, there’s no ax to grind, no expected reward. And there’s no merit in it. We’re supposed to. But when we do it, because we’re holding it in consciousness for another, we’re unfolding it in ourselves.

But conversely, unless we can appreciate it in ourselves, we can’t hold it for another, so that’s the Catch 22 in it, I suppose. We have to do it for both. In Unity, we’ve always said, “The Christ in me greets the Christ in you.” Not, “The grump in me greets the Christ in you.”

Now, sometimes we approach it like, “Well, this person that is so darn mad he could chew you up is gonna behold the Christ in you.” You can’t do that. It’s the Christ in me beholds the Christ in you.

When we hold something to be false, the converse of this, it obtains no more energy from us. May get a lot of energy in other places, but it isn’t gonna get any from us. Holding something to be is not just hoping that it is, it is to hold.

As I thought about this, and I’ve been thinking about it for a while, as soon as I said I was gonna talk about “hold it,” then the words started bombarding me in the middle of the night. I thought about some basic words to this country in which we live.

When Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and company were trying to decide what they would do about forming a nation, they wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” They didn’t say, “Well, we think that maybe all men are created equal.” Or, “We’ll take a vote and see if they are.” “We hold this truth to be self-evident.” It was its own proof, so it was a holding, a settled conviction. No mild theory but a dynamic proposition.

Now, what I’m suggesting to you is that you can use that holding process in your life to make a dynamic change, not just a bland change where things don’t bother you quite so much anymore. We don’t want to get to the point where we’re just not worrying. I know people who are not worrying and they’re not doing anything else either.

We want to turn it to another use, to another power. So, the dimension that we bring to this other potter’s idea of caressing the truth into visibility. You watch a potter work ... I’ve never done it, but I’ve watched it ... and watched them using their hands. The hands are all wet and covered with this gray stuff. They slide around the object that’s being formed and coax it, caress it.

Why is it that the caresses of a young romance often turn later to tugging and pulling? Pulling one way and then the other. No coaxing anymore. Love caresses the truth into visibility.

We’ve always known, however, how good it feels to be held. You ever been in a situation when you just ask for somebody to hold you for a minute? It’s a good feeling, unless that somebody is holding you in bondage. Then it’s not a good feeling. You know, I love you and you can’t get away.

Holding and touching have become very popular lately. I remember a few years back when they were having all of these group therapy things out on the West Coast. Somebody called that stuff “group grope.” That’s not the kind of of touching I’m talking about.

But there is a kind of healing therapy in it. If some of you have done any looking into what they call, “therapeutic touch,” they’ve discovered that there is an energy that can be used cooperatively to recenter and redirect. Not to coerce, not to force, not to rub the energy into somebody’s head, but to coax it, to caress it out of there.

Some of the practitioners of therapeutic touch have said that you don’t even have to touch the person physically. You sort of bring the energy out. I think it’s a kind of a caress.

Now, what is there about it that brings all this power? I’ve had some hugs that I wanted to escape from, fast, and some I wanted to last. I remember one Sunday. Just the week before I’d been talking about how to hug. It was kind of interesting idea, how to hug the world from a distance.

This woman came out, a very aggressive, kind of stormy-looking woman and she came out and looked at me kind of funny and then took off. I got a letter from her the next week and she said, “I wanted to hug you but I sensed you wouldn’t like it.” I don’t know why she sensed that. She must be psychic. I don’t know.

But hugs are kind of important to me. But the important thing of any holding is what is being held in mind, not what is in the arms. The important thing of any holding. You know, bears are good huggers, but I don’t expect to go out and get hugged by a bear.

What is holding anyhow? We say that holding is to keep. We have all kinds of words about holding. Free holding, and holdings in an investment corporation or real estate holding.

But when we hold in the spiritual sense, the only things we get to keep are the things that we will release. That’s paradoxical, but that’s the way it works. We can keep only that which we will release.

I saw a bumper sticker not long ago and I’m only paraphrasing it, but it said, “If you love something, set it free. If it’s yours, it’ll come back to you.”

I have a faint impression that that sounds something like the work of Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian poet who said a lot of beautiful things. But it brings to mind a bit of Hindu whimsy that says, “If you call your dog and he doesn’t come, it’s not your dog.”

Do you ever stop to think that that’s precisely what the law of demonstration is? If you call for it and it doesn’t come, you haven’t made it yours. The only way you can make it yours is to hold it in release.

Now, that sounds like double-talk, to hold in release. But holding is more a caress than a grasp. There’s no clinched fist in holding. That’s holding on. This is holding. And that’s holding out.

Truths that are grasped are those that we agree sound good. “Oh, I grasped that.” But it isn’t yours yet. If you intellectually accept it, “Oh, that sounds great. Oh, I love that stuff,” there’s one more step. Truths that are held become us. It’s not something I heard once or read once or can quote readily.

It is something I now am. That’s the most important thing for any truth student to know. Any affirmative prayer that you use must become you. When we know what holding is and we say to ourselves, “I am now in the presence of pure being,” it means to us that I am that being in whose presence I am.

In the face of the apparent world conditions, how can holding such thoughts possibly help? It’s simple. We become what we hold in mind. If we are preoccupied with the misguided ones who are blowing up their neighbor, preoccupied mind. I’m not suggesting we don’t have to think about it. But we must be primarily occupied with holding ourselves in a state of consciousness that will release our creativity.

We can’t run around saying the world’s falling in, if we’re not willing to find some way of propping it up. We externalize our efforts. We even do it in truth treatment. We apply it to problems. We apply it to challenges.

What’s a good affirmation for a sore back? What’s a good affirmation for this? What’s a good affirmation for that? That’s like applying plasters to things.

I remember one time years ago when I was working in Silent Unity, there was a letter in the files from a man who wrote back saying that his wife was just tickled to death with the monthly affirmations that came to them from Silent Unity in the mail.

She said, “We got the one for a cold and my wife put it on her chest and she hasn’t had a cold all winter.” This is how some people apply the truth, see? I had a correspondent one time who wrote and asked if we would bless her husband’s underwear so he’d keep warm. There’s something so simple and so sweet about that that it almost makes me cry.

Recently, I invited somebody to join a prayer group. Well, the whole group of people. It was in the group but one person said, “Oh, goody. Will we hear about all the demonstrations?” I said, “No, we won’t. It’s an extremely personal, intimate, confidential activity.” She said, “Oh, dear. That would be fun.”

Well, prayer’s not for fun. It’s a marvelous, joyous, wonderful experience, but if we enter into it for the results, we don’t know what it’s all about. And see, holding in the new sense is not holding to see what you’ll get out of it, but holding so it will tell you what it is. We love to hear about results, but that can only satisfy the intellect.

Some people say, “Well, I’ll believe, but I want to be sure it works first.” Now, we can be pretty sure that if we are caressed by somebody who wants to be sure it works, we better get out of that embrace in a hurry. Anybody who embraces us for what they can get from that embrace is on the wrong planet, as far as I’m concerned.

When we hold to bring forth a truth into visibility, we do it as something loved for its own sake and not for what it can do for us. A truth is not a good thing to know because it might heal us or it might bring us prosperity. How many times I’ve heard people say, “Oh, well, yeah. Unity’s terrific, but I don’t need it anymore, ‘cause I got healed.”

We hold it lightly and lovingly until it reveals itself to us. We hold it as we might a precious object, not afraid of breaking it but just so we can enjoy it, aware of all that we feel when we hold it.

You know, a dyed-in-the-wool truth student can see spiritual ideas in everything. It’s not that hard to do. But I was thinking the other day when I was thinking about this lesson, about some lines in the musical, Cats. I don’t know how many of you’ve seen it, but I have Barbra Streisand’s recording of it and I play it often.

There’s a part in it that really touches me almost to the point of tears. It’s a kind of a catch-in-the-throat kind of thing. The line simply says ... it’s in the song, Memory .... “If you touch me, you’ll understand what happiness is.” That is a beautiful line. Whenever I hear it, I’m moved by it.

In a sense, we ought to enter into that relationship with affirmations. “If you touch me, you’ll understand what happiness is.” We should hold truths and pray until we are moved.

We so often use them as though we’re hoping somebody else will be moved. You know, “I’m gonna pray for my boss and boy, does he need it.” We’re waiting for somebody else to move, or the earth, or for something to be changed or healed.

But learning to use an affirmation with affection may seem kind of strange, but I think that’s the point. To hold it until not only are we affected by it, but we feel a kind of warmth about it. Persist in it, but hold your hands loosely.

A lot of people used to wonder. I know there’ve been all kinds of theories about why so often when people are praying they’re asked to hold their hands on their laps and open and all that, so that the pennies from heaven can fall in it or something. And really it’s just a symbol of openness, and if you open your hands consciously, you do somehow open the rest of you.

Charles Fillmore wrote many, many years ago that when he first entered into this meditative state, that he didn’t really get anything. He thought he was gonna to get answers or voices or something and he didn’t get anything at all.

But he kept doing it and kept doing it and then he discovered that he was rather enjoying it. He was sitting there thinking these things and he didn’t have any particular impression that he was aware of.

But it did feel kind of good. And the better it began to feel, the more he began to learn and he discovered that he was dreaming dreams that were vivid. Then he was beginning to get the message, but it really didn’t come through until he felt good about it.

I so often tell people if they tell me that a particular way didn’t work: “How did you feel?” “Well, I didn’t feel very much.” Well, it’s up to you what you feel. Can’t expect the affirmation to grab you by the scruff of the neck and say, “Now, look. This is what you’re supposed to feel.”

So much of mental work that people do seems motivated by the desire to change something, to get a mortgage or refinance it or do all these things. But caressing something into visibility has as its object to bring it forth no matter what it looks like. It’s self-transforming.

But this does have a practical side, even though we may theorize it a great deal. Most of us would agree, I think, that self-transformation is important, isn’t is? Of course it is. But it doesn’t pay the mortgage. Won’t pay the rent.

While we’re distilling ourselves in these marvelous truths, sort of like a metaphysical hot tub, I guess, there should be practical demonstration as well. Now, this is where we sometimes get into trouble. So build on this.

You don’t have to worry about making something manifest. If you hold it in consciousness, it has to. There is no way around it. If you let it go before it’s done, too bad. To take the cake out of the oven and drop it on the floor, if you want to eat crumbs, that’s up to you.

But hold it lovingly and caress it into visibility and see what happens to your life. Then if you’re trying to do this ... and most of us have this experience ... you’re trying to be very calm and poised and you’re thinking these things that everybody tells you you’re supposed to do. You read a thousand books.

Something about worry creeps into your mind, something that seems plausible and human and perfectly reasonable. You think, “Oh, boy. How can I say this stuff when this is happening?” That’s when you say, “Hold it.”

Now, that can mean two things. It can mean just hang on a minute and see what you’re really doing to yourself and saying, “Do you really want this to manifest?” You say it’s there, you’re giving it a power. Do you want it to manifest or do you want what you’re thinking to manifest? Do you really want to believe that all of this is a mess, that all this truth stuff is a fake?

Now that you’re holding it like that for a minute, sort of holding it off, then hold it again, this time in the other sense. Caress the truth that’s trying to come into visibility and you will find that all of a sudden you will feel that state ... Eric talks about it, I think ... “Aha! Got it.” Or as Archimedes said, “Eureka.” Eureka sounds kind of phony, though so, well, you can say, “Aha.”

Caress that truth into visibility. Take a look around. And here’s a way you can do it, ‘course you can only do it if there are trees, so you’ll have to pick something else if you don’t have a tree nearby.

But look at the tree over there for a minute. Just pretend there’s a tree over there. Grow with it for just a minute. Just kind of feel like you are sort of in there growing. This is not method acting, by the way. But cast your eyes around you and hold onto to what you see for a minute.

Look for a change without glancing, and listen for a moment and see what you hear. Now, what was that you were worrying about? It’s started to fade. I’m telling you it really works. But if you just say the first hold and say, “Oh, I’ve gotta stop this stuff,” without the second part, it won’t work.

I don’t know how many young truth students go around telling their neighbors, “You shouldn’t talk negatively. You shouldn’t do that.” And they’re right, but what else is new? We already know that, don’t we? It’s being able to stop it that’s the point.

Now how do you feel if you have a head start on a real good worry? You know, Monday morning, oh, you’ve got a dandy. It’s about 9:30 and you’ve got something that’s gotta be delivered at quarter to 10 and you’re really going on it. You’ve really chewed it up and it’s ready to burn up your stomach.

A friend comes along and says, “Don’t worry. Everything will be all right.” And what’s your first response? “Oh, how the heck do you know? You don’t have to look at what I have to look at. You don’t have to go through that door in 10 minutes.”

You realize your own intellect will do the same thing to you if all you say is, “Stop worrying.” It’s gonna come up with 40,000 different reasons why you ought to, and most of them are pretty plausible.

But we need to hold it in a creative sense. Take couple of minutes often will be enough. That’s really what meditation is all about, you know. It’s caressing truths into visibility, not repeating words.

Shakespeare spoke in Midsummer Night’s Dream, a very important line. It’s always been kind of important to me, but I think he was talking about hallucinations. But I don’t care what he was talking about. The line means something else to me. He says, “Imagination bodies forth the shape of things unknown and gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name.”

Now, as I say, he may have been speaking of hallucinations, but I’m not. Imagination does bring forth from the invisible and from no thing at all, brings a form and an identity. That’s the cornerstone of Unity’s way of life. It always has been.

Early on, metaphysics held that the great impairment to the demonstration of truth was the false reports of the senses. I got that early on in my education, the sense-mind, the personal consciousness. It got to the point where, boy, you avoid that at all costs, the illusion of appearances. It’s the part of us that lets our thoughts be controlled by appearances.

But many people tried to deny the senses and I think that’s where the problem is. Since what I see is often false or incomplete, then we’ll all stop looking, you see.

If you had an argument with somebody and you tell them, “Now, you shouldn’t say things like that,” and they say, “Well, then I won’t say anything.” Ever had that? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Or, “You left something on the porch today.” “Well, I’m not going on the porch anymore then.”

Now, we do that sometimes with ourselves. I still think that we misinterpret what Jesus meant when he said, “If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out.” I don’t think he meant for us all to go around one-eyed. What does the eye do anyway? Just passes light. We see through the eye, not with it.

It seems to me that through the act of practice of elevating our senses so that we see more than we’ve seen, hear more than we’ve heard, and touch more than we’ve touched, we can release this creative imagination that is buried even in our senses.

Jesus said, “Let those with eyes see and with ears hear.” So, if we encourage this imaginative capacity of our senses, we develop an awareness greater than the sum of what we see and hear.

I think that it’s kind of mistaken for so many people to be trying to find some other plane. You know, they want to get out here somewhere and looking for another plane of consciousness. This plane’s great if you see what’s really here.

I don’t really think there are planes of consciousness. I think there are planes of being. I should probably put it better that way. There are planes of consciousness and planes of perception, but they’re all here, not somewhere else.

When we elevate our awareness, we are on a higher plane, but it’s a higher plane about this one where we live. A higher plane in our perception of people. A higher plane in our creative energies as we do things. We don’t have to leave the planet spiritually in order to solve the problems of this planet.

We think we’ve been real creative technologically. All we’ve done is make a lot of things that give us a lot of trouble. The next step, it seems to me, is to caress into visibility all the solutions to those problems, which means to get the other half. We found the way of using things, but not what their secrets are and that’s what we want.

Most of us exercise too little of our power of decision and we need a halt in our momentum. We often don’t realize just how truly creative each of us is. You know, if you could stop for a moment and look at your life and look at the way things are even if it’s kind of confused, and say, “By golly, I did that and if I did that, I can do something else.”

Which reminds me of a young man who never kept his room straight. It looked like the Army had been in there for a weekend together with a couple of tanks and two F-16s. So, one day his father strode into his room and looked at the mess and he said, “Tom, this room shows real creative genius. Nobody could’ve done this by accident.” And he was right.

However things look, it didn’t happen by accident, and at some point the accident can be forestalled if we just have sense enough to say, “Hold it.”

Thank you.