Antecedents of New Thought by Eric Butterworth

Lecture 1 - Philosophy

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Eric Butterworth begins his series on the Antecedents of New Thought by talking about philosophers, primarily Greek philosophers of Platonism and Stoicism. He makes two main points about philosophy and New Thought.

First, the contribution of philosophers was the idea of monism, that we live and move in God and that God is continuously expressing through us. We are not created, but we are forever becoming.

Second, New Thought is an "underground" movement that has always challenged the authority of religion. Religion, in Eric's opinion, is about defining God and establishing fixed dogmas. New Thought, being an ever unfolding new insight in Truth, "bubbles forth" and challenges fixed religious ideas. Therefore New Thought has been with us from the start of human awareness, but has never assumed its rightful legitimacy in the eyes of established religion.

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001 Introduction

This particular course of lectures is going to deal with the evolution of the ideas and concepts that have come into our time to be known as New Thought or Metaphysics. I simply refer to it as a new insight in truth. Actually, we're going to be devoted, as we are in all of our lectures here, to dealing in depth with fundamentals of Truth, the difference being that we're going to approach them against the backdrop of the historical stream of what I call the underground relentless stream of Truth.

Teachers and gurus quite often enthusiastically set forth concepts implying, at least, that the idea, the concept, or the technique or whatever, began with them. I like to say, and perhaps this is one of the subtitles of our course itself, that there's nothing new in New Thought. Anyone who thinks that New Thought is new is not really aware of the kind of unfolding stream that we're going to be dealing with. For this reason, we want to expand our awareness so that we can see the concepts that excite us, have been a part of the stream of consciousness of the race for long periods of time.

This new insight obviously combines many elements of much that has been taught through the ages, under the guise of philosophy, religion, mysticism, and a number of other isms and ologies. And yet, obviously, as it is articulated today, it may well be different than any and all of them. We're not saying that we're simply today dealing with something that has always been a part of the consciousness of the race, but we're dealing with that which is almost an eclectic flowing together of concepts and ideas that have been considered and have been taught. There's a flippant bit of verse, of anonymous authorship, which maybe at least touches upon this concept, and maybe tells the story better than words will. It goes like this:

"Take a page of Epictetus in a Plato paragraph,
   shake it briskly til the mixture makes the gentle scoffers chaff.
Add a slight Socratic flavor, not in excess of a dram,
   and weak solution formed of Persian epigram.
Mix a bit from the old, from Old Confucius, and from Buddha several drops,
   and Egyptian lore, found in the pyramid of the great Cheops.
Now some truths not half remembered and some others half forgot,
   boil the mixture, boil it briskly, til it simmers in the pot.
Lord bless you now my brother, and the skeptics all beshrew,
   can't you see that you're approaching the thought that's labeled New?
'It is thought,' I said, with reverence, much of which is very true,
   but if I do not displease you, what in thunder makes it new?
Came the answer: 'Lo, poor skeptic, hear the truth and doubt no more;
   Such a mixture's mixful mixing, never has been mixed before.'"

Thus, we consider New Thought.

Many teachers of New Thought, Metaphysics, Unity, or Religious Science, or whatever, seem to insist that the modern movement of New Thought began with the New England mesmerist, Phineas Parkhurt Quimby. I'm sure you've heard that and read it many times over. I've always had a little problem with that. Not that Quimby was not an influence. We will be dealing with Quimby in one of the ensuing lectures. I have personally, as many of you know, accepted enthusiastically, as one of my gurus, Ralph Waldo Emerson. I've always insisted that Emerson played an equally dominant role, or the stream that came through Emerson, and we'll be dealing with that in one of our lectures, too.

We're going to explain the ways in which many, many different sources have converged into the stream of modern New Thought. Only so that we can set the record straight and take into our consciousness some of these other ideals and ideas.

002 Heraclitus

Today, as I said, we're considering roots in Philosophy. Here, we find a stream of ideals and ideas that has had a tremendous influence on the New Insight and that goes back thousands of years into the antiquity of the unfolding of human consciousness.

Heraclitis
Heraclitis / Wikipedia
It's hard to find a starting point, but perhaps we can center our attention on the most logical place. The word, "logic" itself, is a connotation that comes out of Greek philosophy. We'll start at the philosophy of ancient Greece. In its heart, in the early Greek teachings, is the idea of oneness, which is expressed as Monism in philosophy, and as Pantheism in some of the later philosophic and religious concepts.

For instance, back in 500 BC, Heraclitis, held at the Universal substance, is an ethereal spiritual essence. Instead of being, it should be thought that everything is in a state of becoming. He held that nothing is stable except instability, and nothing is constant except change.

This is fundamental in our Truth concept today, and this concept, this idea, actually was a very important part of the teaching of Heraclitis. Everything is in a state of flux, everything begins to change the moment it is created or born. We can never say things as it is, so what are you going to do about it? There's the constant process of growth and change.

003 Plato

Plato
Plato / Wikipedia
I think it is Plato who lived, and I'll just give the dates in passing, not that they have any real meaning unless you're interested historically, in 429 to 328 BC, it was Plato who had the greatest influence on this unfolding, relentless stream of Truth.

When I say the New Thought stream, I'm not saying that Plato consciously was contributing to what we call a New Thought movement today, but through this underground stream that has been given many names ... Some refer to it as the stream of Neoplatonism, but that simply is one title given to the unfolding of the stream, Plato has had probably the most tremendous influence. His concepts moved through the centuries. Obviously, they're looked at in many ways academically, seldom in a spiritual vein. They evolved into what we refer to, and will later, as Neoplatonism, and its resurgence through the Middle Ages. Actually, bubbled forth in the later Transcendentalism of Emerson. Again, we'll consider Emerson later.

Plato had three fundamental theories. This is an oversimplification, for those of you who are scholars of Plato, which I certainly am not. First, the existence of ideas, secondly the doctrine of preexistence, and the immortality of the soul, and thirdly, the subjection of the popular divinities into one supreme being.

The popular divinities being the many, many, many Gods, which you remember on Mars Hill, when Paul walks and sees all these many, many statues of all the various Gods that were extant at the time. He then began to express the idea of the one God in whom we live and move and have our being.

Plato's doctrine of ideas is very significant, because it embodies some fundamentals which sound almost as a reflection of what we think of today as modern Metaphysics. The fundamental concept of Idealism, which holds that the universe, as a whole and throughout, is the embodiment of mind. That reality is to be found only in mind. The only reality in the external world consists in its perceptibility. In other words, a thing exists as you see it, and it exists because you see it, in an outer sense. It has its real existence in that which is transcendent to the material world.

Plato held that reality inhered in the idea of the thing, and not in the thing itself. There is no reality, in the individual, the tree, the stone, or the man. Reality is found in the idea of these things, which existed on the idea plane alone, which of course, sounds like you're reading out of a modern Truth book. The objects of appearance are merely fleeting perishable copies of the real form of ideas existing and having being in a state of changelessness.

Plato also held that all true knowledge arises from the recollection or reminiscences of the soul, which has lived before. Plato, as some of you know, was a enthusiastic advocate of the idea of reincarnation, that the soul has lived before and has dwelled awhile on the transcendent plane of being. Therefore, much of what we call inspiration, is calling back into consciousness, that which the soul has previously known.

Again, this is not an idea that is totally accepted or acceptable in modern New Thought, but it is with many, and certainly it is with me. Wordsworth later seems to put this into words when he says, "Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting."

004 Aristotle

Aristotle
Aristotle / Wikipedia

I suppose we should at least touch on Aristotle. Not in terms of getting into the very complex Aristotelian thought, which sometimes is at crossed purposes with Plato, although they were contemporaries, but basically because it was Aristotle that coined the word, Metaphysics, which we like to think is a very beautiful, modern word today. The prevailing science of his day was, Physikos, the study of natural processes. Aristotle felt that in his insights and his exploration, he was going farther than the physical, farther than the material.

He was picking up where Physikos left off, and so therefore, he coined the word, "Metaphysique," which goes beyond the physical. Beyond the science of nature, beyond the materiality of life. Obviously, Metaphysics in a philosophical sense, means certainly much that is different from Metaphysics in a New Thought sense, but the word is there. There is that emphasis upon the idea of going beyond the physical, beyond the science of nature, beyond medicine, beyond simply the logic of the mind. Metaphysics. Metaphysique.

005 Zeno and Stoicism

Zeno of Citium
Zeno of Citium / Wikipedia

Perhaps one of the great Philosophers that is significant and one that perhaps you haven't heard about too much, is the philosopher, Zeno, who lived 340 to 265 BC, who sort of was the founder inadvertently of a school that is called, Stoicism. The word, Stoic, is a word that I'm sure many of you know in another context. There's a great deal of apathy in his teaching, as the idea of Stoicism or the Stoic concept seems to suggest. There's also a great deal in his teaching that has been influential in the flow of this underground stream of Truth.

In other words, he felt that man's problems are related to an over-involvement in external things. That man needs to learn to be self-controlled, to get in tune with an inner rhythm. He gets out of tune, he gets out of balance. To him, the most important part of learning, was not taking new ideas into the mind, but divesting the mind of a lot of things that create tensions, fears, and difficulties. His thought that the most important part of learning is unlearning our errors, which I think is a very interesting, significant point.

There was an emphasis in Zeno's teachings, of positive thinking, way back then. Though it was related to a kind of fatalism, but there were roots of the process of denial, the idea that if you take your thought from this thing, deny its existence, and put your thought on something else, that you will then get into a new rhythm, which will manifest harmony in your life.

We don't want to involve ourselves too much in individuals and their own teachings, but Zeno, in his Stoic concept, was a great influence. For instance, in later years, Marcus Aurelius, who you probably remember something about, the Roman Emperor, was a Stoic. Epictetus, the great slave, was a Stoic.

The characteristic expression of what could be called Neostoic spirit, was in the more contemporary W.E. Henley's, Invictus, the poem. This reflects much of the clear idealism of Stoicism. Many of you remember Invictus.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

The Stoic school, which started with the Ancient Greek Philosopher Zeno has had a strong influence in the areas of self-mastery and self-control, which are so much a part of the concepts that we share today under the new insight in Truth.

006 Neoplatonism

Neoplatonism, which I referred to, was sort of a resurgence of Platonic thought, which added the depth of Mysticism, which Plato seems to imply, but never really gets into very much. It was carrying the Platonic ideas into a more mystic awareness of life. As we've said, this Neoplatonic concept, was one that had a great influence, especially as an underground idea. It was literally underground, because during much of the Middle Ages, under the subjection of Roman rulers and so forth, and the inquisition, there was a great fear of openly expressing any thought, other than the established beliefs of the day. It was an underground movement, but there was an occasional bubbling forth of this Neoplatonic thought.

One of the ideas that came out of this was, in terms of specific Philosophical terms, was the term, Pantheism. Many of you, perhaps, as a student of Truth, have gotten into a discussion with someone who was not particularly sympathetic to what you call Truth or New Thought, who was therefore very analytical and critical, perhaps, of your beliefs, and often trying to put you into a box. "What are you?" You say, "Well, I am a Truth student." But, "Truth, what do you mean by Truth?" The person then will want to try to fit you into one of the convenient pigeon holes or labels which Philosophy has created so many of, and he will say, "Well, you're just a Pantheist."

Perhaps one time, you may have said, "What does that mean?" You know, "What's a Pantheist?" Or he may have said a Transcendentalist. These are terms that are bantered about, obviously, in Philosophy, and may not have any particular meeting to a Truth student, but because we are dealing with people who have been referred to as Pantheists, perhaps just a simple recognition of the meaning. Obviously, Pantheism is dealt with in two ways, which is true of most Philosophical terms.

First of all, the dictionary definition would be one that emphasizes the materialistic approach, and this is simply that God is the universe. That's all. That's basically what Pantheism is. That God is the sum and the substance of all the natural forces, all the objects, and it's all God. That's all. You might say, "Well, there's nothing particularly wrong with that." Of itself, it is sort of cold and materialistic, and doesn't leave room for the idea of mind, and mind moving on itself, loving itself, expressing itself, and so forth.

There is another kind of Pantheism, which perhaps we can refer to as the Pantheism of Spinoza. We'll refer to Spinoza just briefly a little later. Spinoza had the idea that God is in all and all is in God. Nature and the universe are both manifestations of God, but God as the source, is seeking expression of Himself, in the form of, and as, certain experiences, conditions, persons, nature, and so forth. God is not a person, and so he would say, as the Ancient Chinese Philosophers would say that to define God is actually to deny Him. Of course, this was keeping an arm's length from established Religion. Religion has basically, the whole of theology, has basically been an attempt to verbalize some sort of a definition for God and for life. He says, "But to define God is to limit Him."

In Neoplatonism, this resurgence of the Platonic idea with a more mystical insight, the basis of nature, again, is the one. It's interesting, that when you get to the heart and root of the more significant Philosophers, of East and West, throughout all time, you come back to what is often referred to as Monism, the one. In Unity, we say, "One presence and one power. God, the good omnipotent." You could take dozens and dozens of philosophers all the way from Ancient China and Egypt and Ancient Greece and so forth, and you could put those words into their mouth, and they would say, "Yes, that's what I believe." The concept there is but one presence, and one power.

In Neoplatonism, this concept of oneness, or unity, is fundamental. The source of all things emanates from ... The source manifests in, I should say, a principle of pure intelligence, and an activity of intelligence, which is in all things. In other words, this is reminiscent of Mary Baker Eddy's "there is no life substance or intelligence anywhere, except in that transcendent awareness, where all is intelligent." Or, Charles Fillmore, who took issue with Mary Baker Eddy, and he said "there is no absence of life substance or intelligence anywhere." Again, we'll get into Fillmore and Eddy at a later time, too.

007 Plotinus

Plotinus
Plotinus / Wikipedia

Probably the most articulate Neoplatonist, and perhaps the one who was the first evidence of the resurgence of this Platonic idea, was Plotinus. Plotinus goes back to third century AD. Plotinus is particularly a favorite of mine. He was a Greek Mystic. He dealt with the dynamic universe. His concept of the universe ... Obviously, reading some of the Philosophers is not the easiest thing in the world, because obviously they use a set of terminologies that is very pedantic, very academic, and very abstruse. They are very [unclear]. Although Plotinus is somewhat readable, but there's much that we don't naturally relate to.

Plotinus dealt with a universe that was dynamic. A universe that was ever in the process of manifesting itself at particular points, as particular things. When you take his concept and personalize it from your own point, your own perspective, then you get the feeling that the whole universe is actually an activity that is converging in you and as you. You have the world and the universe on your side as a force.

This is implied in much of our New Thought teaching. There's one particular thought that I have used often of Plotinus, is this idea that we should get out of the thought that we are are created beings, that God created us and set us out here and left us alone. We should get still and realize and experience the whole universe, rushing, streaming, pouring into us while we stand quiet. I think that that is one of the most beautiful realizations that lead to the idea of meditation.

In other words, you're not trying to reach anything. You're not saying, "Get still now, and try to reach God or touch God or talk to God or try to get God to come into you." Let go of all of that, and get the realization that you are in and of this dynamic universe, which already is the creative process in you. There is a constancy of this dynamic activity which is coming into you and through you, if you can just let it. Stop trying. Just get out of the way and let it. Relax, and let it flow into you and through you.

Anyway, this was a clear concept of Plotinus, way back in the third century AD. It's very beautiful indeed, a very beautiful thought.

Neoplatonism, as I said, had a great influence upon some of the early Christian leaders. Many of the beautiful insights of religious leaders came out of the influence of Neoplatonism and people like Plotinus, on their already great Christian ideals, but which had been so steeped in Theology and in the attempt to define God in literal terms as a literal being, and so forth, it had lost its vitality.

Many of the Christian leaders during the Dark Ages, who flourished basically because they hid away in monasteries, were influenced strongly by this Neoplatonic concept. We're not getting too much into the Christian leaders, because not only they're thought of as religious people, and we're trying to think of the Philosophic influence, though some of them, as certainly Meister Eckhart is, and we'll touch on him in a moment, a Christian leader, but we are using him basically because he's considered the Father of German Philosophy.

Eventually, this mystic movement, this Neoplatonic awareness went underground. As a matter of fact, in the later years, when it had its revival in the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th centuries, it did at the risk and the peril of the individuals, and many of them ... Or I suppose we could almost say most of the Neoplatonist Philosophers, teachers, religions during this time, wound up at the fiery end of a stake, which is kind of interesting, in terms of the flow of our religious thought.

008 Hinduism

At this point, before we go any farther, it might be well to turn back and to consider other roots, because I said in the beginning, it's hard to know just where to start, and just acknowledge for a moment, and in an interesting way, the Oriental fount, out of which has come much of what we call today the modern New Thought concept. For instance, when we look to India, we see such a wealth, depth, and breadth of material, that it's hard to know where to begin or end.

We won't make any great attempt to deal in depth with Indian thought. To the Ancient Vedas, the Hindu Philosophy with its multitude of variations, flows forth. It is essentially Monistic. It may be interesting that we would touch upon Hinduism and the different religions of India under the terms of Philosophy, but it's very hard to make a distinction, obviously, between Philosophy and Religion. Essentially, Religion centers itself on fixed definitions and terminologies, whereas Philosophy is dealing with more an idealistic sense and an idealistic universe.

This marks the difference between the Hindu concept, or the whole Eastern-oriented concept and the Western concept of Religion. The Hindu-oriented concept, is free from crystallized definitions, or free from the crystallized embodiments of God as a person. It deals more in the idealistic sense, so we almost have to consider it as a Philosophy. Again, I wouldn't want to debate that point at any extent, at any length.

Certainly, through the Ancient Vedas, this Hindu Philosophy, with its multitude of variations and forms, flows forth with the many recognizable insights, some of which date back as far as any kind of recorded writing can be determined, concepts that we would recognize as being a part of what we call the new insight in Truth today.

Again, not saying that these came from there or were borrowed from there, or that proves that Hinduism is right, anymore than we're trying to prove that Plato was right, or that we accept all of what Plato believed. We're simply identifying certain insights as having flown from ... Come from that particular fount. The Oriental fount, in this sense, the Indian fount, of Hinduism. It is essentially Monistic, again. All is one. One is all. Beyond the one, there is nothing, which gives rise to the Hindu concept of Maya.

The Vedanta School of India is generally held to represent the clearest articulation of Hindu Philosophy, though again, that would be debatable. The Vedanta School dates back at least to 700 years BC.

This will say, for instance, that all human misery and suffering is caused by separation in consciousness. Where have you heard that before? Therefore, a breach in the oneness takes place through a consciousness of separation. However, in the Hindu thought, it will say the separation does not really exist. It's not real. It is merely apparent on the surface. Judge not according to appearances, but judge righteous judgment. In the heart of things, there is a unity still, even where there seems to be disunity. As we say so often, there is an allness, even within the illness. If you go within, you will find that unity in the face of the disunity, the inharmony, the limitation, or the sickness, and you will find healing.

You can sense this in Mary Baker Eddy's Statement of Being.

I might just say that we're going to spend a whole hour on Christian Science and Mary Baker Eddy in weeks to come. In no way an attempt to debunk, which we don't, because I'm accepting Mary Baker Eddy in the light of one of the great teachers of the new insight in Truth. We find here, a reflection. This is the main problem that many people have in anything that I would have to say about Mary Baker Eddy, is because the Christian Scientist normally accepts, without question, the fact that all of this was her Truth that came purely out of inspiration in her time, through her own consciousness, therefore it had the stamp of originality on it. I cannot accept that, and no study of Mary Baker Eddy from an academic or historical point of view would ever accept that at all.

This seems to reflect, this Vedanta concept, reflects Mary Baker Eddy's statement that,

"There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-All. Spirit is immortal Truth, matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and the eternal, matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man in His image and likeness. Hence, man is spiritual and not material."

Again, this simply evidences that whether Mary Baker Eddy was aware of it or not, at least in an unconscious sense, there was a reflection of many, many antecedents of the insight that she expressed.

009 Lao-Tzu

Lao-Tzu
Lao-Tzu / Wikipedia

Going a little farther back in the Oriental fount, there are so many, many sources. The Eastern lore, the Eastern cultures are almost unknown to so many of us. You open a door and suddenly you see a whole world of experiences, Philosophers, teachers, and insights, that it's hard to know where to stop or to start. There are people, for instance, like Lao-Tzu of Ancient China, sixth century BC. Obviously, Lao-Tzu had antecedents, too, but we can find so much in the writings of Lao-Tzu, many of which are available. Again, it's hard to know where to begin or end, but it is the concept of Lao-Tzu, that has touched off, for instance in my consciousness, the basic idea of my new book, In the Flow of Life. I've referred to this in the book.

Lao-Tzu taught that the human spirit has its source in the Divine Fountain, which must be permitted to flow freely through man. He believed that anyone who flows as life flows, has solved the enigma of human existence and needs no other power. He felt that anything is evil that blocks the flow of creative action. Everything is healthy that flows with the universe. This is an interesting concept of good and evil, that evil is simply the frustration or the blocking of the divine flow. That divine flow, is potentially within every person. If a person frustrates the flow or blocks the flow, then he creates, in a physical sense, congestion and illness, in a financial sense, unemployment and lack, in a moral sense, evil and destitution and so forth.

Again, a very important insight. Just one of many beautiful concepts in the Philosophy of Lao-Tzu, which would suggest and give perhaps, gave rise, to some of the insights that we consider as modern New Thought.

010 Akhenaten, the Hebrews and Jesus

Akhenaten
Akhenaten / Wikipedia

Then, we can look in Egypt, for instance, and go even farther back, in the year 1375. This is at least one historical character that we have good evidence of, because much of it is found on the Hieroglyphics of Temple walls and caves. In the year 1375 BC, a young king took the throne of Egypt.

He parted with the military, overruled the entire Theban priesthood, discarded the whole religious establishment and the worship of the multitude of Gods, some of which were very weird as we think of them in our time, and set up a whole new concept of the universal God, creator of all things, a God who was not the Lord of one land or race, but God of the whole Earth, an unseen spiritual being, loving toward all his creatures, and broke with his forbearers in that he insisted that he, as the Pharaoh, was not an epitome or manifestation of God, but he was a man like every other man, which made it very difficult for him to sustain authority and order in his day.

That king was Akhenaten. Akhenaten, I think, is very important and very interesting too, though he's not often referred to in this context.

This was the first expression that we can find anywhere through history of what has been called Pure Monotheism, the one God, and it is probably true, that it was Akhenaten's influence that led Moses, who spent much of his early life in Egypt, to the idea of Monotheism, which then became a very vital, fundamental, whole Judeo-Christian stream. Though not always too clearly articulated, sometimes it gets a little bit fuzzy in the Theological doctrines of Trinity, three persons and so forth, but basically underlying this, is the concept of Monotheism, which began with Akhenaten.

He had the concept of a pure cosmic universal form. He saw all things and all persons as expressions of this universal force, which he called, Aton. A-T-O-N, Aton. It was not a worship of the sun as sometimes it is suggested, but he used the symbol of the sun to demonstrate what Teilhard de Chardin would call a cosmic point of total synthesis. In the Hieroglyphics that are discovered today, this symbol is used. When it's rightly understood, it has much to suggest to us. Aton was the source of all energy, the primal power behind all things, a formless essence, an intelligence that permeated the universe. Remember this was the 14th century BC, which is kind of interesting. His was man's first attempt to define God in intangible terms and idealistic qualities. In other words, away from anything that had a form or a personality.

Akhenaten Amarna Tombs hieroglyphic
Amarna Tombs hieroglyphic

His God was both transcendent and imminent, the original causation, and a continuing presence, ever with all persons. On the wall of the Amarna Tombs, at Tell el-Amarna, there is this rather interesting Hieroglyphic illustration of Aton. I'm sure somewhere in your readings you have run across this. It's symbolized by the sun as a little disc on the top of the picture, and coming down are many lines, like rays of the sun, and at the end of each line or ray, there is a symbol of a hand. The hand is actually clutching the symbol of life.

This symbolizes that Aton, the universal activity, which is, he calls, God, manifests in many direct expressions, and each one becomes the hand of God. Remember the mystic Catholic sister who said, "God has no other eyes but my eyes, God has no other hands but my hands" [Teresa of Avila]. Man becomes the hand of God, man becomes the activity of God in expression, which again is a Metaphysical term, which we use so often today.

Akhenaten is important, I think in our study, because though his government failed, it was a total failure, simply because he divested himself of any divine status, he was just one of the hands, as many among them, so he was unable to maintain any kind of authority. He's important, because the idea of the fatherhood of God, the inner experience of God's presence, and the love of natural beauty were thus deposited into the cultural soil of the world. Obviously it had a great influence in the ensuing generations.

Akhenaten was probably the first to teach a doctrine of peace, love, and nonresistance. He was the one who we've referred to often shocking all of his forbearers, militarists, and so forth, that he refused to put to death the soldiers when they were captured, because it was just the common practice that all captured soldiers should be destroyed immediately. There was never a thought of taking prisoners. He said, "You're supposed to destroy your enemies." His remark, at least we have had it attributed to him today was the, "Do I not destroy my enemies when I love them? Or when I forgive them?" It was this concept of love and nonresistance, which was almost an innovation, at least where we can find it anywhere throughout Philosophies of the past.

It is likely that this religious stream, some of it through Moses, some of it perhaps through other sources, had a profound influence on that which led to Jesus. For to Jesus, God was not an object of worship, but a presence in dwelling. Jesus had to break with the religion of his day, in order to express this feeling, this concept. It was because of this great breach that he was an infidel and thereby, was destroyed. Jesus also used the sun as a symbol for God. Remember he said, "He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust."

There is that thought in the teachings of Jesus that the rays of the sun radiate into the hospital cot, into the prison cell, into the palace and the hovel. The sun radiates everywhere, wherever a person will permit it or accept it. There's no place, thus, where God is not. He is there where anyone opens his mind to accept the within of himself. Even if the mind be closed, he's there anyway, for there's always a reality beyond the appearance, an allness within the illness. Always a divinity within the human expression.

011 Meditation and Incubation

There's much that is subtly mystical in some of the Philosophers of these early times, beautifully so, which gives rise to the personal experience of this reality that is called God, which thus gives rise to the idea of the presence, which then opens the way to the experience of meditation.

In the Ancient Chinese, there was a saying, "If a man be absolutely quiet, the heavenly heart will manifest itself." "Be still and know that I am God," said the Psalmist (Psalms 46:10). We've tended to get away from this in a more theological ideal of prayer, where we have a fixed definition of God, a fixed definition of man, and the stages we go through, and so prayer is trying to reach to God and ask for something from God.

In this idealistic approach to God and the universe, God is not a person to pray to, but perhaps a process or a consciousness, as I say so often, to pray from. The need is to know that we are in this activity of God, which is the whole of things. We need to relax and let go. As Meister Eckhart says, as we will mention in a moment, "Let God be God in you." Just be still and let it happen. As Plotinus says, "Let the whole universe rush and stream and pour into you from all sides while you just stand quiet. Just relax. Just be still, and become receptive." This essentially, is the heart and soul of meditation as has been taught East and West.

It's interesting also that there was an ancient practice, chiefly found in Egypt, though occasionally it's referred to kind of subtly in some of the historical accounts of other cultures, which dealt with healing, and what we would call communion with God. It was called incubation, or temple sleep. It was a deep and reverent silence or meditation leading to a sleep state, which possibly could have even been a kind of a self-hypnosis or trance, I don't know, which gave rise to a curative and illuminating experience. There's some accounts of this which seem to indicate that it was a kind of a fad that was accepted on many levels.

The Temple and Cults of Asclepius
The Temple and Cults of Asclepius by Robert Thom Peel

It was so popular at one time that there were these incubation centers all over the place, almost like in a mystical sense, the proliferation of massage parlors. It was this idea that everywhere, you could stop in at the corner drug store and go into this incubation center, where there would be someone who would help you to induce this kind of trance, and you would just go into a kind of a conscious incubation. In this process, almost like an animal will go off into the woods or into the corner of a house and just get terribly still and would not eat, move, or do anything, while something happens within him, where he gets his system in relationship once again, with the universal flow. We accept it in animals, but we've never really thought too much about it in man.

In this Ancient Egyptian culture, the idea of temple sleep, or the incubation process, was accepted. The historian, Strabo, speaks of an incubation center in Egypt and he says,

"In Kanobos is a temple in Sarapis, which is venerated with deep reverence, and which brings to pass cures, so that even the most distinguished men themselves, practice incubation, or do so through others."

Which was a kind of early spiritual healing, or a kind of meditation, in terms of letting go of the outer influences, and getting once again, into the flow, of the divine process. Mind you, this goes well back hundreds of years before the time of Christ, which is kind of interesting.

012 Meister Eckhart

Meister Eckhart
Meister Eckhart / Wikipedia

This relentless stream of truth, which we refer to in the Medieval times as Neoplatonism, gave rise to my dear friend, who I just want to touch on in passing, Meister Eckhart, in the 13th century. Meister Eckhart, as I said, was a Religionist. He was a priest of the Roman church, though how he ever stayed in the church, I don't know. How he ever kept from being burned at the stake, we are told it was basically because he was so popular and he was so beloved by those around him, and even by those in the philosophical and religious field at a distance. He was simply a loving person, but his insights, his concepts, were probably as clear a Metaphysical teaching as you'd find by any of the teachers today.

Unfortunately, most of the works of Meister Eckhart were destroyed by the Papal order. When they did not succeed in destroying Eckhart when he died, they did succeed in capturing most of his works and burning them. We do have some, and there are some of them that have been translated. The best translation perhaps, is the Blakeney translation, published by Harper Torch Books series.

Meister Eckhart, as a simple parish priest, taught pure Truth as we know it today, strangely enough. Obviously, the people didn't understand him. He just exuded love, and they loved him and they accepted him. They couldn't have understood him in his day.

He's considered the Father of German Philosophy, as well as the Father of German Religion.

The starting point of his belief was the action that God is being. If God is all existence, it is impossible that anything can exist apart from him, because this would be outside his being. Therefore, all things in their substance, are themselves, God. Whatever else they possess in space or time, is only an appearance. This is certainly modern Metaphysics. He also played with this idea of the Allness of God in rather shocking term. Maybe this is why I like him, because I like to use the shock approach, too. He says, "Nothing is as close to me as God. He is nearer to me than I am myself. His presence is my being." He would make such statements as, "I never thank God for loving me, because God can't help himself."

This was to evidence the idea that God is a great universal force of love, which is constantly supportive of all that which it creates. The idea of asking God for love or forgiveness is a total redundancy in the concept of Allness. God is love. God is a loving process that's ever within. The need is not to get God to love us or ask God to forgive us, but to forgive ourselves, stop frustrating the flow, and let this energy of love flow forth through us.

He also said, "Man is just as important to God as God is to man." That was certainly a shocking concept in his day. He felt that God has being by becoming manifest in us. He said, "God expects but one thing of you, and that is that you should come out of yourself insofar as you're a creative being, and let God be God in you. Just let God be God." "It's not enough," he was saying, "to say, 'Well, I am God's creation, so therefore because I'm created by God, God must love me and he must be there to help me somewhere.'" But he says, "Let God be God in you. You are the activity of God expressing itself as you. You are always that, no matter what happens. You may not know it, you may not think that that is true, and in your consciousness, you may turn away from the belief in that, but that is the reality that is always beyond the appearance."

Even in his time, he could see the tendency for people to take God as a spiritual slot machine. This term has probably been used more in relationship to the Metaphysical process where we're trying to demonstrate this and demonstrate that, but actually that praying to God for help and for things, for guidance, and so forth, has been pretty much a part of the history of religion. He said,

"Some people want to see God with their eyes as they see a cow, and to love Him as they love their cow. They love the cow for the milk, cheese, and profit it makes them. This is how it is for people who love God for the sake of outward wealth and inward comfort. Indeed, I tell you the truth. Any object you have in your mind, however good, will be a barrier between you and the inmost Truth. People should think less about what they ought to do and to have, and more about what they ought to be."

Very idealistic, in his concept of truth. There's always the inference that if one holds right attitudes, and perhaps he was one of the first that I've been able to run across that actually refers to right attitudes, leading to the concept of positive thinking, but he always related this to the idea that the most important thing in your life is the realization that you are the activity of God manifesting as you. He said, "People fly from this to seek that, these places, these people, these matters, these purposes, that activity, but they should not blame ways or things for thwarting them. When you are thwarted, it is your own attitude that is out of order."

That's certainly modern Metaphysics. He had a concept that some Truth teachers voice as pure modern Metaphysics. He said, "The ultimate end or purpose of creation, is God confessing himself, God loving himself, God using himself."

013 Later philosophers

Spinoza
Spinoza / Wikipedia

You can continue on. There's so many interesting philosophers who have set forth ideas that have been a part of the unfolding New Thought stream, such as Spinoza, referred to as the God-intoxicated man, who was probably the chief exponent of Pantheism. Once Einstein was asked if he believe in God, and he said, "I believe in the God of Spinoza," which sort of pointed to the ideal that he didn't believe in the God of Theological religion, but he believed in the God of Spinoza, which was the ideal of Pantheism in the transcendent sense, Pantheism which deals with the universe in flux, always manifesting as the person. That God is not somewhere, but God is an activity that manifests as you. There's no place where God is not. No place, no person, no activity, no situation. This is Pantheism, this was the God of Spinoza.

You can go on to Swedenborg, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Bergson, and Kant. We'll talk a little bit about Kant a couple of weeks off, when we get into the transcendental stream.

Perhaps we can close with the Italian, Giordano Bruno, who incidentally, was one of the Neoplatonists that wound up at the end of a fiery stick. Bruno this interesting concept of unity, which I think is so beautiful and so fundamental. He says, "Nature is a living unity of living units, in each of which, the power of the whole is present." To me, that's the cleanest explanation of what Theology tries so hard to articulate, in terms of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit actually being the wholeness of God that is present at any point in time and space in its Allness.

Giordano Bruno
Giordano Bruno / Wikipedia

That's hard for the intellect to accept, that God is not somewhere, but wherever you are, God is, and the Allness of God is present. There's nothing of God that's off somewhere else. That's Holy Spirit, that's this idea of unity. In other words, in each unit, the power of the whole is present. That is the basis of spiritual healing, if you get it in the Metaphysical sense. Not spiritual healing that comes when God loves you enough that He's going to take your sins away and dissolve this difficulty, but God loves you and is love in you. God is an activity of life which manifests in you. There's always this wholeness of God that is present. If there's anything else present, it's because you are not aware of the wholeness. You've centered your attention upon lack and limitation. You're too involved at the circumference of your being.

This idea of Bruno's is the idea of unity, which is beautiful. In each unit, in each person, in each situation, the power of the whole is present. The Allness of infinite mind is present in you as you, right where you are, at any time. At any time, by turning your thought from the circumference, from the feeling of lack, limitation, illness, pain, suffering, and whatever, at any time, by expanding your awareness and getting the insight of that living unity, which is present in all situations, then you are in the presence of God.

As the Old Testament says, "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy health shall spring forth speedily" (Isaiah 58:8). That's about as far as we can go today.

014 Closing Meditation

All right, now as we go on our way today, I would like you to just join me again for a moment. In following this central theme, which we see so consistent through the great Philosophers, this idea of oneness, wholeness, let's just for a moment get the realization that we all live, move, and have our being, in this Allness which we call God. The Allness of mind, the Allness of love, the Allness of substance, the Allness of life.

May we just acknowledge and make a commitment to keep in the consciousness of the realization that we live, move, and have our being in this Allness. Therefore, there is no place, no situation, no experience, and no person, where God is not. God, as this Allness, is present everywhere. As an influence, and even as a force seeking to express and project itself into visibility. May we know that this projection is now manifesting in our lives, in terms of new health, in terms of new substance, in terms of new, beautiful creative ideas, in terms of supportive love. We give thanks for this. Amen.