The United States, whose citizens hail from all corners of the world, has absorbed the widest variety of gold nuggets or butterflies of wisdom, hidden in the symbols that thrill, embolden and inspire men. To touch this community, its economics and employment, for example, one might wish to delve into this treasure chest.
Many see the symbol of the cross as a backbone of a great tale, an object of reverence, reminding one of suffering for a mighty cause. Its earlier history was lighter, more playful: The vertical line symbolized your rapid rise, prompted by your ambition. Then a horizontal line, representing the requirements of others, of your community, challenged and often delayed your upward rise. But this broadened your scope, and you grew in a new direction. You became wider - ranging, nobler - a resurrection.
A boy wishes to avoid supervision and authority, he wishes to roam the countryside and raid apple orchards, while a seemingly heartless community of elders requires him to go to school and to curb his greed and limit his enjoyment to the petty proceeds from his parental allowance.
His immediate reaction is resentment. He tries to escape, by ruse or war. The years that follow by and by bring home to him that the community is the soil in which he grows and, whatever its faults, taught him consideration, expanded his consciousness, enriched him. The cross becomes his Joy.
When anyone, religious or not, has a tough problem, a need for self-control, wise decisions and unforeseen expenses, he says "Well, this is the cross I have to bear." Mysteriously, he feels a little better; later again much better; and he has more courage, for he feels there is a "happy ending" with the cross; a vital significance.
A symbol from ancient Hindu traditions has been adopted by large sections of Christianity in a different and strange sense. This is the symbol of the trinity. Originally, it was just a mental distinction of certain facts: the seer, the seen, the sight; the Creator, his creation and the process of creation; God the Creator and source of all religions, his "son" or prophet receiving and interpreting the inspiration, the inspiration itself or the "Holy Ghost".
The idea of trinity, then, is not a dogma to be believed and quarrelled about, but a voluntary classification of mental pictures. The purpose of this classification is clarifying these pictures and their mutual relationship. There are other applications too. The idea is often symbolized by an equilateral triangle.
Life was pictured as the waters of a sea in the ancient traditions of philosophy and religion, particularly in the Middle East. When the storms and waves of the sea of life overpowered you so you couldn't stay with it, you were said to drown. When you barely made it, you were said to swim. When your philosophical and loving attitude completely mastered the difficulties and challenges of life, you were said to walk upon the waters. To calm and harmonize the minds and emotions of oneself or others was called to still the storm. To improve the taste of the ordinary life of hard knocks and blows by a loving and compassionate attitude was called to turn the water of life into wine.
In the Holy Eucharist, wine is given as a symbol of Divine Love. The wine is also thought of as the blood of God. With the wine is given bread, a symbol of Divine Knowledge. The bread is also thought of as the body of God.
He who gave up blood on a cross poured tragedy, actual drama into the philosophical symbol and impressed even those who would not have been interested in the subtle and real significance.
Before the crucifixion, as a symbol of the coming event, he gave his disciples bread to eat and wine to drink "which is my flesh and blood". He wanted to tell them that Divine Knowledge and Divine Love was his real flesh and blood - the real flesh and blood of every man rather than the physical molecules of the body.
The bread and wine also symbolizes the well-knit structure of this universe and that even such a flimsy thing as Love is more substantial than we first think, at least as substantial as wine, and that all we eat and drink and feel and think is from that same one source which we may call GOD. Now we know that love is also steam, electricity, atomic power.
Blood donors give of their physical blood for transfusion to sick fellowmen. Simultaneously, they give generous thoughts and good wishes. They receive in due time a corresponding amount of blood from the workshop of nature in their own bodies - and, so, also love, inspiration and generous thoughts in exchange for those they gave, and the latter much faster than the physical blood.
To the enthusiasts, this all points to a climax: That this whole world is held together and run by love, the vibration, bundles of love. Love? How can one explain war in Vietnam then - and riots in Detroit?
Well, the great scheme of love hasn't quite penetrated yet. Not every man is fully clear about it, not yet. God may be perfect potentially, in time, though not quite yet - if God is everything. If He is everything, then he has a few miles to go yet - through and with all of us.
The story of Jesus, his son, is the story of one, anyone, in the forefront. Eventually, it will be the story of all.
Some people brazenly proclaim the exclusive greatness of Jesus, the man or the God. This man himself said, "Call me not good. Only One is good, that is God!" which seems to mean that his message was not for glorifying one man. It was concerned with the Spirit embodying all men. The greatness is in the Spirit. If so, this is good news for the Spirit is always with us. It is expressed in individuals, in nature, in the whole universe, in oneself.
If Buddha seems the perfect expression of the Spirit to some, Jesus to others, how could one be pronounced greater than the other? How could the Spirit be greater than itself? Who could feel capable of comparing and judging them, thus proclaiming themselves greater than either?
Measuring the greatness of men and comparing them belongs to the world of separateness below the spirit level. In the world of the Spirit, there are no measurements, no comparisons. All are like flutes of reed through which the Spirit plays its music.
There is breathtaking beauty in the symbol and fact of the immaculate conception. Each child is more than just flesh and blood. Before birth, the mother has been overshadowed by God's holy spirit and while the earthly father and mother provide the physical frame, God breathes into life the soul. It seems such a pity, then, that so many souls are born into festering ghettoes and can see no great promise in their physical existence. Churches have been watching this spectacle for ages with greater patience than concern.
Immaculate conception is operating not only among humans but in all the huge and tiny explosive events we call creation. Two forces were always involved: positive and negative, male and female, ying and yang, jelal and jemal. The irresistible positive and male force overshadows and fuses with the negative - the female - the jemal being, and new beings spring to life. On February 14, 1637, one such new life, mothered by Madame d'Aiguemere of France, was adjudged by three medical experts to have been born by real immaculate conception. This verdict was upheld by the Paris Supreme Court after the latter had called in several more experts.
Whatever the procedures, as the earth is made fertile by rays of the sun and as the moon takes light from the sun and gives out heat and light in its turn, so a woman takes on a ray of the Spirit along with conception and, in due time, bears a soul with a body-frame.
Heaven and Hell, mean, to some, names of places they go to after death. To others, "Heaven" is that state of in. mind a person may enjoy here on earth as a result of pure thoughts and emotions and proper acts. "Hell" is the opposite state of mind. In this sense, Heaven and Hell are symbols. They are single words producing a series of mental pictures different and characteristic for each individual.
Heaven and Hell, like other words we throw around, are not areas to be "found" but conditions we make - and later unmake - if we so choose. Conditions, surroundings master us only as long as we let them. The purpose of life is for us to master or adjust to conditions, surroundings - and ourselves. For that purpose we were made.
Atonement is practiced in shipyards and on football fields as happily as in the tale.
A shipyard may turn out seaworthy craft in record time and be the pride of the nation though two shipfitters played hookey. The rest of the workers, including the designers, made tip for the hookey so honorably that the net result was rousing. The able and industrious workers atone for the sins of the hookey-players. The slackers may be taken through a training course and may become as conscientious and efficient as the best without even knowing very clearly how they were before. They have been saved by their betters.
On the football field it is, of course, a bit different in that a critical public is usually armed with spoiled tomatoes, rotten eggs and empty coca-coca bottles and let the off-key players have it. Even so, the net play may turn out well in spite of the unfortunate targets.
Since the shipyard and the football field are nothing but true reflections of the Spirit World, the rules and the laws are the same. The group as a whole has to reap as it sowed, but not always the individuals - who may be saved by the grace and wish of those ahead.
What are prayers? Asking favors? To some they are just that. Others live their lives in constant prayer although they want no favors, they think of nothing but giving. To such, a prayer is tuning the mind and heart to the vibrations of the Spirit. Prayer is leading one's thoughts and emotions along a certain path. Then one may wish to stop at choice points of beauty and take in the view. This is called meditation or contemplation. There is no agreed difference between these two words although some consider meditation more or less haphazard thinking as compared to the more concentrated attention which they term contemplation. Concentration these same people define as focusing your thought - on anything. When you focus on God or any religious concept, then, only, they say, do you meditate or contemplate. All three activities lift the mind and heart above the daily chores, worries, fears or grudges, and make one receptive to inspiration.
Those who study the physical aspect of thoughts and feelings - as far as they may be studied at this time (New discoveries are made almost daily and during the time it takes to have this printed and brought to the shelves, we may know vastly more. . .) - feel that prayer and contemplation affect not only he who prays but spread throughout the universe as bundles of vibrations, like all other mental and emotional activities affecting with varying strength all other minds and hearts. Many religious people always believed this and, so, prayed in the solitude of monastaries or mountain caves to help, not only themselves but others as well. This influence on others may not always have come up to the expectations of the pious and is not usually a good enough excuse for running away from the world. The urge to run away, to seek long periods of complete solitude often stems from fear or over - sensitivity. Before acting, a look at oneself and a sober evaluation may be in order. But this looking should be exercized by oneself, not by others.
The Nazarene never permitted himself long sessions of solitude. The suffering of people around him kept him in their midst. Similarly, in the Bhagavad Gita, the most popular (in the West) of the holy books of India, the Lord's advice to his disciple, Arjuna, is not to abandon his worldly duties, not to give in to his urge to quit the coming battle but - while retaining his prayerful attitude - to go in there and fight.
Life in this world with its responsibilities, wars, worries and jarring influences, was made by man, for man, for his spiritual awakening and evolution, and is not to be shunned by him who wants to know and grow. There is no progress for him in leaving this world for the luxury of solitude - except for occasional refreshments. There is no sweeter fragrance than of prayers rising from the work bench or the din of battle.
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