Eric Butterworth Unity Podcast #30
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Some years ago, the very distinguished Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, up at the Riverside Church, preached a sermon entitled ‘The Peril of Worshiping Jesus’. He was something of an iconoclast, Dr. Fosdick, I guess that’s why I always admired him. And the thing he pointed out in this was that the best way to get rid of Jesus is to put him on an altar, on a cross. To set him up somewhere afar where you worship him. And then of course he goes on to say, as I have been saying, that the important thing is to know what Jesus knew. And to follow the way that he followed.
Jesus, it seems to me, was the great Columbus of the soul. In other words, it could be said that he crossed the frontier and discovered the new world within. And then people tried to make a god of him, as has always been done with religious leaders. But he said, “What I am, you are also. But the problem is you don’t know it. And my mission is to help you to know it.”
So while Christianity has emphasized the divinity of Jesus, and this emphasis is very widespread and quite common, my thesis is that Jesus taught to the divinity of man. Jesus sought to help every person to understand what Paul called ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory,’ the Christ within themselves. The ability of each person to harness his inner potential by controlling his own mind. Now this is old hat, I suppose, to many of us who have been studying truth for a long period of time. But we find this as a basis for Jesus’ teaching and certainly it is clearly reflected in that aspect of the Sermon on the Mount that we’re going to deal with today.
Jesus realized that every person has tremendous responsibilities to keep his own consciousness attuned. To keep his mind stayed on God. Because mind, as Fillmore used to say, is the connecting link between God and man.
Now in this study of Sermon on the Mount, which is one portion of our study of Discover the Power Within You, we see this sermon as the most articulate and practical outline of truth that has ever been uttered. Now the object is not man in general. This is almost always the error that is made in preachments of one kind or the other. “Man should do this.” Or, “People should do that.” The object of the Sermon on the Mount is you, in particular. And the technique is not theology or esoteric symbolism but it is the molding power of your own thought. Because your thought is your life.
Now we’re considering today, from the Sermon on the Mount, the fifth chapter of Matthew 13th through 28th verses. And it begins, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under the foot of man.” Jesus so often used little symbols and illustrations which were taken right out of everyday living. Life without truth is like food without salt. That makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? In other words, it’s flat and unpalatable. When one is seasoned with the salt of truth, he becomes a seasoning influence. I don’t mean he becomes salty, but he becomes certainly one who has a sort of a richness of flavor, as food has that richness when it has salt.
But the savor, you see, is not in the truth in terms of verbalisms, the savor is in the spirit. Without which, truth becomes little more than words. When he refers to salt without savor being cast underfoot, this is a figure of speech. And it was one that was certainly understandable to the people of his time. Because there was a flat and lifeless kind of salt that was gathered from Lake Asphaltites, from which we get our word asphalt. Lake Asphaltites. And this very primitive type of salt was put on the floor of the temple to prevent slipping in wet weather, just as we do today. And so he was saying salt without savor, salt that is not pure, is fit for nothing except to be cast underfoot. To be used to put on your walks to keep you from slipping on the ice.
Salt of itself, is a useless food. It’s value is in seasoning food. Truth, in the same way, is nothing of itself. This is a hard lesson for some because quite often in our study we make truth everything. Truth is nothing of itself. It is only vital when it becomes an influence. It is only vital when it helps you to alter your thoughts, to change your consciousness, to redirect your life. It is only good when it is used.
How very many students do not know this and have become, as I say so often, over-read and underdone. They assume that by reading much and remembering much and amassing much in terms of all sorts of truths, that you become a good truth student. But this is like saying I will become a great musician by gathering books about music or by reading books of music. Something else is involved when the music becomes actually ensouled within you. And it becomes an influence in the way in which you perform.
Truth is not something that you can talk about, argue about, debate over, as perhaps many people do. Truth has value only when it is broken down into practical insights by which to live. And then, only when we actually live by them. Now this is what he means, when he says, “You are the salt of the earth.”
And then he goes on and says, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father, who is in heaven.”
Now I think, first of all, it’s important that we understand something of the life in the times of Jesus. Because this helps us to understand the illustration here. A city, in those times, especially in a rural community, such as Jesus obviously grew up in, in Nazareth. A city of this kind was more of a commune. We think of cities with streets and traffic lights and a mayor to blame if we don’t have the snow cleaned up and so forth. But this was more of a commune. There are certain rural towns like this throughout the world today. Where they, in this case they were all shepherds and they went out into the fields with their sheep. But they came back into the little town and they lived, usually, in a large shelter. Large building, but it was a building that was purely to keep them sheltered from the weather and they didn’t have windows. It was just a large barn, as it were. And they all simply staked out a little place on the floor in this shelter. And this is where they spent their evening hours.
However, many of the people, perhaps, were poor and didn’t have butter to light their lamps. Butter was used primarily as a source of fuel. And so, in this case, because they didn’t have light, they would be completely dependent on the light of their neighbors. Their neighbors being the people right next to hem. And the neighbors would have their butter lamps lit. And so these people would simply get by on the light that came their way from the neighbors. And of course, some of the neighbors were not too happy about this.
It’s almost as if you would say, as we noticed someone in an apartment a number of years ago who had their light cut off and they took a plug from a plug down in the hall and carried it around in their house into their apartment so they could light their way using the energy of the building, you see. And in this same sense a person might say, “Why should I provide the light for my neighbors?” And so, if they were particularly peeved about this, this is the thing that Jesus is talking about, they would simply try to do all of the things that they needed to do shielded from their neighbors. And in many cases, if they were doing little handy work and so forth, they would put their hand under a bushel, which was a basket, and do their work so that none of the light would shed over into their neighbors.
So this is what he’s talking about. It’s a very earthy illustration that obviously had meaning to the people, you see. And so the important thing, many students in this insight of truth, become embarrassed to let people know of their involvement. So they hesitate to take a positive stand on truth in a negative situation. You know, people may be talking about the diseases that are going around or the Russian flu or whatever. And the storm that is eminent and so forth and people are gossiping about it and talking negatively about it. But within yourself you know as a truth student, that you want to hold a more positive thought, but you may feel a little embarrassed to take a stand on it. To actually say anything about it.
So in a sense, Jesus is saying, figuratively, hold to the truth and let the chips fall where they may.
Or, one student may zealously, on the other hand, taking another extreme, try to bring this insight of truth to his family or to his friends or to everybody and impose it upon people. And make a nuisance of himself, thus reaping antagonism. And so Jesus is saying, let your light shine.
In other words, you don’t have to tell people about your consciousness. You may say, “Oh, I’m studying this thing and it’s done so much good for me. I have such a marvelous consciousness now.”
You don’t have to tell anybody about your marvelous consciousness. As a matter of fact, you can’t. You are your consciousness. And if you have to tell about it, then perhaps it’s not real. If a person doesn’t already sense it, then there’s no point in telling him that you have it. You see, you are your consciousness. And your consciousness tells you.
So, the important thing then, as a side light of what Jesus is talking about, is that we must be very sure that we do not simply become acquisitive in our experience of truth. Don’t become a truth fact collector. Collecting affirmations. Collecting statements. Collecting this idea and that idea. Because the more we have collected, the greater we become as student of truth.
When you have heard or read something that is interesting or inspiring, instead of dealing with it, as we would, intellectually, in a sort of an acquisitive sense, to take it, “Hey, isn’t that great? Look what I just found.” And thus trying to share it with other people. Tell others about how great it is. The important thing is to, if you really are interested in it, if you’re inspired by it, if it does something to you, or as they say today, if it turns you on, then reflect on it. Meditate on it. Work with it within yourself until it becomes you. And then, it tells itself.
Maybe you remember that interesting poem of that very earthy poet, whom, I’m sure, many college english professors don’t accept as a great poet, but certainly he was a very warm, earthy poet, probably the greatest most read poet in our American history, which was Eddie Guest. And he had a poem, that I love, which goes something like this, “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day.” I’d rather see a sermon. I’d rather actually see the influence, you see. Rather than to hear about it or you hear all the intellectual concepts that were shared in it.
One who has a compulsion to introduce the truth to his friends and relatives and associates and passersby on the street, may well be a person who is having a very difficult time making it work in his own life. And so he substitutes this active work of the truth for becoming, in his own image, a kind of a teacher or a missionary for truth. And I suppose this is probably true that most folks have a desire to find meaning in life. They have the hope that perhaps they can have some sense of significance. And what better way than to say, “I found it and I’m going to give it to others.” And so you become this self proclaimed missionary. But it is a interesting reflection upon our own person inadequacy. And that’s an interesting thing, I think, to remember.
I remember a few years ago, and this has happened time and time again, of a young woman who unfortunately had become addicted to alcohol. And it was having a tremendous detrimental effect upon her life. And at this time, as has happened to a lot of people in this situation, she discovered the insight of truth.
And it was exciting to her. She began to see maybe there’s some hope for herself now. She began to recognize that through this she could find something of the deeper potential within herself. And so she began to take classes in a Unity Center. And she took many classes. She was a very intelligent woman. Very brilliant woman, intellectually.
And so she was always at the head of the class. She wrote beautiful papers. She was a source of great pride to the teacher. A teacher always loves to have a good student, because it flatters your ego, you know? That the student is a reflection of you. So the teacher encouraged the student to further the study. To go on and on. And the first thing this encouragement became so constant that she found herself within about a year and a half studying for the ministry at Unity Headquarters. And time passed and she eventually completed her training and was ordained and went out as a minister in the field, as we say. But had never solved her problem.
And in a sense, she could say, as perhaps at sometimes, pointedly, she might have said if someone had asked her, “I really went there because I wanted help but all they did was make a teacher out of me.” You see, and this is a sad thing. And it’s something we have to watch in ourselves, because I think that oftentimes, any person who becomes very excited and very enthusiastic about the truth has those moments when he thinks, “I would like to teach this.” And there’s nothing wrong with the motivation to become a teacher. Or a minister. Or a metaphysical practitioner. I mean, this is beautiful. But we have to be very careful in sorting it out in ourself that it may not be an escape. And it may not be the way to of saying to myself, “Gee, this is great. I can spread it to others.” As a substitute for, as Fillmore says, “Go ye forth into the world and preach the gospel into the world of your own consciousness. Into the far reaches of your own inmost self. And convert all the errant thoughts within you into this insight until your life becomes changed.”
Light was an important reality to Jesus. “God is light and in him is no darkness at all,” he said. But the question we should ask today, and which scientists have been asking, what is light? Can you explain light? What is it? Do we really see light? Or do we see what it does to us? Or what it causes us to do? What is light? Is light the radiance of a light bulb? Is this what light is? Is light the radiance of the sun? Or could it be an ever present reality that is only awakened and released by the electrical energy? I ask the questions, I give no answers. Does light fill space like air? If I go into a room and the windows are up and it’s sunlight outside, the room is filled with light. But if I pull down the shades, and I have those shades that keep out the light, then suddenly the room is dark. But what has happened? Where has light gone? Did it escape through a hole in the wall somewhere? Where does it come from? Where does it go?
We’re told that light travels at the speed of 93 million miles from the sun in eight minutes. Or the rate of 185,000 miles a second, which is something most of us can’t really understand. But then, does light really travel like that? Does a pain travel through space from a boy to me when he hit me with a stone? The pain is what happened to me. And if the stone hadn’t hit me and had instead broken a window, there would have been an entirely different result. All I know, is that a force hit me and had an effect on me. But is light that force?
In other words, the sun sends out a force, but does it really send out light? Okay, what is light? A transcendent thing. Light is perhaps an everywhere present reality, everywhere. There’s no absence of it. Anymore than there’s any absence of what they used to call the interpenetrating ethers. Or any absence of God. In other words as a result of certain conditions, this interpenetrating force, this ever present light becomes visible to the eyes. We’re told the same light that lighteth every man coming into the world. And what is it?
So when Jesus says, “Let your light shine.” What’s he talking about? Turn on the bulb? How do you let your light shine? Perhaps what he’s really saying is let yourself be what you really are. Or as Meister Eckhart would say, “Let God be God in you.” And when a person lets himself be what he really is, to that degree he lights up. He’s illumined. He radiates something. Perhaps something that can be scientifically measurable. But perhaps the most important thing is it has an effect and an influence. Not only what it does to his personality, how it radiates through his face, but what it does in terms of an attractive force in his inter-relationships.
“Stir up the gift of God that is within you,” said Paul. In other words, this may have been a great important mission that Jesus had set for himself. To help people awaken within themselves. To stir up within themselves this inner light and thus to let it shine. It has nothing to do with stirring up the memory of all the intellectual metaphysical definitions that you’ve memorized through the years. It’s talking about what in yourself has been changed by these things and let those things, those feelings, those depths express and radiate. It’s a very interesting point and I think a very deep one. One that I certainly would suggest that we all kind of reflect upon a little bit.
And he goes on and says, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets, I’m not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily, I say unto you, until heaven and earth pass, one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law until all shall be fulfilled.” Jesus knew insight was very much resisted by the religious leaders of his time. The establishment, of course, was threatened by what he had to say and by what he did.
So therefore they thought he was a dangerous heretic. This word heresy is an interesting word. The word comes from the root word that means choice or select. And it simply refers to one who chooses his own interpretation of truth. One who thinks for himself. A freethinker, in other words. This was the root meaning of the heretic. A person who insists that I can work it out in my own mind. I don’t have to accept that which the establishment gives me.
Jesus was iconoclast. But that didn’t mean he was a law breaker. He made clear that fundamental law cannot be changed or altered in any form. So his purpose was not to set aside the law, but rather to make the law understandable. To make it practical. Of what value is it to repeat the laws and the creeds and the codes verbatim? Over and over again by rote. Unless they make sense. Unless they also make an influence in how I live my life. In what I do. How I breathe. How I live. My physical health. My emotional experience. My love relationships. My prosperity. My creativity. Unless it has an influence in all of these things, of what good is it? To repeat dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. And I’m sure many of us have done this to a great extent in our lives.
So they thought that Jesus broke the law when he insisted that one need not speak these words over and over and over again. “Use not vain repetitions,” he said. They thought he broke the law when he worked miracles. What they didn’t understand was that when one really gets the understanding of that which the law is seeking to help the person to do or be, then he does things that are beyond the normal. The paranormal, or the miraculous, if you want to use the word. It fulfills the law.
Now, I think it’s important to realize that these temple rulers, the pharisees, the scribes and so forth, that Jesus talks a good deal about. They were very sincere people. It’s not a matter of insincerity. We don’t want to inject that into it. And we shouldn’t in our relationships with clergy or with religious people today. These are sincere people. The temple was the repository of the age old accumulation of facts about God. As possibly many of the religious establishments may be today. And so the rulers, in their own image, were the keepers of the keys. Defenders of the faith. The great historic creeds must be defended, even gone to war over, you see. Jesus believed and proved that truth, fundamental truth, not words. Not creeds. But truth, the nonverbal realization of oneness with God, that truth set people free. And the miracle result of healing or harmony or overcoming or change or whatever, simply fulfilled fundamental law. And the rulers thought this was blasphemy because they didn’t really understand or believe their own laws. Jesus didn’t change those laws, he simply acted upon them.
So then Jesus goes on and expresses a very mystical concept. And it’s this concept that gave rise to my book “How to Break the Ten Commandments”. Which has been shocking to some people by the title, at least. Though I don’t think there’s anything really shocking about the book. But this insight that Jesus expressed was shocking and it’s this concept that awakened the idea within myself. He says, “Whoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Now the word break is the key here. Because this word comes from the Greek word luo. L-U-O. Which simply means to loosen or to break up. It’s not talking about destroying anything. Or negating it. But loosening it. Breaking it up. Breaking the crystallized shell. When Jesus talks of breaking one of these least commandments. He’s not talking about negating the law. But rather a dissolving of the crystallized form so that the underlying spiritual principle can be realized.
Now, unfortunately, condemnation has been read into Jesus’ words. As if he’s condemning people who break the commandments and teach people how to break them, but actually he says that, “One who breaks one of these commandments and teaches others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Now if we want to add a little thought here that makes it more meaningful, least in the kingdom is at least in the kingdom. You see, that’s a very important realization. He’s not talking about this person is going to hell. He makes a big distinction, you see, because the Kingdom of Heaven is within you. It’s the high awareness of truth. Its’ the growth potential. So the person who breaks the commandment, or teaches others to do so, is least in the Kingdom. And I say at least in the Kingdom.
Or in another instance he likens the Kingdom of Heaven to a seed. And when the seed germinates the shell breaks up and the growth process commences. So the least in the Kingdom may well refer to the commencement of growth. But growth starts at this point, not stops. It begins here. Remember he says least in the Kingdom. And when you go forward with the process, or as he says, to do and teach the commandments in their newly released form, then you shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. Which means that you begin to release the imprisoned splendor.
First of all, there must be the break up. The acorn is never going to give birth to the oak tree unless the shell breaks up. It has to come. There’s no other way, you see. And you are never going to find your own innate depth unless you break loose of the crystallized self image. The crystallized beliefs. Or the crystallized religious concepts that you have saddled yourself with.
So then he goes on and says, “For I say unto you, except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the Kingdom.” Now, no one has ever questioned the diligence of the pharisees in keeping the commandments, right? I mean they kept them. As I point out in my book, they kept them all too well. I mean, they made a case out of keeping these commandments in crystallized containers in sealed boxes and kept them under marble in the altar and everything else. As perhaps, they are still kept today. Certainly they kept them.
So to exceed this kind of righteousness, nobody’s ever going to keep them literally in any better way than the scribes and the pharisees. To exceed this, this calls for a concerted effort to make a breakthrough. To break down the tablets of stone into a workable formula for victorious living. And then to show that Jesus goal was to break down rather than to keep the commandments in their original form, he immediately launches into a clear program of how to break them.
And this is an item which I have discussed, too, in my book, ‘How to Break the Ten Commandments’. But he says, “You have said it heard of them of old time, thou shalt not kill. And whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say unto you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother “Raca”, shall be in danger of the counsel. And whosoever shall say “Thou fool” shall be in danger of hellfire.” So, Jesus broke the old commandment. The old commandment was thou shall not kill. Period. And this has been the great problem of the old law. Of the commandments.
He broke it down. In no way did he destroy it, but he broadened it’s base. He made it possible for every person to fulfill it. How many people fulfill this commandment, thou shall not kill? We’ve had some interesting discussions about this, relative to a chapter in my book, ‘How to Break the Ten Commandments’, on this. Who never kills at any time? This means you don’t kill animals or you don’t involve yourself in animals that are killed. You don’t eat meat. You don’t wear shoe leather. You don’t kill flies. You don’t kill mice. You never subscribe to anything relating to war. You’re against every kind of war. Period. We can go on and on and on. Capital punishment. The whole thing. I mean, it opens a whole can of worms.
So the fact is, then, that in our time we have tended to be very selective about how we apply the ten commandments and how we apply this idea of thou shalt not kill. Oh, but after all, there are certain cases of killing that are justified. So religious leaders have sat around, sometimes for weeks or months on end to decide what is justifiable killing? Now who’s breaking the commandment? The one who broadens it out to the point that there are certain cases that you can kill? Or the person who says you’re missing the whole point. You’re talking about killing in terms of thought. Not what you actually do, but what you think. If you say, of a person, “I could kill you for that.” You have no intention of taking his life, I would trust. And yet there is a very negative flow of energy in your consciousness. And Jesus is saying this is where it all begins. Your thought is your life.
If you’re hostile. If you have prejudices and enmities within yourself or you’re in any way relating to people in a negative way, then you are breaking the commandment and are in a sense thinking killing thoughts. In the fullest sense of the word. In other words, we’re dealing with fundamental spiritual principles. With divine law. And it works through consciousness.
So Jesus then broke the whole thing down. Broke it into a whole new different awareness. He’s saying that murder and stealing and even adultering are acts of thought. And as far as mental law is concerned, we break the law whenever we think a negative thought.
When Jesus refers to judgment, now, it is not to outer experiences, but inner states of consciousness. Judgment is always within ourselves. We are never punished for our sins by God. But we are punished, or we punish ourselves by our sins.
Now this is fundamental and very important, you see. Punishment is the hell fire of inner conflict that leads to physical stress and pain and disease and all forms of difficulties and problems in our life that arise out of negative states of consciousness. This is what the hell of fire is. It’s not a place you go to. It’s an experience in consciousness that you’re in any time you’re stewing in your own juices. Many of us have lived in hell. And maybe have little hell corners in our consciousness right now which certainly, if we would follow Jesus advice we would begin to let go of.
Every destructive thought of any kind is a killing thought. And there is always the devil to pay. Emotional binges are never harmless tantrums. You can’t have your pet peeves and your peace of mind too. I mean, it’s very fundamental. It’s so easy to overlook when we get involved in religious cliches.
It is interesting that in the King James Version, this idea whoever is angry with his brother is elaborated on a little bit. They have added some words. Whoever is angry without cause. And the without clause is listed in italics. And it clearly says, in marginal notes and references, that these were added by the translator. How dare he? I mean, he assumed, after all, that every person has a right to be angry about some things. “Why, I have a perfect right to be incensed by what’s going!” Of course you have. You have a perfect right. But you also have to accept the responsibility that goes along with it. That if you’re incensed, you lose your appetite.
And if you continue with that type of revulsion to things and you’re righteous indignation, to use a favorite term of a lot of theologians, then you’re also entitled to the stomach ulcers that may follow. You have a perfect right. It’s a free country. You can think anything you want. You can take the electric wires and cross them and burn your fingers or electrocute yourself, if you so desire, you see. You are entitled to this.
So this sort of makes a ridiculous point out of the idea of righteous indignation. There are those who feel that one in a religious sense has a right and is certainly entitled to be indignant about certain things.
And they point to Jesus. They say, “But after all, Jesus was very indignant about the money changers in the temple. He was angry.” He rolled up his sleeves and we have artists renderings of this. This man with his great arms and so forth. Which kind of negates some of the pictures of the weaklings that other artists draw. But he takes out his whip and he whips these money changers. And you can just see him kicking over the tables and money running everywhere and these men running for their lives. He was angry. And so the theologians have said, “See? If Jesus would be angry, then we all have a right to be angry.”
But what they rarely will listen to, a thought that is very shocking to a lot of people, is that this is a perfect example of the fact that Jesus was not very God. That Jesus believed in the divinity of man. He discovered the divinity himself, but he was about the business of realizing it. And he didn’t completely make it until well long toward the end, after that final experience in the Garden of Gethsemane when he said, “Let this cup pass from me, if it be possible,” still human enough to run away, “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.”
So this evidence of Jesus in his moment of anger is a beautiful time. It’s a time that I love. Because it helps me identify with Jesus as a person who was on the quest to realize this divine dimension. Which he realized. But which proves that there’s a great deal of hope for all of us.
In other words, when Jesus whipped the money changers out of the temple, some people don’t like this, he blew his stack for a moment. He was upset. He was angry. Period. And he had said himself that we should not be angry. That we should not be upset. Resist not that which is evil, he said, which we’ll deal with next week. The law of non-resistance. This was his concept. But he had his moment when he didn’t quite live up to it himself. And that’s beautiful. The time when he cried. When he wept over Jerusalem and when he was upset with his disciples. That’s wonderful. Because there’s some hope for me. Because it shows that he was one of us. And therefore he overcame these things. And it’s said that he was tempted but he was without evil.
In other words, he didn’t give into the temptation. In the wilderness he was tempted by the devil. And many people think that that means that the devil came from outer space or from hell fire place and here’s the man with the red coat and the breathing fire and the pitchfork and so forth and the forked tail and everything else, coming to lure Jesus away. I mean, it’s beautiful. It’s a great rationalization. And I think many of us like to conjure up a devil as the guilty party when we have fallen victim to our own appetites. When we’re trying to lose weight during lent and we run out to the ice box and have that extra piece of pie. “I can’t help it, the devil got ahold of me.”
But the devil is the satanic influence of our own human consciousness. Many don’t like to believe this. The devil in this instance with Jesus, struggling in the wilderness, was the devil of his own subconscious mind. The point was, he was victorious. He said, “Get thee hence.” He refused to go along with these negative influences. And thereby grew through them, one by one. He had to have that experience.
If it was there, it’s a good thing that he had it or he never could have gone on to greater heights. And so it is with us. So we need these experiences. And they’re opportunities to grow. But how beautiful it is to know that Jesus had those temptations also and that he grew through them.
So in other words, if someone gets under your skin or if someone gets in your hair, it is because whether you like to accept it or not, in some way, you have violated the law of consciousness. One may be outwardly annoying, but when the other person annoys you, it is because, the way I say it, you are annoyable. If you get angry, it’s because you had the potential for angry within yourself. Nobody can make you angry. Nobody can make you annoyed, though anyone can give you an opportunity to react in that way, if that’s the way you want to react. You have the choice.
The Chinese say, “A person may not be able to keep the birds from flying over his head, but he does have the power to keep them from building nests in his hair.” And that’s what Jesus is talking about. So then he says, “Therefore, if though bring thy gift to an altar and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way. First be reconciled to thy brother and then come and offer they gift.” Following along the same idea.
Truth is that prayer is of the spirit. It’s not just form. If we pray forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors and say it over and over and over as we do in the Lord’s prayer, if we don’t forgive, then who are we kidding? What do the words mean?
Someone was commenting the other day on a phenomena that this person had seen of two men screaming at one another in anger for some reason, who knows, on the street corner. Having a tremendous verbal battle. Both of them had the imprint of the ashes on their forehead. They both had been very careful to keep lent.
It reminds me of the story of the Catholic priest who was walking down the street one day and he happened to come by a dark alley. And suddenly a man jumped out and put a gun in his ribs and pulled him back in the alley and said, “Give me your money, or it’s your life.” So the priest lifted his hands and as he did, his coat came open and his clergy collar was revealed. And so the thief said, “Oh my goodness, father, I didn’t know it was you. I just really didn’t know. Forgive me. Forgive me.” And he dropped his gun, you know? So the father gave him a little lecture on morality and so forth and finally he reached in his pocket and he pulled out a cigar and he said, “To show there’s no feelings, here have this.” And the man said, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no. I never smoke during lent.” Which is apropos of nothing, of course.
So finally Jesus goes on and says, “Agree with thine adversary quickly. Whilst though are in the way with him. Lest that any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge and the judge deliver thee to the officer and thou be cast in to prison. Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence til though hast paid the uttermost farthing.” Now, this sounds very foreboding and ominous. The two key words here are first of all, agree. And we think of agree, agree with the adversary, because that means that I have to bow down and say, “Okay, you’re right. You’re right, whatever you do. It’s all yours.” That isn’t what he’s talking about. The word agree basically means to settle with. To dispose of.
And the other important word is adversary. Jesus is talking about thoughts. Again, it is you centered. Not world centered. It is you centered. The adversary refers to the adverse thoughts of your own consciousness. If you’re angry about something, your adversary is your adverse reaction to the person or the situation. This is the adversary. Settle with this adverse reaction quickly. Because if you don’t, then he uses a simple figure of speech that you’ll be arrested and thrown into jail. They’ll throw away the key. And the whole process will grind on and you might as well face it. This is the way the law works.
He’s saying settle with these negative reactive thoughts quickly. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t rationalize and say, “Well, I couldn’t help it. It’s because of what he did to me and I have a perfect right to my attitudes and feelings and so forth. Or the devil did it. Or something.” Settle with them immediately. Because if you don’t, then the whole course of consciousness rolls on like the wheel of karma and you’re going to experience all sorts of detrimental effects. And all of them could have been prevented.
You see, in every experience, I believe this whole heartedly, and I think it’s one of the great insights, a simple one. And that is that in every experience no matter what it is, there is one moment, because life is consciousness, and things are important as they happen in you, not to you, there is always a time when the problem exists as a seed possibility in your own consciousness.
If you reflect and really seriously analyze your thoughts and feelings building up to any crisis or any experience you had, whether it is an illness, whether it was, as we say today, so easily being ripped off. Whether it’s some financial problem that you had or some relationship problem, there was a time, one moment when there was a fleeting thought of fear, anxiety or worry or something entered your consciousness. And you might have likened it, as some people do to a kind of a prophetic insight that a thing was going to happen. Though I think it is prophetic only because it is a self fulfilling prophecy. There is a time when in consciousness, there is a seed potential of all the negative things that happen. And that’s the time Jesus is talking about. Settle with it immediately.
And one of the things that, since there’s so much discussion these days about various types of flues and so forth, with all the fancy names, as Dr. Meerloo [Joost A. M. Meerloo, Mental Contagion] here in New York City pointed a few years ago in an article that the most important kind of infection is psychic infection. And when you hear the news on the radio or on the television or somebody talks about it, it’s not so much the fact that they’re talking about it, that’s not the problem. But what do you do? Do you have that little seed, center of a storm of fear in consciousness? This little thought of, “Oh, what if? No, I don’t want it, but ...” You know? That little thought of fear.
Agree with thine adversary quickly. Settle with that consciousness right now. Say, “No. I will not.” It doesn’t mean that you turn off the radio or the TV and blind your eyes, though with some people that may be a good thing to do occasionally. But it does mean that you must know that nothing can come into your life except that it comes first through your consciousness.
We live in a community, as most american communities face, with all sorts of insecurity. All sorts of fears. Relative to the cliché crime in the streets and so forth. And a tremendous wave of fear runs through the community. Agree with thine adversary quickly. Settle with it in consciousness. Do not allow it to settle in, in terms of a negative that becomes fear that becomes worry that becomes entrenched as a subconscious limitation. Agree with it. Get rid of it. If you don’t, then Jesus is simply pointing out, through the illustration of being arrested, thrown into jail, going to the judge and the whole course running on. And there’s no reason for that to happen. Decide right this very moment that you will no longer tolerate the intrusion into your consciousness of negative thoughts and influences. No matter what it is.
Around the office, may come a wave of fear thought. Woman wrote to me just recently and was telling me that she had been told that she was going to be dismissed from her job. That the boss was going to call her in, I think, on the following Monday. And that this was going to lead to her dismissal. But she was telling me how grateful she was that she had gotten an insight through some of the things that we’d been sharing. And so she took hold of this in consciousness and decided that even if a person could take her out of her job, nobody could take her out of the universe. She was in the flow. In the divine process. So then she limited and completely restricted any involvement in consciousness that would relate to fear.
She went in to speak to the boss in this purely non-resistant, loving consciousness and it led to an understanding, a relating, a rapping as they say, a new awareness of one another and the thing was, she went back to work with her job and with more security than she’d ever had before. It was probably true that the boss was planning to fire her. But in that consciousness, she was not fire-able. Or no wise person would want to fire her because he was aware now, of something in her that he didn’t know before. Which any employer is looking for a valuable worker, an employee, and he certainly is not going to get rid of somebody that’s so valuable, right? It makes sense. It made sense to her. And she’s on her job, very secure and very happy about it. It could have been just the opposite. Agree with thine adversary quickly.
Refuse to go to pieces, to say, “Oh my god, what’ll I do if I lose my job? I have nothing else to do.” All right, if that’s the way, you have the choice. That’s the heretical thought, you see. You make your choice. This is the way of turning away from all that you know and all that you believe and letting this negative situation run rampant in your consciousness and all the things that you fear will come upon you. And it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. And it runs it’s course. You’re thrown into jail. You rot in prison. They throw away the key. You have all the terrible things happen to you. But it all started in one moment when you could have settled with it in consciousness. You could say, “No. I refuse to go along with that.”
A serenity of spirit can never be achieved until we become the master of our own actions and attitudes. To let another person or a situation or a world event or a news idea, or whatever, determine whether you’re going to be gracious or happy or depressed or upset, is to relinquish control over your own life. If ever you have allowed yourself to become disturbed or upset by something that people have said or by what you’ve heard on the news or read in the papers about what news that is going around, then you’ve simply let go of the control of your own life. And this is ultimately all we possess. Because the only true possession, is self possession.
This is the essence, I think, of what Jesus is talking about in this segment of Sermon on the Mount. We’ll continue with it a little more next week.
But let’s take a moment now, just be still. And may we realize the full implication of all that we’ve dealt with. We’re talking about consciousness. Centering of ourselves in the realization of our oneness with God. Knowing that we are not unthinking reactors to life, but we are dynamos of thought energy. But the mind is not you, you have your mind and the you that has your mind can control your mind. And you can think the kind of thoughts you want to think. And so right now, we hereby decree that we will think and center our attention about that which is positive. That which is constructive. That which is loving. That which makes for peace. And praise God for this, the truth, that makes us free. So be it.