Emilie Cady's Democratization of Spiritual Gifts
Hi Friends -
Here is Spiritual Gifts, a chapter in Emilie Cady’s Lessons in Truth, as which was first published in 1895. What is new is that embedded within the text is audio commentary by Vera Dawson Tait, who is generally regarded as the best scholar/student of Lessons in Truth ever produced by Unity. These two resources—the original text and expert commentary—form what I call the Lessons in Truth “Study Edition.”
You can download and read a PDF of the text from two sources: the text as it appeared in the July 1895 issue of Unity Magazine and as it appeared in the subsequent book form and reprinted in Unity’s "facsimile edition." You can read and listen to Vera Dawson Tait’s commentary in "Vera Dawson Tait Teaches Lessons in Truth—Spiritual Gifts" and you can read and listen to all of this in the "Lessons in Truth Study Edition—Spiritual Gifts.” I know that’s a lot of links. The last one is the one to follow if you wish to dive deeper into Emilie Cady’s Spiritual Gifts.
Emilie Cady’s essay on spiritual gifts is important because she describes spiritual gifts much differently than we typically view them. If we look up the word “gift” in an English dictionary, we will see two definitions. A gift may be a “talent” or it may be a “present.” The point is that most people see spiritual gifts as a talent, whereas Emilie Cady and Charles Fillmore see spiritual gifts as a free gift from God.
Many of us are familiar with the well known passage in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, where he speaks about the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, etc. These are commonly perceived as talents. But even though they are freely given as a gift and they are given for the benefit of all, we have come to believe that God gives talents to some and not to others.
If God gives spiritual gifts to some and not to others, then God is playing favorites. We are back to the notion that some people are favored and others are not, that some people are of the elect and others are of the depraved.
But Charles Fillmore and Emilie Cady put it differently. They say that all of us have been given the same spiritual gifts and that the differences in talent is a result of differences in expression, not due to God giving gifts to some and not to others. Here is the commentary from the Fillmore Study Bible for I Corinthians 12:
Those whose “gifts” or inherent talents are diverse and show the same Spirit. All may have the same Spirit, the desire to know the truth and to live accordingly, irrespective of differences in inherent talents or traits. Truth belongs everywhere, and no legitimate activity or bent can be outside its field... there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all things in all. God has given all His attributes to man; it rests with each individual whether he expresses them or not. God is no respecter of persons.
That idea, that we have all been given the same gifts but express them differently, is helpful and egalitarian, but it can be troublesome for those of us who don’t seem to have a particular gift, such as the gift of healing. Here is how Emilie Cady put it:
The power to heal the body has heretofore been, as I have already said, set up as a test of one’s spiritual understanding. It has been held up before students of truth as the object to seek; and everywhere superficial minds are criticizing those who fail to heal... This has brought great disappointment not unmixed with considerable humiliation. But, my dear friends, do not let such an experience discourage you... Healing is truly a branch of the Vine but it is not the only branch. There are many branches, all of which are necessary to the Perfect Vine which is seeking through you and me to bear much fruit. What God wants is that we shall grow into such conscious oneness with Himself, such realization that He who is the Substance of All good really abides in us; that “ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you.”
These words were removed by Unity in later editions and then restored in the last edition. I suspect that they were removed because “gifts of the spirit”, such as the ability to heal, had come to be understood as God-given talents, not as expressions of God-given gifts.
God does not give us talents. God gives us spiritual gifts; and God gives the same spiritual gifts to all, without favoritism. Charles Fillmore and Emilie Cady have “democratized” Christian teaching on the spiritual gifts.
But they have also provided a way to understand how it is that we have differences in talents, without experiencing disappointment or humiliation. That we have differences in expression is a sign of the “Perfect Vine” always “seeking that we shall grow into such a conscious oneness with Himself ... that we shall ask what we will and it shall be done unto us.” If we are not able to heal, it is not because God hasn't given us the talent, but that we have not fully received God’s gift.
Sunday, June 2, 2019
Lesson 10 — Spiritual Gifts
1. It is very natural for the human heart to first set out in search of truth because of the “loaves and fishes.”
2. Perhaps it is not too much to say that the majority of people first turn to God because of some weakness, some failure, some almost unbearable want in their lives. After having tried every other way in vain, to overcome or satisfy the want, they turn in sheer desperation to the Invisible.
3. There is, down in the hidden depths of even the most depraved human heart, though he would not for worlds have others know it, an instinctive feeling that somewhere in the invisible there is a Power that is able to give him just what he wants; and that if he could only reach that, which, to his conception, is God, he could prevail upon Him to grant to him his desires. This very instinct (for it is but little more than instinct in the lower or least developed manhood) is itself God-given. It is the Divine Self—though only a spark at the centre of the man’s being—suggesting to him the true remedy for all his ills.
4. Especially have people been led to seek the truth for the reward or “for the work’s sake,” during the last few years, since they have come to know that God is not only able but willing to be made unto them perfect deliverance from all the burdens of their everyday life. Everyone wants to be free, free, FREE as the birds of the air. Free from sickness, free from suffering, free from bondage, free from poverty, free from all forms of evil. And they have a right to be. It is a God-given desire and a God-given right.
5. Thus far, nearly all teaching has limited the manifestation of Infinite Love to one form,—that of bodily healing. This was necessary in the beginning of a great forward movement in spiritual things. Sickness, incurable disease, suffering reigned on every side, and every sufferer wanted to be free. We had not yet known that there was willingness as there was power—aye, more, that there was intense desire on the part of our Father, to give us something more than sweet, patient submission to suffering.
6. When the truth, that Divine Presence, ever lives in these human bodies as Perfect Life and can be drawn upon by our recognition and faith to come forth into full and abounding health, was first taught, it attracted wide-spread attention, and justly so. Both teachers and students centered their gaze upon this one branch or outcome of a spiritual life, losing sight of any larger, fuller or more complete manifestation of the indwelling Father. Teachers told all their pupils most emphatically, that this new knowledge of the truth would enable them to heal; and they devoted all their teaching to explanation of the principles and to giving formulas and other instructions for healing the body. This has brought both disappointment and discouragement to many. Failing to heal, they have, for the time, abandoned the entire principle. And the time is now ripe for giving larger and broader views of the truth about Spiritual Gifts.
7. Healing of the body is beautiful and good. Power to heal is a divine gift and as such you are fully justified in seeking it, if this is what you desire above all things else. I do not in any wise deprecate the gift of healing: but it is not all. God wants to give you infinitely more.
8. Why should you or I limit the limitless One to the bestowal of a particular gift: unless, indeed, we be so fairly consumed with an inborn desire for it that we are sure it is God’s highest desire for us. In that case we will not have to “try” to heal. Healing will flow from us wherever we are. Even in a mixed crowd of people, without any effort of our own, the one who needs healing will receive it from us. That one will “touch” us as did the one woman in all the multitude jostling and crowding against Jesus. Only one touched him.
[TruthUnity note: paragraphs numbered “X” were removed from later editions and not restored until the 1995 edition Complete Works of Emilie Cady]
X. The power to heal the body has heretofore been, as I have already said, set up as a test of one’s spiritual understanding. It has been held up before students of truth as the object to seek; and everywhere superficial minds are criticizing those who fail to heal.
X. At first, all who come into some knowledge of the truth do heal more or less; but there comes a time to many (and perhaps, nay probably, in your experience) when, in their onward growth, they fail to heal.
X. This has brought great disappointment not unmixed with considerable humiliation. But, my dear friends, do not let such an experience discourage you. It only means that God is leading you upward into higher things. Every denial of evil and affirmation of good you have made has served to push you upward. Do not fear or get nervous because you seem to “fail.” Failure is often success written with a capital S.
X. The time has probably come in your spiritual growth when you are no longer to cling to just the one spiritual gift which has been held up before you by human teachers. God’s thoughts for you are not as your thoughts for yourself. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
9. Healing is truly a branch of the Vine but it is not the only branch. There are many branches, all of which are necessary to the Perfect Vine which is seeking through you and me to bear much fruit. What God wants is that we shall grow into such conscious oneness with Himself, such realization that He who is the Substance of All good really abides in us; that “ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you.”
10. If you are faithfully and earnestly living what truth you know, and still find your power to heal the body is not as great as it was at first, recognize it as All-good. Be assured, no matter what anyone else says to you, or thinks, that the seeming failure does not mean loss of power, but gain. It means that you are to let go of the lesser in order that you may grasp the whole, in which the lesser is included. Do not fear for a moment to let go just this one little branch of Divine Power, and choose rather to have the highest thoughts of Infinite Mind, let them be what they may, fulfilled through you. We need to take our eyes off the ends of the branches, the results, and keep them centered in the Vine.
X. The Spiritual blankness of some who really do excellent healing is astonishing; or at least it would be did we not know that healing is probably their special gift. Divine Life flows through them in great abundance, because they recognize physical life and health as the highest desire and attainment. Hence they become channels for Divine Presence to flow through in that one direction. It is well for them. They are chosen vessels for that purpose.
11. You are a chosen vessel for some purpose. And if you let go cheerfully when the time comes, without humiliation or shame or sense of failure, your tense, rigid mortal grasp on some particular form of manifestation—like healing—and “covet earnestly the best gift,”—whatever that may be in your individual case, you will do “works” in that one specific direction which will be simply marvelous in the eyes of all men. These works will be done without effort on your part because they will be God, Omnipotence, Omniscience manifesting himself through you in His own chosen direction.
12. St. Paul says (1 Cor. 12):
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant * * * * there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. * * * * For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit * * * faith * * * the gift of healing * * * the working of miracles * * prophecy * * * discerning of spirits * * divers kinds of tongues * * apostles * * prophets * * * teachers etc.
13. The same Spirit. Always and forever the same and One God, One Spirit but in different forms of manifestation. Gift of healing no more, no greater than the gift of prophecy; gift of prophecy, which with dead certainty reveals things to come, no greater than faith,—for faith, (when it is really God’s faith manifest through us) even as a grain of mustard seed, shall be able to remove mountains; the working of miracles no greater than the power to discern spirits (or the thoughts and intents of other men’s hearts, which are open always to Spirit). And “greatest of all these is love,” for “love never faileth” to melt down before it all forms of sin, sorrow, sickness and trouble. Love never faileth.
14. “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will. * * * For the body is not one member, but many. * * * If the whole body were an eye (or gift of healing) where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? * * And the eye cannot say unto the hand I have no need of thee; nor again, the head to the feet, I have no need of you. * * But now hath God set the members everyone of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him.”
15. Thus St. Paul has enumerated some of the free “gifts” of the Spirit to those who will not limit the manifestations of the Holy One, but yield themselves to Spirit’s desire within them. O why should we, (the mortal), so fear to abandon ourselves to the workings of Infinite Love and Wisdom? Why be so afraid to let Him have His own way with us and through us?
16. Has not the gift of healing—the only gift we have thus far sought,— been a good and blessed one, not only to ourselves but to all with whom we have come in contact? Has this gift made us less powerful, less respected, less sought after by others than we were before receiving it? Has it not, rather, reinforced our individuality in every way?
17. Then why should we fear to wait upon God with a perfect willingness that the Holy Spirit manifest Itself through us as It will, knowing that, whatever the manifestation, it will be good, All-Good, to us and to those around us.
18. Oh! for more souls who have the courage to abandon themselves utterly to Infinite Will! Souls who dare to let go of every human being for guidance, and, seeking the Christ within their own souls, let Its manifestation be what He will.
19. Such courage might possibly mean—and probably would at first—a seeming failure, a going down from some apparent success which had been in the past? But the going down would only mean a mighty coming up, a most glorious resurrection of God into visibility through you in His own chosen way right here and now. The failure, for the time would only mean a grand, glorious success a little further on.
20. Do not fear failure, but call failure good, for it really is. Did not Jesus stand an utter failure (to all appearances) when he stood dumb before Pilate, —all his cherished principles come to naught, unable,—(yes, I say it, unable or else not tempted in all points as we are) to deliver himself or to “demonstrate” over the agonizing circumstances of his position?
21. But, had he not failed right at that point, there never could have been the infinitely grander demonstration of the resurrection a little further on. “Except a seed fall into the ground and die it cannot bring forth fruit.” If you have clung to just one form of spiritual gift because you were taught that, and you begin to fail, believe me, it is only the death, the disappearance of one gift in order that out of it may spring many new gifts,— brighter, higher, fuller ones because the ones God has chosen for you.
22. Your greatest work will be done in your own God-appointed channel. If you will let Divine Spirit possess you wholly; if you will will to have the Highest Will done in you and through you continually, you will be quickly moved by it out of your present narrow limitations,—which a half-success always indicates—into a manifestation as much fuller and more perfect and beautiful as is the new grain than the old seed which had to fall into the the ground and die.
23. Old ways must die. Failure is only the death of the old that there may be the hundred fold following. If there comes to you a time when you repeatedly fail to demonstrate over sickness, etc., as you did at first, do not run outside of yourself to seek some healer. It is beautiful and good for another to “heal” you bodily, by calling forth Universal Life through you. But right here there is something higher and better for you.
24. Spirit, the Holy Spirit,—which is God in movement—wants to teach you something, to open a bigger, brighter way to you. And this apparent failure is His call to you to arrest your attention and turn you to Him. “Acquaint now thyself with Him and be at peace; thereby shall good come unto thee.” Turn to the Divine Presence within yourself. Seek Him. Lie still before Him. Wait upon God quietly, earnestly but O so still and trustingly, for days, aye weeks if need be. Let him work in you; and sooner or later you will spring up into a resurrection life of newness and power that you never before dreamed of.
25. When these transition periods come, in which God would lead us up higher, should we get frightened or discouraged and ran off to seek the help of some healer to simply be made physically well, we only miss the lesson He would teach, and so postpone the day of receiving our own fullest, highest gift. In our ignorance and fear we are thus hanging on to the old grain of wheat which we can see, not daring to let it go into the ground (of failure) and die (or fail), lest there be no resurrection, no newness of life, nothing bigger and grander come out of it.
26. O do not let us longer fear our God who is All-Good, and who longs only to make us each one a giant instead of a pigmy.
27. What we all need to do above everything else is to cultivate the acquaintance or consciousness of the Spirit within our own being. We must take our attention off from results and seek to live the life. Results will be “added unto us” in greater measure when we turn our thoughts less to the “works” and more to embodying the indwelling Christ into our entire being. We have come to a time when there must be less talking about the truth, less treating and being treating merely for the purpose of being delivered from some evil result of wrong living; there must be more living the truth: and teaching others to do so. There must be more incorporating of the truth into our very bone and flesh.
28. How are you to do this?
29. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” saith the Christ at the centre of your being.
30. “I am the Vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth (consciously) in Me and I in him (in his consciousness) the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me (or severed from me in your consciousness) ye can do nothing. * * * If ye abide in me and my words abide in you ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you.”
31. I do assure you, as do all teachers, that you can bring good things of whatever kind you desire into your life by holding to them as yours in the invisible until they become manifest. But, beloved, do you not see that our highest, our first, aye our continual thought should be to seek the abiding in Him; to seek the knowing as a living reality—not simply as a fine-spun theory—that He abides in us. Then ye shall ask what ye will, be it power to heal, to cast out demons or even the “greater works” and “it shall be done unto thee.”
32. “There is one Spirit * * one God and Father of all who is above all and through all and in you all. But unto everyone of us is given grace (or free gift) according to the measure of the gift of Christ” in us.
33. “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee.”
34. Do not be afraid. “For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
35. It is all one and the same Spirit. To be the greatest success you do not want my gift nor I yours. Each wants his own, such as will fit his size and shape, his capacity and desires; such as not the mortal mind of us but the Highest in us shall choose. Seek to be filled with the Spirit; to have the Soul of things incarnated in larger degree in your consciousness, and It will reveal to your understanding your own specific gift or the manner of God’s desired manifestation through you.
36. Let us not desert our own work, our own God within, to gaze after or pattern like our neighbors, neither to seek to make his gift ours. Nor yet let us criticize his failure to manifest the gift of healing or any other specific gift. Whenever he “fails,” give thanks unto God that He is leading him up into a higher place where there can be a fuller and more complete manifestation of the Divine Presence through him than could have been while there was limitation to one gift.
37. “And I beseech you to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.
“With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering forbearing one another in love.
“Endeavoring always to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.””