Garden by the Sea
Welcome to a place of peace. You can lounge in your favorite kind of chair or just perch on a bench and stare out to sea, enjoying the beautiful range of changing colors and the soothing sounds of the surf on the shore. You can smell a slight tang of seaweed, almost taste the salt, and feel the freshening breeze on your cheek and ruffling your hair. Sea air invigorates and energizes; it is healing.
You can set aside anything that has been burdening you, be it health challenges, wealth challenges, or relationship challenges. Place it to one side like an old suitcase. You can always pick it up later, if you choose. And you can know that in a sacred place, a place where it is easy to feel God's presence, problems are not so much solved as dissolved. You return to the everyday world "with sturdier limbs and brighter brain". For now, just step aside, relax, and let God work in you and in the situation.
The pounding of the breakers pounds the tension out of your body. The scent of blossoms delights you. The sea air renews your mind and spirit. Rest in the now. Let go, and let God. . . .
Come back as often as you like to refresh your mind, body, and spirit.
Research has clearly established that no particular group or method has a corner on healing, but most of us probably welcome some specific guidance on how to go about it from those who are successful at it for themselves and for others. Healer Agnes Sanford, whose background combined the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches but who still seemed to march to the beat of a different drummer, did not consider herself a New Thoughter. You decide for yourself. In The Healing Gifts of the Spirit (1969), she describes healing through the prayer of faith:
The prayer of faith is not a magic formula, but is quite simply a prayer with a definite objective and with the belief that this definite need will be met. The mental depressive is apt to have migraine headaches, sinus trouble, indigestion, nightmares, dizziness, and a host of other small functional disturbances. Let him then choose one of these and try to connect it by faith with the power of God that heals. For no one is really healed until he has learned to make his own contact with the Healer. The crux of the prayer of faith is this: God’s power is real. . . .
How, then, shall I create in myself the atmosphere of faith: the feeling that God is answering my prayer? The method that I use is the training of the creative imagination.
This is difficult! Yes. But take courage, you who tend to depression: it has its good aspect. You will be less inclined to be led astray by too gullible a faith; to listen to the happy ones who chirp "All things are possible with God" and "Say a little prayer and forget it." Such people ignore the fact that while undoubtedly all things are possible with God, all things are not as yet possible with them. Their power is not as yet developed nor is their faith stabilized. They forget also that God does not work through magic but through the application of laws and of powers that He has created; and therefore one usually needs a continual and persistent application of prayer in order to keep the door open for the power that heals. Finally, they do not realize that no one lives alone and the entire race must rise to a higher awareness of God before all things that are possible with God become actual.
Therefore be content to walk slowly, for so your journey will, in the end, lead you past dangers and into greater heights.
I suggest therefore that in the prayer of faith you do these things:
A. Choose which symptom or weakness you will pray about first and do not try to pray for all of them at once.
B. Form your prayer in words that suggest to the body the healed condition and not the continuing trouble. For every cell in the body has a rudimentary mind and will hear your words. For instance, I learned in praying for the healing of migraine headaches not to pray "Please don’t let me have headaches any more" for the very word "headache" suggested headaches to the body-mind. (I learned also never to try to pray while actually suffering a headache, for the effort of prayer only made it worse. At such a time two aspirins and bed was better.) I worked out this form of prayer: "Come into me, O Lord, and heal the blood of the body so that it flows from head to foot in perfect order and harmony with no congestion anywhere." The headaches were not completely healed until years later when the memories were healed, but they became much better from the time that I began to pray this prayer once a day.
C. Make, in the imagination, a picture of the thing that you purpose in prayer. Hold this picture in the mind as much as possible, but lightly, as one plays a game. When, for a time, symptoms recur, bring the picture back to mind and speak consolingly to the body, saying in effect, "Never mind, here is the picture of what shall be and we are on our way to it." Do not scold the body. Understand that a healing of trouble such as this, brought on by the pressures of life, requires time. There is nothing to be frightened about if it does not take place all at once.
D. Give thanks to God that His power is entering and is working toward wholeness in the body in all ways best according to His will. (Pages 54-57)
Here is another Agnes Sanford story from the same book:
On my little farm in the hills of New England there is an old well that has been in use for more than a century. I have never tasted such delicious water, soft and sweet and ice-cold. However, when plumbing was installed in the old house it proved necessary to drill an artesian well. One day there was a thunderstorm and the electricity went off. Therefore the electric pump did not work. Therefore we had no water. So I thought, "It will be delightful to go and draw water out of that old well again!" And I joyfully went forth with bucket tied to rope. I pushed away the overhanging lilac boughs, shoved aside the rotted wooden top and let down the bucket. There was no water in the well—only mud!
When I next saw my plumber friend I said to him, "Austin, what happened to my old well? There’s no water in it!"
"You haven’t been using it, have you?" said Austin. "When you don’t use it, the well gets all clogged up with its own silt. The more you use it, the more the water comes. And as it comes it tends to come clean." (Pages 66-67)
Healing, Peace, and Beauty
Healer Agnes Sanford was not always a happy person. She found herself in situations that she had not asked for and felt incompetent to handle, but she never lost her faith in God; and eventually, through prayer, situations cleared up and healings took place. All her life, she remained close to nature as a way of remaining close to God manifested in nature, sometimes easier to experience than God elsewhere. Here, from The Healing Power of the Bible (1969) is her description of how she opens her awareness to receive visions:
I do this in a very simple way. In my meditation time and place, I imagine myself wading out into the ocean an floating upon the waves, farther and farther out. It is a lovely feeling: the spray cold upon my face and the sun warm and tingling, the great waters upholding me and swinging me in their troughs like a baby in a cradle! Then I imagine my spiritual body, as a shape of light, arising out of my physical body and going higher and higher into the air. In so doing, I attach my consciousness to this spiritual body. True, I know where I am, and am not unaware of earthly reality. But also I can see from far above that physical body like a tiny doll floating upon the waves, while I go high, and higher—through a little cloud that bumps a bit as I enter it, and is cold and moist upon my face—higher yet, till the air is thin, and the sky is almost black, and one can see the stars although it is daylight—higher yet—and then I say, "Now Lord, this is as far as I can go. Open my eyes and show me what you want me to see." (Page 210)
And from The Healing Light (1947), here is her description of the kind of love that leads to healings:
This is what [Jesus] meant when He told us, in His simple, homely way, that we should be like salt. Salt does not insist upon its own flavor, but brings out the natural goodness in everything with which it comes in contact. And we, by sending forth the forgiving love of Christ, can bring out the natural goodness in those we meet. For every living creature tends to return love for love.
A snake once crawled near me as I lay on a mossy bank in the woods seeking to know the reality of God’s life through the sunlight. It did not occur to me to scream or to run, for I was conscious of oneness with God and therefore with the snake which God had made. A bee once tumbled against my face, touching me again and again as I weeded in the garden.
"Listen, you," I said aloud, "I love you, but I’m busy. Now go climb into a hollyhock." And so he did.
"With what measure you meet, it shall be measured to you again," said the Teacher.
It is even so. We learn to give forth love in learning to forgive our enemies. Then we learn to give a forgiving and healing love to all who cross our paths and need our love. Finally, love flows through us spontaneously and naturally to both man and beast—and completing the circuit, flows back to us again from God. (Page 70)
Finally, here is a description of our relationship to God, the source of all life, love, wisdom, and order:
A spiritual light vibration penetrates and fills every cell of the body. In other words, we are porous like a sponge and filled with God.
"As a sponge is in the ocean and the ocean is in a sponge," Rufus Mosely once said, "so we are in God and He is in us." Or as another wise man expressed it, "In Him we live and move and have our being."
There is a parable concerning two little fishes who met a frog beneath a rock.
"Don’t you know you’re in great danger, little fishes?" croaked the frog.
"No!" cried the fishes, much frightened.
"Don’t you know fishes can’t live without water?" teased the cruel frog. "You’d better find some water quickly, or you’ll die."
The little fishes swam to their mother in great distress.
"Oh, Mother, Mother! The frog says if we don’t find some water quickly we’ll die! Mother, what’s water?"
"I don’t know," confessed the mother fish, who was an agnostic. "I never heard anything about water. Let’s go and ask the otter."
"Water, my dears?" laughed the otter. "Why, you live in water! That’s what you breathe!"
We live in God. That’s what we breathe. (Page 72)
How to Walk the Path to Healing
Michele O’Donnell is a most unusual person. She began as a traditionally trained nurse, then, seeking answers for her patients, became an ordained minister. After a particularly tragic experience with a patient who did not live despite massive efforts on both medical and spiritual fronts, she abandoned both traditional Christianity and traditional medicine to seek her own answers. She has described the highly successful results of her forty-year search in her trilogy, Of Monkeys and Dragons: Freedom from the tyranny of disease, The God that We’ve Created: The basic cause of disease, and When the Wolf is at the Door: The simplicity of healing. They are all available through Amazon.
In this excerpt from Of Monkeys and Dragons, O’Donnell describes her own bout with walking pneumonia, coughing so hard that she broke two ribs. Awake in the night, she "felt that now-very-familiar Presence . . . and I fell to my knees." She continues:
I felt such a spirit of surrender come over me, that I lifted my hands and began to sing a song that I learned at one of our church services. Just as I started, I felt and heard a loud snap as the broken rib bones moved into place. The pain shot through me and I collapsed across the couch. I fell asleep and I had a dream.
In my dream I was standing on a golden path on top of a mountain, in the midst of a large mountain range, like the Alps. I saw that path winding up each mountainside and disappear[ing] over the top, only to reappear off in the distance on another mountain. I thought, "Oh, I have so far yet to go." I noticed that on both sides of the path, right at my feet, were many monkeys. They were chattering so loudly and so insistently that they were setting my nerves on edge. They were also biting at my feet and legs and making them bleed.
I was jumping and dancing around trying to shake them loose when I heard, "Don’t look at them. Look straight ahead down the path." I remember how painfully difficult it was for me to look away from those scary, vexing monkeys. I was sure that if I looked away they would eat me alive! But the longer it took, the worse it became. So I finally gathered all my strength and looked away towards the path.
The instant I did, the monkeys literally became paralyzed and silent. Right in mid-air they froze. Curiosity drew me to look at them again, and immediately they began to chatter and nip and bite at me—so I looked away quickly, and they froze again. I did this several times, and each time with the same results. So I began to walk down the path, careful to look straight ahead. The monkeys remained frozen beside the path.
Suddenly, as I approached the top of the first mountain, two fire-breathing dragons appeared. They were pawing and clawing the earth as they drew closer on either side of me. They were terrifying and fierce and it was my turn to freeze. Closer and closer they came, until I was sure that they would certainly devour me. Suddenly I knew that no matter how difficult it was to make my eyes look away from them and make my feet walk on—that was exactly what I must do. With more fear than I can describe gripping at my heart, I forced my eyes away and towards the path in front of me. Immediately the dragons also froze in midair. I never looked towards them again. Staring straight ahead, with my eyes fixed on the path in front of me, I walked on to safety. When I awoke from my dream, I realized immediately that all the symptoms of disease, fever and pain were gone! I was strong and refreshed, as though I had never been sick.
I have told this story to my patients for twenty-five years now. . . . I tell them, "This is a principle of LIFE. No matter how fierce the symptoms, no matter what the picture, no matter how long you have suffered—keep your eyes, your heart and your hope on the Path of LIFE before you. Though you may have to deal with it on some level, never become mesmerized by it. Never stare at it long enough for it to become a part of the deep-down-inside, real you." (Pages 47-49)
Revelation Through Nature
Here are a few excerpts from Henry Wood’s (1834-1909) chapter, "Revelation Through Nature", in his book, God’s Image in Man (1892). To read more of the book, click on the Henry Wood menu item to your left, then click on the book title.
The Kingdom of Nature intermingles with the Kingdom of Spirit. Each is the complement of the other, and no arbitrary boundary exists between them. Truth is a rounded unit. Any distortion or suppression of it, however narrowly localized, involves general loss. The scientist, while studying forms and laws, may be color-blind to the presence of an infinite spiritual dominion. If he dissociates Nature from her vital relations, his accomplishment can be but partial. So far as he fails to recognize her as a Theophany, he misses her true significance. Likewise the theologian, who has eyes only for the supernatural, fails to find the vital supports and relations of his own chosen realm. Each thereby makes his own system incomplete and untruthful. Nature and spirit can no more be divorced than a stream and its fountain. The attempt to translate Religion into an arbitrary, supernatural realm, has robbed it of its spontaneity and vitality. To the world the supernatural is unnatural, and the unnatural is morbid. . . .
He who sees God in Nature, feels the ecstatic thrill of the infinite Presence. The visible universe becomes to him a repository of mystery, harmony, and sanctity. This wholesome delight will all be missed by intellectual accomplishment if it be linked to a feeble spiritual intuition. A childlike soul which has no knowledge of Botany, but which is in touch with the Infinite, will find more in a flower than he whose technical but unsanctified understanding can fully define its laws and mechanism.
As our spiritual vision gains in acuteness, the objective universe grows more beautiful. A changed consciousness brings a new revelation of outward harmony and unity. God is the essence of Nature. We see him in the unfolding of the leaves, in every flower and blade of grass, in the air, the clouds, the sunshine, the sea. All are gilded and beautified. Each is a letter in the great open volume of the universe. As the sea contains all its waves, so the One Life embraces all lower forms of vitality. Such an interpretation is spiritual Theism, and has no alliance with Pantheism. Outward forms are beautiful in proportion as our consciousness grasps their plasticity to spiritual moulding. . . .
A recognition of the continual Deific manifestation thrills the human soul with joy and gladness. This, in itself, is evidence of its naturalness and truth. Nature is friendly. Her correspondences with man are so intimate and reciprocal that they demonstrate infinite wisdom, design, and unity. The barrenness and untruthfulness of Atheism are evident from their utter lack of power to arouse human responsiveness. . . . That vision is inspired which beholds mountains, forests, and rocks, as cathedrals and altars which enshrine the divine love and radiance. Every step we take is upon enchanted ground. . . .
The universe is a reflector of divine adornment, and is everywhere garnished with gems. We are invited to admire its beauty, inhale its fragrance, adore its symmetry and color, and through them to share in the depth and overflow of Deific goodness. Emerson says, "God has not made some beautiful things, but Beauty is the creator of the universe." Nature may always be trusted, for natural laws are divine methods. Each successive season is a benediction in changed form. When Spring awakens a quickening impulse of life, and bursts the bars of wintry frost, she transforms the face of Nature, and clothes it with a charm of fresh life and beauty. Every seed and bulb has within it a promise of the Resurrection. Every flower is a suggestion, and each unfolding leaf an expression of exuberant life, which everywhere manifests the divine redundancy. Nature’s ministry soothes and heals human infelicities. She fits herself into man’s angular spaces; smoothes and rounds out his broken and imperfect outlines, and like a grand orchestral accompaniment, supports and harmonizes his uncertain operations.
Healing at a Distance
Healer Agnes Sanford believed that it was preferable to heal by laying hands on the patient rather than trying to heal at a distance. She points out that Jesus most of the time did not heal at a distance. However, in her first book, The Healing Light, she also admits that for a long time she did not know how to deal from a distance:
How could I reach across the miles in prayer? Finding no answer to this question in my own church, I sought the answer elsewhere. I inquired of a lady minister who through her open-mindedness had found a practical application of the eternal verity of God that my own church had insufficiently grasped.
"How do you do it?" I asked her. "I can help them when I’m with them, but my prayers from a distance don’t seem to result in healing at all."
"Oh my dear, you’re seeing them sick," cried the beautiful old minister.
"What do you mean?" I asked, puzzled. "I’m not seeing them at all, I’m just thinking of them. And, of course, they’re sick, or I wouldn’t be praying for them."
"Yes, you are seeing them," she replied patiently. "When you think of someone, you always see the person in your mind. If you really believe he’s going to be well, you see him well. If he pops into your mind like your eyes saw him last, or like your friend tells you he is, all moans and groans and fever, that shows that your subconscious mind does not really believe he’s going to be well. And so you only fasten the illness on him. When you pray for someone, dearie, you must learn to see him well."
Agnes then set out to learn to "see them well":
This required mental training. I would exercise my visual faculty, that part of the creative imagination that is most like God. I would create in my mind a definite and detailed picture of each person for whom I prayed, seeing the whole body radiant and free and well, with light in the eyes and color in the cheeks and a swinging rhythm in the walk. . . . By an act of will I would hold this picture in my mind until it outshone the picture last suggested to me by my eyes or by a letter. I would hold this picture until it came to me spontaneously and naturally—until when I prayed for the person who had been ill I would see him well instantly, not by an act of will but by the joyful and triumphant belief that it was so. And feeling this joy and this power, I would dare to say, "Amen: So be it". . . . Jesus the love-manifestation of God healed with the Word of power. His healings sprang from that continual communion with God that He found through prayer upon the mountain-tops. "The Father within doeth the works," He said. But His healings were projected by the Word of power, and the only spoken part of the foundation-prayer on which His works rested was the Word of command: "Arise and walk!" "I say unto thee, arise!" ... Therefore, having constructed by thought and will a picture of the patient well, peaceful and happy, we then ask Jesus Himself to go through us and abide in the one for whom we pray, resurrecting him after that likeness of all beauty that is Himself. And believing that He is doing so, we learn to see within the patient, Christ.
New Thoughters figured out early in their history that such an approach helps to prosper people in other ways just as successfully as it does for healing.
Healing in Nature
One of the things I find most interesting about healer Agnes Sanford is her emphasis on the importance of healing the mind and spirit as well as the body. Despite her being a person of great faith, she suffered from serious and prolonged mental depression. She has described more than once in her writings her own rather sudden and complete healing and its importance. For when you are under a mental cloud, your ability to develop your relationship with God is impaired, and certainly your ability to help others is limited. Well-meaning people may tell you to just snap out of it, which is like suggesting that you flap your wings and fly. Other supposed remedies such as counting your blessings or resting are only of limited usefulness and do not address the underlying problem, which Sanford attributes to memories embedded in the subconscious mind, a sort of subpersonality that can jerk you around without your awareness of what is really causing the difficulty.
Sanford describes the symptoms she suffered from, saying,
Read them and rejoice. For they were healed, every one, so that to remember them is a delight. When I wake in the morning nowadays, and my mind turns to the day’s plan, I recall the days when I dragged myself out of bed and thought, "Another day; well, I have got through a lot of them and I’ll probably get through this one too," and I laugh. As I glory in the sunshine, seeing how it lights blue flames upon tree leaves and how it sows the lake with diamonds, I recall the days when sunlight lay upon my soul as heavily as blackness and I thank the Lord that those old days are gone. As I remember the cold fear that at one time would hold me in an agonizing grip if husband or child did not come home on time, I am amazed that nowadays I cannot recall the actual feelings of terror that would send my heart hurtling into my stomach. Nowadays when decisions come to me with lightning speed I remember with wondering joy the old days when it was almost impossible to decide whether to cook rice or potatoes for dinner; when I would stand in the middle of the kitchen floor, head in hands, in an agony of indecision, trying to start the faltering battery of my mind. (The Healing Gifts of the Spirit, pages 17-18.)
She assures us that we are not crazy, nor was she. "Your emotional tone has dropped too low, that is all. Why? Weariness. Exhaustion from too much tension in your business or from the constant confusion of house and children or from the strain of holding down the bitter memories of the past or from the battle of the soul against anger and resentment—or from all of these."
She explains, "One in the condition which I call mental depression—a condition of such darkness that the pilot light of the soul seems to have gone out—cannot deal alone with the haunting specters of the past." Professionals can sometimes be helpful, but for her, the way was
to seek and find the nonprofessional help of a person powerful in prayer and skilled in the understanding of the mind. . . . The change that took place in me through the simple prayer of faith was comparable to the change that takes place in a gas stove when one lights a pilot light that had gone out. This change did not automatically solve all my problems any more than the lighting of the pilot light automatically cooks one’s dinner. But the light was there. The power to think and, even more important, to feel had returned. And from that light one could light all the burners, one after another, and could learn to cook with them. (page 19)
She encourages us:
This is not a battle you must fight alone. There is a power that watches over you whether you know it or not. There is the Creator who made you and who therefore cares—as every creator cares for the thing he makes. Being a creator, however, and not a magician or despot, He has given you the wide range of free will and therefore He cannot, or will not, overrule your own power of choice. If you are far away from Him then, you can choose to come back and at least to be near enough to Him so that He can help you. (page 20)
Where can we find life and peace?
Rest upon the beauty of this world. There is always the earth whence one came. There is always the old sea mother. There are the clouds and the far skies and the birds that fly within them. There are the little animals who run and frisk upon the earth. There is the sun pouring out life and light upon us. All these God made and He mad them out of Himself, for there was no other source of life except Himself. . . . The simplest and oldest way, then, in which God manifests Himself is not through people but through and in the earth itself. And He still speaks to us through the earth and the sea, the birds of the air and the little living creatures upon the earth, if we can but quiet ourselves to listen. (pages 24-25)
She therefore suggests that mental depressives seek to feel the presence of God in nature, whether they are in the city or the country, in the mountains or at the seashore.
Finding God in Nature
Recently I have been reading Sealed Orders, the autobiography of 20th century healer Agnes Sanford. She was brought up in China, the child of Presbyterian missionaries. Her life was full of beauty: flowers, gardens, mountain views that refreshed the spirit and made her feel close to God. One of her earliest mystical experiences came when she, as a young teen, was a passenger on a small Japanese freighter taking her to the United States. Here is how she describes it:
The need of solitude still remained with me. . . .One night I absented myself from the stateroom shared with three other females . . . and went alone up to the boat deck. The railings of the deck were somewhat informal and terminated, as I recall, where lifeboats were situated. I crawled beyond them and came to rest in the lee of a lifeboat, lying flat on my back and facing out to the black sea with its wild salt breath and the wheeling sky, spangled with a million stars—for we were in mid-ocean, far away from the heavy banks of cloud that haunt the area of the Aleutians, and the skies were clear with a clarity that I have never seen before or since. How long I lay there, I have no idea, for I slipped beyond the swing of time or place. I was one with the stars—I was one with the universe. I felt in me the life of the strange creatures within the sea and beneath the waves and flying above the waves. I was not myself, I was life. And yet I was myself, and life was me. Words cannot say it nor can I now remember the actual feelings of that time between time and eternity—only that it happened. Once since then I have remembered it: when Stokowski conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra in Debussy’s La Mer. I was listening, thinking rather sadly, "But that doesn’t sound like the sea," for there were no crashes of timpani suggesting waves at this point nor any cadenza of strings with the sound of wind—when there it was! That feeling beyond words! That glory evanescent and unbearable in its bliss for which one would yet die that one could enter into it again! There it was! I have tried to find it again in recordings of La Mer, but it cannot be thus caught. . . . Only once did God show Moses His glory in a light that cannot be seen. There is in the Creator such a passion for diversity that He cannot be standar[d]ized, He cannot be commanded. Our times are in His hands, and He will come to me as He wills, when He wills, but never in the same way twice. (Sealed Orders, pages 35-36.)
In another early-teen experience, she comments:
Only now, looking back, do I realize that it was God who met my spirit when my spirit met Him in faraway places quite alone. One time I had climbed to the highest valley, a shallow trough between waves of shining silver gray rocks breaking upon the hilltops. Tall rough grass filled the valley, and I lay upon it full in the sun, and what I thought about I do not know. But in some way that I could never recapture, I entered into a state of indescribable dreamy bliss wherein I was one with the tall crisp grass, and with the tiny creatures that lived within it, and with the high blue sky whence sunlight drenched my body with pure joy.
There was no more time. It was yesterday and today and forever. And there was no more me as a separate being. I was part of the tall grass, and the tiny sounds when it crinkled in the sun sounded within myself also, as truly as did the beating of my heart. The wee grasshoppers were part of me, and the ripples of warm breeze that flowed through my being, and the far sky—the far, ever-reaching blue of the sky.
What was it?
Surely—although the mind and the tongue of man had not been able to describe Him to me—surely at that moment (or eternity) His Spirit communed with mine. And possibly this is why, in spite of all the dullness and cynicism with which "religion" became encrusted during these unawakened years, I never once doubted that God was real. (Pages 29-30)
A Victorian Romance
Nineteenth century businessman Henry Wood was forced by ill health to retire from a very successful career at age 54 in 1888. After seeking various cures at home and abroad, he was healed by New Thought practices, still known at the time as "mind cure". He then commenced a new career as an author on New Thought topics, his first New Thought book being a novel, Edward Burton. It was highly successful, going through numerous "editions" (probably printings). The publisher billed it as "An Idealistic Metaphysical Novel", in which Wood places his own views on philosophy, religion, politics, and society into the mouths of his characters. It includes a love story, villains, rises and falls of business fortunes, and summers in Bar Harbor, Maine.
Here is an excerpt from Edward Burton, originally published in 1890.
* * * * *
Love is unique. Lovers love not each other, but their own ideal. Before Cupid can mount the throne and assume undisputed sway, he must have idealized his object. This may be a shorter or a longer process, but it must be effectual. Love is an enchantment which seizes upon the human complex nature and works a revolution. It is a delicious fancy, kindling the imagination and gilding its object with beautiful, heroic, and almost sacred attributes. It matters little to love whether in the abstract its object be beautiful, or the reverse, for it invests that counterpart with charms even if they are non-existent. Pursue this course of logic to its ultimate, and it is found that objective character, quality, and even existence are all contained in subjectivity. No one can therefore affirm that the external world has real existence, but only that it exists to his own consciousness. Absurd as it at first might appear to material sense, if we delve deep enough, we may in the ultimate analysis find that all is mind. Love is divine. It is only when dragged down from its normal realm and stained with the grossness of materialism, and its expressions mistaken for its goal, that its heavenly banner is trailed in the dust. Then it becomes a base counterfeit. Love not only invests its object with supernal charms, but it illumines the whole horizon. The lover is a new man, with new perceptions, new powers, new senses. He has become the graceful abode of sweet sounds and sights, and the pupils in the eyes of his soul are gently dilated. Nature has been reconstructed for him. The birds sing a new song, and flowers and trees put on a subtler beauty, and all the world’s intonations have become more melodious. The clouds have fair faces, and the sun and moon perceptibly smile upon him, and sympathize with his gladness. Earth, air, and sky, tender their congratulations. Nature, as it environs him, becomes a vast mirror to reflect back and multiply his inspiration.
The felicity of love toward its special object is only a rudimentary experience in the eternal procession of soul-impulses, from within, outward. Its limitation is but temporary and educational, for its outgoing circles are destined to be ever expansive, like the waves from a pebble dropped in mirror-like water. Special love is only the kindergarten for the development of ultimate broader love. As it becomes clarified and free from all baser sediment, it grows impersonal. It is designated by Emerson as "a fire that, kindling its first embers in the narrow nook of a private bosom caught from a wandering spark out of another private heart, grows and enlarges until it warms and beams upon multitudes of men and women, upon the universal heart of all, and so lights up the whole world and all nature with its generous flames."
Love’s grand climax will only be reached when it becomes, not only impersonal, but blossoms into universal recognition as the One Force of the Universe. All other forces, qualities, and attributes will at last be discovered to be but colored lens effects of the one principle varying at each new standpoint in the upward path of progress. The successive views through higher mediums, as step by step they gain new transparency, will gradually correct former distorted views of the One entity. A recognition of such an Ultimate, is a recognition of God. All other characteristics which we ascribe to Him are but reflections of our own states. The "consuming fire" of pure love may wear a terrible aspect to the persistently base and perverse.
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Henry Wood (1834-1909) was an early New Thought writer, praised by William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience along with Horatio W. Dresser as the two most worthwhile writers in the New Thought movement. He was known as a businessman who founded no denomination nor was ordained as a minister. He was one of the movers and shakers in the Metaphysical Club and at one time served as its president. His exceptionally clear, logical prose endeared him to many, and his ten books sold in the tens of thousands. His topics ran the gamut from business to fiction to at times verging on the mystical.
Here is an excerpt from "The Divinity of Nature", published in 1896 by Wood in his book, Studies in the Thought World.
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The revelation of God in Nature is not less sacred than that through the Son or the Book. It is a great volume of pictorial illustration, at the centre of which man himself is the grandest feature. "The groves were God’s first temples." The simplicity, freedom, and spontaneity of the early religions were manifested in a sympathetic oneness with Nature, and an instinctive feeling of her divinity. The people assembled for worship or sacrifice at natural shrines, or under the broad canopy of heaven, rather than in temples made with hands.
In process of time, as sacred enclosures, synagogues, and temples became common, men began to feel that in a special way these structures contained God, and that there was little divinity outside. Instead of being omnipresent, as men proclaimed with their lips, in their feelings He was either divided and limited, or else far away. They could only awaken their sense of Him at special times and in particular places. The consciousness was still further limited to set ordinances, sacraments, and ceremonies. God consecrated all things, and yet men so lost an appreciation of the overwhelming presence, that only those particular places and environments are regarded sacred which men, through their own special, puny forms, reconsecrate.
But we would have no place less sacred, but lift all up to the high level and ideal. Men have effectively deconsecrated nature, art, institutions, customs, and even our own physical organisms, which have been truly declared to be temples of the Holy Ghost.
We have drawn a sharp line around a few things which we have identified with God, pronouncing everything outside of these secular. We have virtually shut him out of all religions except our own, and through a limited inspiration, out of all books save one. We have dispensed with him in history, with the exception of the doings of one race; and so, not feeling his particular presence in other records, have rated them as profane. We have, perhaps unwittingly, almost declared that God could not be found outside of one institution, one system, one round of observances and saving ordinances. We have not so intended, but our anthropomorphic and limited ideas of our Deity have logically closed the portal of the higher consciousness.
The church and the Bible are good, but are not all. We may truly meet God in the groves or fields, on the mountain-top, under the azure canopy, or by the shimmering sea; but, as we are constituted in his image, most nearly, face to face, in the sanctuary of our own soul.
We go to meet him one day in seven, but he is with us all days, and upon invitation will dwell in our living consciousness. True thinking, service, and aspiration are profitable on Monday as well as on Sunday.
We have put God out of business, out of politics, out of political economy, out of education, and out of society, and thereby made them Godless. Encased in our sensuous pursuits, we fail to feel him, though he besets us behind and before, and is nearer than our thoughts. Only his immanence explains all the marvels of nature within and around us. Not merely worship, but communion and fellowship with the "All in All," should be the noblest, sweetest, truest, purest experience of life.
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To read Studies in the Thought World in its entirety, click on that title on our Henry Wood page on the left.
The Rhythm of Life
Californians enjoy an abundance of beaches, just as we do here in Florida. Recently, two of our California friends have written about rhythm in ways that gave us new insights.
Rod Hyatt Carter recently wrote a little article in the Founder's Church newsletter, The Word (May-June 2006), titled "Rhythms of Rest and Rejuvenation". He explains clearly and succinctly how psychiatrist Milton Erickson, who made clinical hypnosis a respectable scientific discipline, discovered the use of ultradian rhythms in the healing process. Erickson's work is very much in line with that of the father of New Thought, P. P. Quimby. Erickson's student, Ernest Rossi, carried this research farther. Hypnosis is simply a state of altered consciousness, and at certain intervals during the day (ultradian rhythms), we are more receptive to healing. The bottom line is that the body-mind calls for time out at regular intervals, and we are wise to heed the signals and take a break. Rod suggests that we "consciously synchronize our healing prayers with these 20-minute windows of access to our creative unconscious."
Patricia Adams Farmer has written a beautiful book of meditations, Embracing a Beautiful God. A Disciples of Christ minister and process thinker, Patricia describes her trips to the beach for rest and renewal.
"God is like the alluring ocean on a bright day, compelling us to abandon everything but who we really are. When all the crustiness is washed off, we are simply shining beings flying kites and holding tiny hands and jumping like fishes.
"Restless, rolling, mysterious--God is the ever-moving continuity and freshness of the sea, never the same in any moment. God's heartbeat is like the rhythm of the ocean, and when we succumb to this alluring force, we cannot be anything less than shining beings on the edge of a playful universe."