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Chapter 17

Other Helpers on the Way-Shower

That the love and the wisdom of God were manifested in and through the Way-shower, to an unusual degree, is evident. The power of God worked through him; or rather by his living completely in the realisation of the essential oneness of his life with the God-life, and opening himself trustingly to the inner wisdom, the laws through which God works were so revealed to him that he became the instrument of the power.

Frankly he said it was this creative spirit of life that he called the Father, and affirmed that of himself he could do nothing, but only as he realised the oneness of his life with the Father’s life and lived fully in that realisation. The Father, he says, never leaves him alone or in the dark or in need, for he seeks always to know and to do the will of the Father. It was always, though, ‘my Father and your Father,’ and herein lies the value of his revelation, his teaching, his life to us men on earth. Eagerly, passionately, almost desperately, we might say, he endeavours to make this known. Frankly he states the secret of his own life: ‘It is not I but the Father within who doeth His work.’

Although he glories to be the teacher, the Way-shower, frankly and humbly he says, ‘Call me not good, for there is only one good and that is God.’ Although speaking always with authority — the authority of a teacher — he never exalted himself. Again and again he stated that he that exalted himself, as himself, in distinction from the power working within him, should be abased.

It was his experience of God first-hand that makes him the real and great teacher — that makes him speak with authority. So impressed were his hearers with the manner of his speech in this, that they often remarked concerning it. His words carried a freshness and a conviction that many times made them stand in awe, and that made many follow him eagerly.

His manner was different from that of their teachers of religion. There was never any harking back to the authority of someone or something in the past; and as to the priests of the temple, now primarily their overlords instead of ministers of religion — never a mention, except to flay and castigate them as dogmatists and self-seekers, the very opposite of what he came to portray.

They took the law, the ‘wall of the law,’ they took the truth of the prophets — free and indcpendent men who opened themselves to the voice of their God — and built it into a system with innumerable hedges and observances. They said: You must believe and observe these things we tell you, or you have no religion or the benefits of religion. You must support and reverence the institution. In this way they raised the dead hand between a man and his God. They fed with stones instead of bread and demanded recognition and reverence and a price for doing it.

It was the very opposite of the teachings of the Master; and we can readily see why his righteous indignation at times flared forth. Than Jesus of Galilee, the world has perhaps known no greater enemy, ancient or modern, of religious dogmatism. Not that he opposed religious institutions — only that type which receives its system of dogma from dead hands of the past, and which would weave it into crowns to be pressed on other men’s brows.

It was Emerson, he of clear-seeing mind and free and independent spirit, who said: ‘If a man claims to know and speak of God, and carries you backward to the phraseplogy of some old mouldered nation in another country, in another world, believe him not.’ And again he said: ‘Yourself, a new-born bard of the Holy Ghost, cast behind you all conformity and acquaint man at first hand with Deity. . . . Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. . . . God is one and omnipresent; here or nowhere is the whole fact.’

Emerson’s wide understanding is also shown by his saying, ‘As there is no screen or ceiling between our heads and the infinite heavens, so is there no bar or wall in the soul where man ceases and God begins. . . . Ineffable is the union of man and God in every act of the soul.’

And we all know ‘O friend, never strike sail to a fear! come into port greatly, or sail with God the seas!’

Another, whose intuitive sense was more than common, independent of spirit and always open, caught the message of the Master. It was Channing who said: ‘One sublime idea has taken strong hold of my mind. It is the greatness of the soul, its divinity, its union with God. . . . The greatness of the soul is especially seen in freedom of will and moral power. . . . I cannot but pity the man who recognizes nothing God-like in his own nature. . . . The soul viewed in this light should fill us with awe. . . . It is an immortal germ which contains now within itself what endless ages are to unfold. . . . It is truly an image of the infinity of God.’

His was a magnificent character, a magnificent influence in American and in English-speaking life. As we have just seen, he believed supremely in God; he knew God. He believed in the divinity of Jesus, that the Christ became enthroned and dwelt in him. But in his day he was called a Unitarian! He did not believe in the virgin birth.

He did not believe that Jesus did not have a father. But he knew history, ancient history, when it was linked with mythology. And he knew that a similar belief was quite common, and that about the nebulous time dogma began to take form, there were scores of men, well known men, who had to be accounted for in some unusual way — who had no father. Their mothers conceived and bore them through contact with, or impulse from, some mythological character, or angel, or spirit, or god. Various theories were held as to the method of contact; one of the most popular, for quite a while at least, was that it was through the ear.

Channing knew that this was held to be true of many of the Roman Emperors, of whom Augustus was a conspicuous example. They demanded such recognition and belief. He knew that there were many thousand early Christians who, because they would not publicly subscribe to it and so perjure their minds and souls, were hounded, were driven to the catacornbs, were tortured, and were put to death by those in power.

He knew that Nero and others in the imperial line demanded this belief, and were ruthless in their extermination of numberless early Christians — infidels (in their regard) who would not profess it, enemies of the existing religion, enemies of the State. Martyrs they were, almost unbelievable in their faith and their courage.

They were free minds in the sense Channing intended when he wrote: ‘I call that mind free which protects itself against the usurpations of society, does not cower to human opinion, and feels itself accountable to a higher tribunal than man’s.

‘I call that mind free which sets no bounds to its love . . . recognises in all human beings the image of God . . . and offers itself up a willing victim to the cause of mankind.

‘I call that mind free which, conscious of its affinity with God . . .passes the bounds of time and death . . . and finds inexhaustible power in immortality.’

We men and women of to-ay should be grateful, far more grateful than we are, for the freedom, the intellectual freedom, the moral and spiritual freedom that we have. Contrast our condition with that of these early disciples and followers eo the Master — the way they were persecuted and massacred for daring to think their own thoughts, and to follow and be true to their own beliefs.

And then later, when another type of Church was formed, and it grew powerful and passed into the hands of political and ecclesiastical traders for power and authority and revenue; when it was buttressed in its system of dogma which the free minds and spirits of vast numbers would not subscribe to — how they were hounded and persecuted and murdered by the thousands, by the tens of thousands!

Times and places where no man could call his mind or his soul his own, where no free mind could think and speak his thoughts without risk of seeing the pots of boiling oil, the burning pyre, or the dungeon from which perhaps he would never again emerge alive. When killings ceased, persecutions continued.

There was a time — we forget that there was — when the Bible was a closed book, concealed and kept from the people, and only such fragments let out as suited the purposes of the organisation. And then the great epoch came, the uprising, the reformation when brave and courageous men seized and translated and gave it to the people — and now no man so poor but can own it and read it and interpret it for himself.

The people struggled along as best they could with their down-trodden, unlit lives. Beyond knowing that there was such a person, they knew nothing of the life, the truth, the purpose of Jesus of Galilee. They knew nothing of his realisation, his own teachings, his real message — ‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.’ They did not know that he had lost his life by arousing the enmity of ecclesiastical leaders of the sordid type that now again prevailed.

His truth, his gospel, his good news that thrilled him and that he was inspired to give to all who would hear, had been thrust aside, side-tracked. A system embracing matters of opinion about him had been switched in its place on to the main track — and the people were told that his life and his death were for a different purpose. This better served the purpose of the dogmatists, the purpose of a close organisation. Dogma has no affiliation with truth; it must be built upon something else.

The result was that the vital life-giving, life-saving religion of the Master became changed into a fear-ridden, parasitic religion about him. The forward-looking, divinely inspired, and divinely inspiring truth of the prophet of Galilee, fell into the hands of the uninspired priest, who endeavoured to relate it to a system and built a system upon it. So it started looking backward. With the eclipse of his truth came the greatest loss that the life of the world has ever known.

Will his truth, his gospel, his good news — it is all so simple, he said, if you will take it as I give it to you — come again? Will it come with a power to dominate the lives of enough individuals that through them it may yet redeem a stricken world?

Has the Way-shower been biding his time? Is his projected second coming — the spirit of his truth — in even greater power, near in the life of a troubled world? If in Chi·istendom the great body of believers, or semi-believers, in things about him can, by the transforming of their minds and spirits, be transformed into divinely inspired, virile disciples of the Master, through an understanding and a following of his teachings, so simple as he gave them, yet so certain in their results, then it can be.

In this way, as he so longed, he may yet become the light of the world.


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