Eric Butterworth Speaks: Essays on Abundant Living #15
Delivered by Eric Butterworth on May 14, 1975
From the very beginning of his sojourn on earth, man has been a restless, curious, questioning being. He has pondered the mystery of the stars above him and the world around him. Like David of old, he has asked the question of himself and of life, “What is man?”
Witness the gradual progress of the mind of a little baby, and you see a miracle. What is the golden ladder on which the baby climbs out of mere consciousness into intelligence? Curiousity! As the child grows and matures we are confronted with a factor that comes into conflict with the innate spirit of curiosity: laziness and mental lethargy. Some people climb a little way up that ladder and then are satisfied. They would not open a new book, or stretch their minds in wonder at what lies even beyond the next desk above them, to say nothing of what lies beyond the stars, or what lies within themselves. Ceasing to be curious, they cease to grow as persons. They begin to gravitate to a religious philosophy that provides them with a comfortable creed to accept and a religious life that is all worked out.
It is a great day in a man’s life when he truly begins to discover himself. History is full of the acts of men who discovered something of their capacities. But history has yet to record the man who fully discovered all that he might have been. As Emerson said, “Man is an inlet and may become an outlet for all there is in God.”
Our lives and affairs are completely influenced and shaped by the character of our thoughts. Man is not limited by God’s will or by heredity or environment or by fate or circumstance—but by his own dominant state of mind. As Shakespeare voices through one of his characters, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
Your mind is your world. Your thoughts are the tools with which you carve your life story on the substance of the Universe. When you rule your mind you rule your world. When you choose your thoughts you choose results. Your life is what you think: think straight, and life will become straight for you.
Do you find this to be a startling idea? You might say, “But this is some strange notion of psychology or metaphysics. How do I know it is the truth? If thought is so important, why doesn’t the Bible teach the power of constructive thinking?” That’s just the point! The Bible teaches nothing else. It is not until we catch this underlying theme that the Bible begins to make sense.
Throughout the entire Old Testament, the teaching of the prophets and the beauty of the Psalms, we find the intimation of that which Proverbs expresses tersely: “As he (man) thinketh in himself, so is he.” Through parable and direct teaching, Jesus stresses the importance of thought. “Whatsoever ye sow (in thought) that shall ye also reap (in your affairs).” Jesus realized that the mind is the bridge between man and the Infinite, and that even more than fervency and feeling in religion, the important element is man’s thought. He said, “A man’s enemies are of his own household.” (The thoughts of his own mind.) And Paul gives the raison d’etre of all religion when he says, “Be ye not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
All too many of us think that being possessed by any thought that chances to come along is unavoidable. It may be a matter of regret that we have been awake all night worrying about some problem in our lives, but we tell about it as if it were something over which we have no control. We have yet to discover that we have the power to determine whether or not we are going to be kept awake, whether or not we are going to worry. We may not realize it, but we worry because we make the decision that this is the way we determine to face our problem. Always there is a choice. “Choose ye this day whom you will serve.”
Man is a thinking being. The very word “man” comes from the Sanskrit word which literally means “to think”. Through thinking, he has the great possibility of knowing God and expressing the wisdom of Divine Mind. Thought can make man great. Wrongly used, thought can make man weak and ineffective. There is no substitute for good, creative, positive thinking.
It is the absence of positive thinking that is at the root of the age-old dilemma of the religious person: “Why should a good person suffer so?” You may support your church, keep its holy days, and give assent to all of its theology. But this is not enough. The truly spiritual person “lets that same mind that was in Christ Jesus be in him.” He thinks in tune with God in the same positive and constructive way that Jesus did. The purpose of religion should not be to convert persons to a particular creed, but to help persons to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
The best possible method of thought training is prayer. Yet prayer is the most misunderstood facet of religion. It is thought to be intrinsically invariable. It is often a plea to a superman sort of God somewhere off in the skies. It is usually a wordy and emotional plea to God to have mercy, along with a reminder that He is supposed to be omnipotent. In many cases, prayer is simply a form of ritual to be followed—that which usually involves outer practice and ceremony rather than inner feeling and sincerity.
When we think of God as Spirit, and man as the expression of God, then we can understand what Jesus meant when He said, “The Father knoweth what things ye have need of even before ye ask.” Prayer, then, is not for God at all. It is for us. Startling as it may sound, it really doesn’t make any difference to God whether or not you pray...but it makes a lot of difference to you! Prayer is not a matter of conquering God’s reluctance, but of attuning yourself to His eternal willingness.
One thing is certain: when we pray we do not stop thinking. The mind is the connecting link between man and God. If prayer is anything, it is high-level, creative thinking. And all the powers of heaven and earth cannot help us to change or control our thought. Change the direction of your thought and you will change your experience.
I stress the prayer of affirmation. This is not begging or asking, but claiming and accepting. Not “I want”, “I wish”, “I hope”, or “I desire”, but “I AM”. Not “help me”, “guide me”, “heal me”, “prosper me”, but “I am now helped and guided and healed and prospered.” The prophet Joel once declared, “Let the weak say I am strong.” This is the secret of affirmative prayer. If there is a need, instead of dwelling in the thought on the need, claim the Truth—speak the word. All that you need or desire is already yours in the Kingdom of your inner potential. Jesus said, “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”
The entire new insight in Truth that we are outlining might well be summed up under the headings of “prayer” and “right thinking”. This is quite a discipline. Jesus said, “Ye shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free.” This implies the discipline of knowing the Truth and not just knowing about it.
Many have thought of Jesus’ life as providing a means of being “saved” for all time through joining a Church. Actually, there is no final salvation. It is a day by day process of discipline of thought and action. Every time you meet life with a positive thought, you are “saved” from the inevitable effect of negative thought.
There is no intermediary between God and you but your mind. There is no way into the Kingdom of a happy, healthy, and prosperous life except through disciplined effort.
Our new insight presents many workable techniques, but we must forwarn you— they will require faithful and disciplined practice. Attending lectures and reading essays will not create for you that intangible thing called “consciousness” any more than reading a book about golf will make you a good golfer.
How much time should one spend on the “practice of the presence of God”? All the time! We can’t help thinking, and our thoughts are constantly influencing our lives for good or ill. So you might as well learn to think right, and right thinking is prayer. Become a positive thinker—and “pray without ceasing”.
© 1975, by Eric Butterworth