Do you really want to go to heaven?
Sunday lesson given at Unity Center of Christianity in Baltimore, November 17, 2019.
Hi Friends -
Unity’s teaching on heaven and the kingdom of heaven has become way too complicated, in my opinion. I will get to the complexities in a moment, but let me begin with how these terms are described in Charles Fillmore’s essay The Kingdom of Heaven Is At Hand, which, in my view, is the right way we should be talking about heaven and the kingdom of heaven:
Heaven is a condition, to be brought about in the affairs of men, here on the earth. It is to grow from small beginnings, like the mustard seed or the yeast cake. His disciples were sent forth to sow the seed in a definite way, by carrying into the midst of men the signs that evidence the power of Spirit, through which the kingdom of heaven is to be established, right here on this planet.
What this says, in a nutshell, is that heaven is when our minds are so well aligned with the divine thoughts of God that we manifest God’s will on earth, thereby establishing on earth what Jesus called the kingdom of heaven.
Emmet Fox says nearly the same thing in his essay on The Lord’s Prayer, which is often published with his longer essay The Sermon on the Mount. Fox writes,
it is the nature of God to be in heaven, and of man to be on earth, because God is Cause, and man is manifestation. Cause cannot be expression, and expression cannot be Cause, and we must be careful not to confuse the two things. ... The word “earth” means manifestation, and man’s function is to manifest or express God, or Cause ... Man’s destiny is to express God in all sorts of glorious and wonderful ways.
Both of these passages indicate that heaven is the Cause and the kingdom of heaven is the expression. Jesus put it succinctly when he taught us to pray “Our Father, who is in heaven ... thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as in heaven.” So, in summary, heaven and kingdom are two ends of a unified metaphysical process—Cause and manifestation.
What has happened is that both heaven and kingdom of heaven have become understood to be Cause. The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary and the Revealing Word state that heaven is “a state of consciousness in harmony with the thoughts of God.” But they say nearly the same thing about the kingdom of heaven: “Meta. The kingdom of heaven, or of the heavens, is a state of consciousness in which the soul and the body are in harmony with Divine Mind.”
If this is true, that Unity’s in-a-nutshell teaching implies that heaven and the kingdom of heaven is about achieving a particular condition of consciousness, rather than manifesting an earthly kingdom that is heavenly in nature, then it is very much aligned with orthodox teaching on heaven and the kingdom of heaven. Here’s why.
In orthodox teaching, the goal is to get into heaven. Heaven is a destiny. The objective is to leave earth for heaven. That is quite different from what Mr. Fillmore, Emmet Fox and Jesus teach. For them, the goal is situated on earth, not heaven. And our destiny is the establishment of a kingdom, which is heavenly in nature, but which is manifested—physically—on earth. For Charles Fillmore and Emmet Fox, our objective should not be to leave earth, but rather to transform earth into the kingdom envisioned by Jesus.
This is important, for several reasons. First, a metaphysical process with two equal phases—Cause and manifestation—aligns metaphysical teaching with the teaching of Jesus. Jesus certainly called upon prayer to activate heavenly powers, but he also did not recluse himself solely to prayer, nor to “absent treatment.” He recruited and trained disciples to scatter the seeds of his kingdom and he himself actively engaged in people in healing, binding-up, proclaiming and setting them free. Metaphysical Christians should be no less engaged in establishing the kingdom of heaven in earth.
Second, a two-phase metaphysical process guards us from two potential errors that Emmet Fox discusses in The Lord’s Prayer. He writes, “Trying to have manifestation without Cause is atheism and materialism, and we know where they lead. Trying to have Cause without manifestation leads man to suppose himself to be a personal God, and this commonly ends in megalomania and a kind of paralysis of expression.” Mind and expression are tethered in metaphysical religion.
Finally, a two-phase metaphysical process leads to destiny and purpose in earthly expression rather than destiny and purpose in sitting in heaven enjoying a beatific vision. God knows we have plenty to accomplish on earth.
Sunday, November 17, 2019
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The Kingdom of Heaven Is At Hand
By Charles Fillmore
Section headers and mark-up by TruthUnity
And as ye go, preach, saying, The Kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons: freely ye received, freely give.—Matt. 10:7, 8.
Jesus’ kingdom is on earth, not in heaven
A KINGDOM is a government with evidence of its power right among its subjects. Its authority is exercised in the country in which it is set up. It regulates the public affairs of the people in its domain, to conform to its highest ideas of equity, prosperity, and the general welfare of its subjects.
This was Jesus Christ’s idea of a kingdom. His kingdom was not of this world of sin, sickness, poverty, injustice, and death, but a kingdom in which righteousness, health, life, peace, and prosperity are natural to all its people. He proposed to establish such a kingdom among men, through the evidences of His power. Thus were the instructions given to His disciples whom He sent forth as His agents to inaugurate the new order of things.
Had the kingdom, to which Jesus so often referred, been a city with golden streets, in the skies, He could easily have located it; but He did not do so. On the contrary, He again and again gave illustrations to show His listeners that it was a desirable condition, which would be brought about among them through the power of Spirit. He did not speak of it as situated anywhere in particular, nor did He say that it could be attained quickly. For instance, He said: “Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I liken it? It is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his own garden; and it grew, and became a tree; and the birds of the heaven lodged in the branches thereof.” And again, “It is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened.” (Matt. 13)
It is a great mystery how these comparisons of heaven ever came to be construed as referring in any way to a locality in the skies. What relation to a city with streets of gold has a mustard seed, planted in the earth and springing forth into a tree, or a little cake of yeast fermenting a baking of bread?
A remarkably strange lot of comparisons Jesus used, if He had in mind a place where the good were to go after death!
But He never pretended to convey any such meaning. His command to His disciples fully carries out His idea of the kingdom of heaven. Heaven is a condition, to be brought about in the affairs of men, here on the earth. It is to grow from small beginnings, like the mustard seed or the yeast cake. His disciples were sent forth to sow the seed in a definite way, by carrying into the midst of men the signs that evidence the power of Spirit, through which the kingdom of heaven is to be established, right here on this planet. There is no basis for any other view. All the theories about a place called “heaven,” are founded on John’s symbolical description of New Jerusalem, which was a picture, in the imagination, of the fulfillment on earth of the very movement which Jesus inaugurated and which He described as having such small beginnings. This city, which John saw, is among men.
“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God: and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away.” (Rev. 21:3)
All this describes what is to take place here among us. No reference is made to its being among angels, or to its being established at the time that John saw the vision; it is to be consummated in new conditions on earth.
If the kingdom which Jesus taught is in the skies, why did He direct His disciples to pray: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth”? Now that men are opening up the hidden resources of nature, in earth and in air, possibilities of achievement are dawning on them, and they see that human endeavor will yet make the earth a paradise.
No one should be deluded with the vague assumption that there is a place in the skies, or on some faraway planet, called “heaven.” There is not the shadow of a foundation in either the Old or the New Testament for such doctrine. On the contrary, the teaching is clear that all the heaven which men will ever find will be here. It is here now, and it will be revealed to everyone who rends the veil of sense.
The teaching, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” is not alone indicative of the quick ushering in of a new order of things, but it states a fact of subjective consciousness in man. Nothing else is so near to man as God and the kingdom of heaven. They exist eternally in the depths of man’s own unrevealed consciousness. He has them in the hidden recesses of his mind, exactly as he has the circulation of the blood in the hidden veins of his body. He is not conscious of the blood before he looks for it; and he is not conscious of God and of his own spiritual nature before he gets into the deeps of his own soul.
It is the subjective or interior consciousness that is to be made objective or exterior. To the question of His disciples as to when the kingdom of heaven would come, Jesus answered, “when the without shall become as the within” (Apoc. New Testament).
This one passage should forever settle the location of heaven. It is the within, and it will come to the consciousness of humanity when it is brought forth to the without, when the without conforms to its conditions.
Jesus sent disciples to build the kingdom
It was the within which Jesus set vibrating in the minds of His disciples when He sent them forth to do the works of power. He was familiar with the inner realm, and dwelt there much of the time. He once revealed its glory and some of its inhabitants to Peter, James, and John, when He opened their inner sight and they saw Him, with His face shining as the sun, talking to Moses and Elijah. This realm exists today, and may be discovered by whosoever will look for it. “Strive to enter in,” is the command.
Jesus Christ said that He did not know the date when the kingdom of heaven was to come; only the Father knows this. Jesus knew, however, that it was at hand, and that its coming was a question of bringing it to the attention, objectively, of those who live on the sense plane.
Thus He sent His disciples forth to do the works of power, and He gave them specific directions as to what those works should be. He well knew that men change their states of consciousness slowly; that is, the ego functions on a particular plane until it literally wears it out. Today, the material plane is in rags and tatters. It is pierced at every point by the spiritual, and is, at any moment, likely to be rolled up as a scroll and to disappear from the ego that so tenaciously clings to it.
But the important question before us today is: Who are the disciples of Jesus Christ? He said: “As ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Then followed a list of works which they were to perform, which were to demonstrate that they were in touch with that kingdom, and that, through them, it was expressing its perfection.
We all understand that healing the sick is not a specific performance independent of a set of correlated conditions, but that it is merely setting to rights that which is. So all healing is a misnomer, if by that is meant that we, by an act of the will, set into motion forces which build up the condition called health. No. We simply realize that which is already at hand, and it shows forth. When you know that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, your patient is healed, without resort on your part to denials and affirmations. Those latter are simply to bring your ego out of sense into consciousness of Spirit; denials and affirmations break down the mental partitions which separate the mind from its natural harmony. We attach ourselves to the things of the flesh through affirmations. The babe comes into the world a stranger in a strange land. He takes up the relations of his surroundings, day by day, and makes them his. He wants everything that he sees. This is the affirmative education through which we attach ourselves to the things of the material world. If we wish to free ourselves from these conditions, we must adopt the mental attitude of denial—the opposite of that through which we became attached.
If you are not getting satisfaction, it is your privilege to let go of the unsatisfactory condition. If your life has been given over to satisfying the man of flesh, and you have had enough of him, simply turn about and deny your identification with sense.
You would not be foolish enough to hold to a red-hot poker, when you saw that it was searing your flesh; neither, when you know that thoughts of lust, malice, anger, and envy sear the flesh in a similar way, will you continue to cling to them.
When you catch sight of the fact that all causes inhere in mind, and when you decide to be led by the omnipresent spirit of harmony and love, you become a disciple of Jesus Christ. It does not make any difference what your life may have been in the past, or what it may appear to be now. That has nothing to do with the new life which you have chosen. Jesus said that sinners and harlots should enter the kingdom before the self-righteous.
Every person who accepts Jesus Christ as his guide, and who resolves to do His will, is a disciple. Those who have taken orders in an organized ministry are under no more binding obligations in the sight of Spirit than are those who have covenanted within themselves to assist Jesus Christ in setting up His kingdom. Whatever vow you take in the silence of your own soul, is witnessed by One who knows every thought that flits through your mind.
Our work is to make manifest the kingdom of heaven which we know is within every soul—which is truly at hand. It is to be revealed in our midst, as the presence of electricity was revealed—by bringing it into visibility. How did men go about revealing electricity? By assuming and acting as if it were everywhere present. They did not know this, because electricity had revealed itself in isolated spots, like the lightning’s flash; but they found that invisible currents of power exist, and that these can be made visible under certain conditions.
This revealment was small in its beginnings, but it is rapidly growing; and it is observed that the bringing into visibility of these everywhere present currents is always in proportion to the study and attention that men give to electricity. So, in its last analysis, the revelation of the kingdom is a mental process. “The kingdom a man makes out of his own mind, is the only one it delights man to govern,” said Bulwer-Lytton.
In the invisible ether all about us there exists a realm of ideas, and conjoined with that realm of ideas is a world of dynamics. Ideas and their respective powers are unified. You will be “clothed with power from on high,” means that a high idea will manifest itself in you by increasing your power to do that which it moves you to do. The idea always comes first, and its manifestation follows on the plane of visibility. If you have caught the right idea about the omnipresent heaven here at hand, you will go forth doing the works which such an idea will enable you to do. If you preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, you will be stimulated by that word to perform the works which such an idea involves.
Disciples proclaim the kingdom
Jesus said, “As ye go, preach, . . . The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” By virtue of revolving such a tremendous idea in your mind, you will set up mental states that will reveal the presence of the kingdom even to the eyes of sense.
If the kingdom of heaven exists right here in our midst, and simply needs to be revealed to our veiled eyes (as electricity was revealed through the application of mind and means), all we have to do is to proclaim the presence of the kingdom by faith and works, and the way by which to make it visible will follow.
It is not alone a question of perception; the kingdom must be made manifest. All manifestation arises through action. You cannot exercise your right to be, without making manifest some of the potentialities of Being. You must use your talent. The one talent of which man is possessed, surpassing all else, is that of thinking. To think is to make manifest in the world of forms. Every time you hold a thought in your mind, you are forming a body for that thought; and bodies are things. A belief in matter and limitation forms a body of matter and limitation. If you want a body of freedom and light, think thoughts having at their base freedom and light. Man never rises higher in expression than his thought, and his thought never rises higher than the idea back of it. So if you want to rise in the scale of being, watch your ideas; for from them flow your environment, and your environment is your prison wall when you are chained to the limitations of sense.
Some people think that because they cannot see, hear, smell, and handle an idea, it is nonexistent, and consequently without power. By the same rule, electricity does not exist; but we are finding it to be the greatest power in the phenomenal world.
Do not trust the senses, if you want to know Truth. The senses are not molded to cognize ideas; they are formed, and ideas are unformed. Ideas bear the same relation to the senses that water does to ice. One has gone through a change which has crystallized its free particles, and the other goes through a change which transforms its universality into the particular. On his plane, the sense man does well enough; but it is a limited plane. He reports appearances only, and takes no account of causes. If you wish to know how the moon appears to pass through a cloud, you do not ask the eye, because it reports that it cuts its way through, as a boy passes a tin dipper through water. Your higher understanding tells you that this is not correct, but the eye never tells you this. A close analysis of the action of the senses will show that they are fitted to a plane where three dimensions obtain and that they cannot go beyond this. When the sense man attempts to go beyond the three dimensions, his perception is blurred in the confusion resulting from an attempt to deal with factors for which he has no responding faculty.
The fact that the kingdom of heaven is at hand and within him, the man of sense totally ignores. He does not see beyond the range of the three limitations of space, hence cannot cognize that which lies within and which is interlaced on another plane of phenomena. The kingdom of heaven is not only an ideal realm in which all possibility is freely transformed into externality, but it also has its externality, as tangible to the higher faculties as are the aspects of nature to the sense man. It has its working plans, and executes them with a fidelity and an accuracy not comprehended by the lax methods of the lower plane. So you who have looked at the kingdom of heaven as a potentiality to be made by the power of your word should change your base and see it as it is—a real place already formed, and waiting to descend, as a bride adorned for her husband. It is here all about you, simply waiting for you to open your interior eye. Through that eye your body will be made full of light—the light which is neither of the sun nor the moon, but of the Father.
When you freely proclaim Jesus’ doctrine, you cannot help doing what He commands, because the word precedes the works. When you preach that the kingdom of God is at hand, with an understanding of its real meaning and with the power that accompanies that understanding, your words themselves will heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and cast out devils.
It is not necessary that a disciple should know all the intricate mechanism of the metaphysical law; he has simply to act on his inspiration. He needs only to preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and it will so manifest itself. Electricians do not know what electricity is, nor have they compassed its laws. They have found that an unknown principle in nature is made manifest, when they observe certain conditions. They simply make the mechanical apparatus, set it into motion, and the invisible unknown becomes visible.
In the world of ideas, the metaphysician has discovered that there is a realm having potentialities, whose depths he has not sounded. This realm is to him the great storehouse of wisdom and life, and he finds that his own center of consciousness is like it. He is essentially one with it. His thinking faculty represents the mechanical device through which this All-principle is made manifest. His word sets into motion the machinery, and results follow in the realm of ideas in a manner parallel with those in the realm of dynamics. When you know this, you have the working plan upon which to base discipleship. Then go forth and preach that “the kingdom you fulfilling the law of your being by going over, day after day, the petty round of animal existence.
You have been cast in a larger mold than this. God did not create you to be forever dust and ashes, to be blown about by the four winds.
Awake! sleeper in the sense mind. Rise out of low ideals into the high. Rouse yourself, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. You are a king! Bestir yourself; the Christ of God is born in you, and the hour of your reign is at hand!
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