How to Introduce Metaphysical Christianity
Hi Friends -
There are 2.19 billion Christians in the world today. And some of them walk into your church every Sunday. When they do, they want to know what you teach and they want to know how what you teach relates to what they already know.
This post is a short lesson on how to understand what visitors to your church already know and how to explain to them how our teachings fit into their beliefs. It also explains why Emilie Cady’s Lessons in Truth has been so successfully used to bring visitors on the next level of joining your church.
Most of these visitors come out of mainline, Catholic or Evangelical Christianity. They have learned about four “sources” or “authorities” for our religious beliefs: that they are shaped by the teaching of the church (tradition), by the Bible (Scripture), by our rational thinking (Reason) or by the evidence of our everyday life (Experience).
This four-source framework for understanding theological beliefs is nearly universally taught in all of Christianity. I first learned it in the Episcopal church (from which I believe it originated) but I’ve heard it used by Catholic priests who define and defend the teachings of the church, by Evangelical pastors who wish to explain why Scripture ranks above tradition, and by Methodists who want to explain why experience is necessary for understanding the opening of the heart in the Christian journey. What’s more, this model is taught not only to lay people; it is also taught in theology classes and graduate level education.
It is especially valuable for those of us in Metaphysical Christianity. It seems that if we can identify how our teachings fit into the universally-held four source model then we would have a basis for introducing ourselves to the broader Christian audience.
If so, then we are likely to think that the “source” or “authority” of our teaching is Reason. After all, our Metaphysics classes are largely an exercise in rational thinking, inherited from Platonic Greek philosophy, that was revived and reformulated by Aquinas before the Reformation and by Enlightenment thinkers after the Reformation.
But maybe the source or authority of our teaching should be based on Experience. Experience came to be recognized as a valid theological source with the rise of Romanticism in the early 1800s, which we know in north America as American transcendentalism and especially the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who had such a great influence on New Thought.
Reason and Experience as sources of theological understanding may be enough, but there is something better. And it is revealed in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Divinity School Address and from the two chapters written by Emilie Cady on The Secret Place of the Most High and Finding The Secret Place, which we know as “The Silence.” Let’s start with Emerson. He writes:
“The intuition of the moral sentiment is an insight of the perfection of the laws of the soul. These laws execute themselves. They are out of time, out of space, and not subject to circumstance. Thus; in the soul of man there is a justice whose retributions are instant and entire. He who does a good deed, is instantly ennobled. He who does a mean deed, is by the action itself contracted. He who puts off impurity, thereby puts on purity. If a man is at heart just, then in so far is he God; the safety of God, the immortality of God, the majesty of God do enter into that man with justice. If a man dissemble, deceive, he deceives himself, and goes out of acquaintance with his own being. A man in the view of absolute goodness, adores, with total humility. Every step so downward, is a step upward. The man who renounces himself, comes to himself...”
“Meantime, whilst the doors of the temple stand open, night and day, before every man, and the oracles of this truth cease never, it is guarded by one stern condition; this, namely; it is an intuition. It cannot be received at second hand. Truly speaking, it is not instruction, but provocation, that I can receive from another soul. What he announces, I must find true in me, or wholly reject; and on his word, or as his second, be he who he may, I can accept nothing.”
Intuition, for Emerson, is a gateway to spiritual understanding. That is another way of saying that Intuition is a source or authority for Christian theology. As we read these words of Emerson, most of us who have studied Metaphysical Christianity will recognize why they have resonated so much with Emilie Cady and Charles Fillmore. Rather than interpret them, I encourage everyone to read and reflect on Emerson’s Divinity School Address. It is truly the foundational document for all of New Thought theology.
If Intuition is a gateway to spiritual understanding, then Emilie Cady explains the source. The source of Intuition is our Spirit nature. She writes in chapter 8 of the original edition of Lessons in Truth, Secret Place of the Most High:
“Beloved, that which you so earnestly desire and seek will never be found by seeking it through the mental side alone, any more than it has heretofore been found through the emotional side alone. Intuition and Intellect are meant to travel together. Intuition always holding the reins to guide intellect. “Come and let us reason together;” saith the Lord. If you have been thus far on the way, cultivating and enlarging only the mental side of truth—as probably is the case—you need in order to come into the fulness of Understanding, to let the mental, the reasoning side rest awhile. “Become as a little child,” and, learning how to be still, listen to that which the Father will say to you through the Intuitional part of your being. The light you so crave will come out of the deep silence and become manifest to you from within you if you will but keep still and look for it from that source.”
This passage from Emilie Cady is especially important because she relates Intuition to Intellect, which is Reason—one of the universally accepted sources and authorities for theological thinking. Her claim is that Intuition and Reason work together in the revelation of Truth, but that Intuition guides the process. That which is revealed by Intuition will come to be understood by Reason. “Faith,” as they say about theological reflection, “seeks understanding.”
What I’m introducing here is expanding the list of sources or authorities for theological reflection and discourse—that we should rely on tradition, Scripture, reason, experience and intuition when speaking and writing about God.
What right do we have to do that? One well-respected, contemporary theologian explains that the list has grown over time. Theologians began with tradition and Scripture, but Reason was added when science and Enlightenment thinking emerged in the 17th century and Experience was added when Romantic thinking emerged in the early 19th century. (Elaine A. Robinson, Exploring Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2014), 91.)
We’re now in the 21st century. It just may be that we’re in a new era of spiritual understanding as well. Describe it as we may, it’s en era of information and ideas—an era of Divine Ideas. And it just may be that we are seeing a move from the era of Evangelical Christianity to the era of Metaphysical Christianity. If so, we should do what Christianity has done throughout it’s entire history: advocate for the adoption of a new source and authority for understanding truth: Intuition.
I believe that people today will understand and relate to the idea that Intuition is a valid source and authority for their spiritual journey. They will go to where Emilie Cady led them many years ago—to The Secret Place Most High, and they will find there a new source and authority for their beliefs—Intuition. Further, their beliefs, revealed by Intuition, will be confirmed by all the scientific modern truth revealed by Reason—their Intellect.
That is faith seeking understanding for the 21st century.
Sunday, September 29, 2019
Lesson 9 — Finding the Secret Place
1. How to seek? “Where to find it? How to abide in it? These are the questions that today more than at any other time in the history of the world are engaging the hearts of men. More than anything else it is what I want. It is what you want.
2. All these steps we are taking by speaking the words of truth and striving to manifest the light we have already received, are carrying us on swiftly to the time when we shall have consciously the perfect Mind of Christ, with all the love, and beauty, and health and power that that implies.
3. We need not get anxious or in a hurry for the full manifestation. Let us not at any time lose sight of the fact that our desire—great as it is—is only God’s desire in us. “No man cometh unto me except the Father draw him.” The Father in us desires to reveal the secret of His Presence to us, else we had not known any hunger for the secret, or for truth.
4. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and ordained you that ye should go and bring forth fruit.”
5. Whoever you are that read these words, wherever you stand in the world, be it on the platform preaching the gospel, or in the humblest little home seeking the truth that you may make it manifest in a sweeter, stronger, less selfish life, know once and forever it is not you seeking God but it is God seeking you. That which you feel and desire for greater manifestation is the Eternal Energy, which holds the worlds in their orbits, outpushing through you to get into fuller manifestation. You need not worry. You need not be anxious. You need not strive. Only let It. Learn how to let It.
6. After all our beating about the bush, seeking here and there for our heart’s desire we must come right to Him who Himself is the fulfillment of every desire; who waits to manifest more of Himself to us and through us. If you wanted my love or anything that I am (not that I have) you would not go to Tom Jones or Mary Smith to get it. Either of these persons might tell you I could and would give myself, but you would have to come directly to me and receive of me that which only I have because I am it.
7. And in some way, after all our seeking for the light and truth, we must learn how to wait, each man for himself, upon God for this inner revelation of truth and of our Oneness with Him.
8. The light we want is not some thing God has to give. It is God himself. God does not give us life or love as a thing. God is Life and Light and Love. More of Himself in our consciousness, then, is what we all want,—no matter what other name we may give it.
9. My enduement of power must come from “on high,” from a higher region within myself than my present conscious mind. So must yours. It must be a descent of the Holy (whole, entire, complete) Spirit at the centre of your being into your conscious mind. The illumination we want can never come in any other way. Nor can the power to make good manifest.
10. We hear a good deal about “sitting in the silence.” To many it does not mean very much, for they have not yet learned how to “wait upon God,” or to hear any voice except external ones. Noise belongs to the outside world, not to God. God works in the stillness: and we can so wait upon the Father of our being as to be conscious of the still, inner working; conscious of the fulfillment of our desires. “They that seek the Lord shall not want any good.” “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”
11. In one of Edward Everett Hale’s stories he speaks of a little girl who, amidst her play with the butterflies and birds in a country place, used to run into a little chapel near, frequently, to pray. And after praying would always remain perfectly still a few minutes, “waiting,” she said “to see if God wanted to say anything to her.”—So children are always nearest the kingdom.
12. When beginning the practice of sitting in the silence do not feel that you must go and sit with some other person. The presence of another personality is apt to distract the mind. Learn first how to commune alone with the Creator of the universe—who is all companionship. And when you are able to withdraw from the outside and be alone with Him, then sitting with others may be profitable to you and to them.
There are those who are quite able to still their minds from all outside thoughts, but who, as soon as they get still, find themselves floating out on the astral or psychical plane where spirits of those departed, appear to them, wanting recognition and communication. Right here is a tremendous temptation. The experience is a new one and is more or less fascinating, but if you want the highest that is for you, this should not be for a moment yielded to. If, when you begin to get still you find this taking place, get up resolutely and shake it off. Declare it is not what you want; you want the highest spiritual illumination and will not take any other or be intruded upon, etc. If necessary, in order to free yourself postpone your sitting until another time, when perhaps you will have no trouble.
The Psychical is all good upon its own plane. But it is not that which you are seeking. You want your own Spirit brought forth, in all its glorious fulness and God-likeness, into manifestation. And if you stop on a lower plane to dabble with things there, it will only retard the day of your own realization and manifestation. Put it down at once and it will soon cease to trouble you.
13. “Sitting in the silence” is not just a sort of lazy drifting. It is a passive, but a definite, waiting upon God. When you want to do this, take a time when you are not likely to be disturbed, and when you can for a little while lay off all care. Begin your silence by lifting up your heart in prayer to the Father of your being. Do not be afraid that if you begin to pray you will be too “orthodox.” You are not going to supplicate a God who has already given you “all things whatsoever ye desire.” You have already learned that before you call He has sent that which you desire: otherwise you would not desire it.
14. You know better than to plead or beseech God with an unbelieving prayer. But spending the first few moments of your silence to the outside world, in speaking directly to the Father, centres your mind on the Eternal. Many who earnestly try to get still and wait upon God have found that the moment they sit down and close their eyes, the thoughts, instead of being concentrated, are filled with every sort of vain imagination. The most trivial things, from the fixing of a shoe string to the gossipy conversation of a week ago, will chase each other in rapid succession through the mind, and at the end of an hour they have gained nothing. This is to them discouraging.
15. This is but a natural result of trying not to think at all. Nature abhors a vacuum, and if you make (or try to) your mind a vacuum, the thought images of others which fill the atmosphere about you will rush in to fill it, leaving you as far away from the consciousness of Divine Presence as ever. You can prevent this by beginning your silence with prayer.
16. It is always easier for the mind to say realizingly “Thy will is being done in me now “after having prayed” Let Thy will be done in me.” It is always easier to say, with realization, “God flows through me as life and peace and power,” after having prayed. “Let thy life flow though me anew while I wait.” Of course it does not change God’s attitude towards us; but it is easier for the human mind to take several successive stops with firmness and assurance than for it to take one big, bold leap to a point of eminence, and hold itself steady there.
While you are thus concentrating your thoughts upon God, in definite conversation with the Author of your being, no outside thought images can possibly rush in to torment or distract you. Your mind instead of being open and negative towards the external, is closed to it, and open only to God the Source of all the good you desire.
17. Of course there is to be no set form of words used; but sometimes using words like for instance, the first few verses of the 103rd Psalm, in the beginning of the silent communion, making it a matter of face to face speaking.— “Thou forgivest all mine iniquities (or mistakes); thou healest all my diseases; thou redeemeth my life from destruction and crowneth me with loving kindness. Now, now while I wait upon thee.” Sometimes entering into the innermost with the words of a familiar hymn, as
O Christ, thou King of kings;
Thou art thyself the answer
To all my questionings.”
18. Repeat the words over many times, not anxiously nor with strained effort,—not reaching out and up and way off to an outside God, but let it be the quiet, earnest uplifting of the heart to a higher something right within itself, even to the “Father in me.” Let it be with the quietness and assurance of a child speaking to its loving father.
19. Too many people carry in their faces a strained white look that comes from an abnormal “sitting in the silence” as they term it. It is hard for them to know that God is right here within them, and when sitting they fall into the way of reaching away out and up after Him. Such are earnest souls truly feeling after God if haply they may find Him, when all the time He is near them even in their very hearts. Do not reach out thus. This is as though a seed were planted in the earth; and just because it recognized a vivifying, life-giving principle in the sun’s rays it began to strain and stretch itself upward and outward to get more of the sun. You can see at a glance that by so doing it would get no solid root whatever in the earth where God intended it to be. All the plant needs to do is to keep its face turned toward the sun and let itself be drawn upward by the sun.
20. Some of us in our desire to grow, and having recognized the necessity of waiting upon God in the stillness for the vivifying and renewal of life, make the mistake of climbing up and away from our body—which is the earth where God has planted us for a time. Such abnormal outreaching and upreaching is neither wise nor profitable. After a little of it one begins to get cold feet and congested head. While the soul is thus reaching out, the body is left alone, and it becomes correspondingly weak and negative. This is all wrong. Infinite Wisdom has planted us right in (or with) this earth, the body. He saw that our progress towards conscious perfection would at this stage of our growth be better promoted by an experience through an earthly body than any other way. We are not to reach out away from the body even after the Sun of Righteousness. We are rather to lie still in the earth—where He sees that we can get a better root for our flowering and fruiting than we could anywhere else—and let the Sun shine on us right where we are. Why, the sun draws the seed up as fast as it can bear it and be strong. We have not got to grow ourselves; only to let the Sun grow us.
21. But we are to consciously let It. Not merely to take the attitude of negatively letting it by not opposing it, but put ourselves consciously where the Sun can shine upon us, and then “be still and know” that while we wait there It is doing the work. While waiting upon God we should as much as possible relax ourselves both mentally and physically. To use a very homely but a very practical illustration take very much such an attitude of the entire being as do the fowls when taking a sun bath in the sand. And yet there is something more than a dead passivity to be maintained through it all. There must be a sort of conscious active taking of that which God gives freely to the waiting soul.
22. Let me see if I can make it plain. We first withdraw ourselves bodily and mentally from the outside world. We “enter into thy closet and shut the door,” the closet of our being, the very innermost of ourselves, by turning our thoughts within. If you cannot overcome the mental habit of reaching out away from yourself to find God, try to imagine a person, even Jesus Christ, living within your body, and turn within to make known your desires to him.
Just say, “Thou abidest within me. Thou art alive there now. Thou hast all power. Thou art now the answer to all I desire. Thou dost now radiate thyself from the centre of my being to the circumference, and out into the visible world as the fulness of my desire.” Then be still, absolutely still. Relax every part of your being and believe that it is being done. Whether you feel anything or not it is being done. The Divine Substance does flow in at the centre and out into the visible world every moment you wait, for it is an immutable law that “he that asketh receiveth.” And it will come forth as the “fulfillment of your desire” if you expect It to. “According to your faith be it unto you.”
23. If you find your mind wandering bring it right back by saying again “It is being done. Thou art working in me. I am receiving that which I desire, etc.” Do not look for signs and wonders, but just be still and know that the very thing you want is flowing in and will come forth into manifestation either at once or a little further on.
24. Go even beyond this and speak words of thanksgiving to this innermost Presence that It has heard and answered, that It does now come forth into visibility. There is something about the mental act of thanksgiving that seems to carry the human mind far beyond the region of doubt into the clear atmosphere of faith and trust where “All things are possible.” Even if at first you are not conscious of having received anything from God do not worry or cease from your thanksgiving. Do not go back of it again to the asking, but continue giving thanks that while you waited you did receive and that it is now manifest. And, believe me, you will soon rejoice and give thanks not rigidly from sense of duty but because of the sure, manifest fulfillment of your desire.
25. Do not let waiting in silence become a bondage to you. If you find yourself getting into a strained attitude of mind, or “heady,” get up and go about some external work for a time. Or if you find your mind will wander, do not insist; for the moment you get into a rigid mental attitude you shut off all inflow of the Divine into your consciousness. There must be a sort of relaxed passivity, and yet an active taking by faith,—shall I call it an active passivity?
26. Of course as we go on in spiritual understanding and desire, we very soon come to the place where we want, more than anything else, that the desires of Infinite Wisdom and Love be fulfilled in us. “My thoughts are not as your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
27. Our desires are God’s desires, but in a limited degree. And we soon throw aside our limitations, our circumscribed desires (as soon at least as we see that more of God means more of good and joy and happiness) and with all our souls cry out, in this silent sitting, “Fulfill Thy highest thought in me now.” We make ourselves as clay in the potter’s hands, willing to be moulded anew, to be “changed into the same image,” to be made after the mind of the indwelling Christ.
28. We repeat from time to time while waiting, words something like these “Thou art now renewing me according to Thy highest thought for me. Thou art radiating thy very Self throughout my entire being making me like unto Thyself, for there is nothing else but Thee. Father I thank thee, I thank thee.” Be still, be still while He works. “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.”
29. While you thus wait and let Him He will work marvelous changes in you. You will come out from such sitting with a strange new consciousness of serenity and quiet,—a feeling that something has been done; that some new power to overcome has come unto you. You will be able to say “I and the Father are one” with a new meaning, a new sense of reality and awe that will make you feel very still. O how one conscious touch of the Over Soul makes all life seem different. All the hard things become easy; the troublesome things no longer have power to worry; the rasping people and things of the world lose all their aforetime power to annoy. Why? Because for the time we see things from the Christ side of ourselves. We see as He sees. We do not have to deny evil; we know, in that moment, that it is nothing at all. We no longer rigidly affirm the good from sense of duty but with delight and spontaneity, because we cannot help it. It is revealed to us as good. Faith has become reality.
30. Do not be discouraged if you do not at once get conscious results in this silent sitting. Every moment that you wait the Spirit is working to make you a new creature in Christ,—a creature possessing consciously His very own qualities and powers. There may be a working for days before you see any change, but it will surely come. And you will soon get so you can go into the silence, into conscious communion with your Lord at a moment’s notice at any time, in any place.
31. There is no conflict or inconsistency between this waiting upon God to be made perfect, and the way of “speaking the word” out toward the external to make perfection visible. Waiting upon and consciously receiving from the Source only makes the out-speaking—the holding of right thoughts and words—easy instead of laborious. Try it and see.
32. Clear revelation—the word made alive as truth, to our consciousness—must come to every soul who continues to wait upon God. But remember there are two conditions imposed. You are to wait upon God:—not simply to run in and out but to abide, to dwell in the secret place of the Most High.
33. Of course I do not mean that you are to give all the time to sitting alone in meditation and silence. But that your mind shall be continually in an attitude of waiting upon God; an attitude not of clamoring for things but of listening for the Father’s voice and expecting a manifestation of the Father to your consciousness.
34. Jesus, our Master in spiritual knowledge and power, had many hours of lone communion with his Father; and his greatest works were done after these. So may we, so must we commune alone with the Father if we would manifest the Christ. But Jesus did not spend all his time in receiving. He poured forth into every day use, among the children of men in the ordinary avocations of life, that which he received of his Father. His knowledge of spiritual things was used constantly to uplift and help other people. We must do likewise; for newness of life and revelation flows in the faster as we give out that which we have, to help others. “Go teach and preach and heal” he said. Go manifest the Christ within you which ye have received of the Father. God works in us to will and to do, but we must work out our salvation.
35. The second indispensable condition of finding the secret place and abiding in it is, “my expectation is from Him.” “My soul wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.” “Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills and from the multitude of mountains; truly in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel.” “It is good that a man both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.”
36. Is your expectation from Him? Or is it from books, or teachers, or friends or meetings or societies?
37. “The King of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee.” Think of it! IN THE MIDST OF THEE; at the centre of thy being this moment while you read these words. Say it, say it, think it, dwell upon it, whoever you are, wherever you are. In the midst of thee! Then what need for all this running around? What need for all this strained outreaching after Him.
38. “God the Lord in the midst of thee is mighty.” Not God in the midst of another, but in the “midst of thee,” thyself, standing right where you are. “He will save; He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in his love; He will joy over thee with singing.” You are His love. It is you He will rejoice in with singing if you will turn away from people to Him within you. And His singing and joy will so fill you that your life will be a great thanksgiving.
39. Your Lord is not my Lord, nor my Lord your Lord. Your Lord is the Christ within your own being. My Lord is the Christ within my soul.
40. One Spirit, One Father of all in us all, but different manifestations or individualities. Your Lord is he that shall deliver you out of all your troubles. Your Lord has no other business but to manifest himself to you and through you, and so make you mighty with his own mightiness made visible; whole with his health; perfect by showing forth the Christ perfection.
41. all your expectation be from your Lord. Let your communion be with him. Wait upon this inner abiding Christ often, just as you would wait up on any visible teacher. When you are sick “wait thou only upon God” as the Most High rather than upon healers. When you lack wisdom in small or large matters “wait thou upon God,” and see what marvelous wisdom for action will be given you. When desiring to speak the word which shall deliver another from the bondage of sickness or sin or sorrow “wait thou upon God;” and just exactly the right word will be given you, and power will go with it for it will be alive with Spirit.
Standing in the place of soul, intellect or conscious mind, we thus look to Spirit. Spirit flows in and illumines intellect making it see its oneness with Spirit; and then we—conscious mind—stand at the centre, and, looking from within outwards say “I and the Father are one.”