by Eugene Halliday

That life goes up and down, that there are waves on the ocean of life, that the situations in which we find ourselves continuously change, that our condition is never for very long the same, is something we all know. But that we tend to think it should be otherwise is also something we all know. Yet Jesus tells us by His life that it is better for us to be wary of thinking that something should be other than it is. We have to learn first to accept what is, and then we shall become able to respond profitably to it. A sailor who goes to sea does not expect it to remain flat and calm; he gains what he calls his “sea-legs”.

Acceptance of reality is the first pre-condition of being able to deal efficiently with it. But what is reality? It is the totality of the things and events and relationships within the universe. But this totality is too much for any created being to deal with in its wholeness. No merely human being can understand the whole of reality. It is far, far too vast for a mere man’s intelligence to grasp. What, then, are we to do?

Although the tremendous stretch of the universe is beyond our comprehension, beyond even our imagination, there is something that we can do to bring ourselves into an adequate relationship with reality. We can accept that we do not know the whole of reality, and that therefore we are in need of help in dealing with it. It is here that we encounter the meaning of Christ for us: He is our helper, He is our sword and shield, He is our anchor. By His sacrifice He anchored Himself in Eternal Reality. By our belief in His sacrifice we anchor ourselves in Him. By His Word of Universal Truth we shield ourselves against attacks of the untruth of our enemies. By His everlasting Will to teach God’s Law of Love to us we are given a spiritual sword with which to spread this law.

What does Christ say that we are to do with the vast universe that surrounds us? How are we to relate to its innumerable demands? We are to deal with it moment by moment. We are not to try to grasp more of it than is each instant within our power. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

Why should it be sufficient for us only to deal with the little area of the great universe in which we find ourselves? Because God is not concerned with the width of our activities, but with the focus of our Will. He is not concerned with the quantity of our deeds, but with their quality. And quality depends on the state of our will, the condition of our innermost heart, the deepest motivation of our acts.

We have here a very important idea: that the vastness of reality, the innumerableness of the things of the universe, is not what God requires us to deal with. What God wants us to relate to is the state of our heart, whether it be a loving heart or not. A hating heart, a will saturated in enmity and hate, is not what God wills for us.

Each moment of our life is a moment in which we turn our will in one direction or another. Our life is nothing but a series of moments of will, and in each moment our will gives to itself a direction, sets itself a goal to realise, a kind of relationship to establish with some portion of reality. And this kind of relationship must be one either of love or hate.

Hate and Love are states of our Will. Our deepest will is the centre of our secret heart. In this centre we have an attitude to reality, and this attitude determines what will befall us. This attitude is what God is looking at in us. God searches our heart, and according to what He finds there, so He leads us into the path appropriate for us. If our heart is in love with God’s Truth, He leads us in a special way to realise it. If our heart is afraid of God’s Truth in case it should disallow the gaining of some private advantage, God leads us along another path for our correction.

We have the promise of Christ that if we love God we have perfect assurance that He will lead us in the direction in which His love is moving. His love will carry us upwards towards greater relationship with him. Now, if we love God, we are in God’s love, and this love empowers us to see reality in a special way. God is love, the infinite, mysterious power that has brought the universe into being. Nothing that is in existence can continue to exist without the supporting power of divine love. If we have love in our hearts, our understanding is opened and we see what is the meaning of love.

Love is the infinite power of God that works incessantly to bring all being into its own state. Divine Love is the will for the development of all harmonious possibilities of being. It wills to bring all creatures into its own condition, so that they, too, can love in the same way. When we accept that this is Love and that love is working for the propagation of itself, a door of understanding begins to open inside our minds. We begin to understand why it is that “perfect love casts out fear.”

Fear is born of pain. But pain may be seen as of two kinds: pain imposed on us from outside ourselves, without our will; and pain to which we submit ourselves by act of will in order to fulfil some purpose. The pain suffered by Jesus on the Cross was of the second kind. It has endured purposefully in order to rescue mankind from a condition of slavery, a slavery resulting from man’s presumption that he was fit to define good and evil for himself.

When man fell, he did so by considering himself fit to be in possession of the mysteries of good and evil. But he had made an equation that the good was the pleasant, and the evil the painful. This is not always so, for there are times when pain is life-protective: pain in our bodies can tell us something in us is wrong and needs attention. The pains that accompany certain diseases are a warning. But the pain that arises from frustration of egotistic desires is of quite another kind. This pain tells us that we need to change our life-direction, that we have allowed our private purposes to blind us to the realities of the world situation.

Pleasure may arise from the contemplation of beautiful and good things, from the co-operative activities of our physical bodies, from true communal inter-relations. But it can arise also from certain kinds of stimuli of our nerve endings which can enslave our intelligence, as we see in drug-addiction and alcoholism. Or it can arise from observing the downfall of persons we have defined as our enemies, this being a kind of pleasure which is very damaging to our souls. It is also possible for pleasure and pain to be inverted. We see this in cases of sadism, in which pleasure may be derived from inflicting pain on persons we love, or masochism, in which we may derive pleasure from suffering pain at the hands of our beloved ones or others.

The whole problem of the relationship between pleasure and pain and good and evil is so complex that it is extremely improbable that we will be able finally to resolve it. It is a mystery the solution of which God has reserved for Himself. This is why God gave to Adam the commandment that he should not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

What, then, are we to do about this problem? We are to accept what comes to us in the most intelligent way we can. We are to free ourselves from slavery to what is merely pleasant, and to strengthen our will to accept what pains we must suffer when these arise from conditions that we cannot yet control.

Especially we are to work to remove from our mind those tendencies which lead to our enjoying pains imposed on other persons. When we view ourselves as beings separated from each other, our minds tend to work in a defensive manner. We fall into a condition in which we may delight in the misfortunes of other persons whose aims do not receive our approval.

To delight in another’s downfall is to expose ourselves to the fear that the other may take joy in our misfortunes. The human mind works in such a way that whatever it wills for others it must, consciously or unconsciously, expect for itself. Why should this be so?

Deep within our heart of hearts we know that all beings are somehow mysteriously inter-connected. In the moments of our most complete stillness we feel our essential oneness with all living beings, we know we spring all from one source.

This sense of oneness with all beings is really beyond argument, because if we had absolutely no common origin we would be totally unable to communicate with one another.

Once we accept that we are all participants in an original substance, we can begin to see that whatever we do must in some way affect the other beings who also participate in this same substance. We cannot insulate ourselves absolutely from one common source, and therefore we cannot totally separate ourselves from the other beings who originate from that source. Nor can they separate themselves from us. We are bound together in the reality of which we are all parts.

This being so, we would be quite unreasonable to think that we could be free from the effects that our own actions have on the other beings who partake of the universal power of which we are all an expression. All of us are like wavelets on a vast ocean. None of us can escape the effects of all the causes that operate in this ocean. We are co-operators, whether we like it or not, to good or evil.

Once we have seen the truth of this, we can see also that if we allow ourselves to work against other beings in a spirit of hate and fear, we shall be sowing the seeds of our own overthrow. The world is round; all things move in cycles and return to their source. “As we sow, so shall we reap.” This is an unavoidable law.

Seeing this, we shall release from our heart’s centre, from the depths of our innermost being, only those acts the necessary fruits of which we will to return to us. We are own executioners. And we are also our own rewarders, in that we call down from our original source the unavoidable results of our deeds and intentions.

Christ has given us the Key: “Insomuch as you do it to the least of these, you do it unto me”. There is one source of all of us, one infinite God who is present in every atom of His creation, and who thus knows the most hidden intentions of our secret wills.

Because this is so, we have only to bring our will into alignment with God’s will to place ourselves within the protection of His all-pervading power. This is the only pre-condition to freeing ourselves from the anxiety that pervades the world of created beings. We have but to remember that whatever actions we do are done not only to the finite beings to whom we do them, but also to the Infinite God in whom we live and move and have our being. “Vengeance is mine”, says God. “I will repay.” It is not for us, with our so-meagre knowledge of the forces acting in the world, to decide what punishments shall be meted out to those we consider to be offenders against God’s Law. Our soul duty is to bring our will into God’s Love, and to live and act from this love.