I wondered while riding my bike the other day what happened if we took seriously that God and man are one. Truly one, not two. A big, good, bold ONE.
It would mean, I thought, that the many billions of lives - of people, animals, plants - are all one in the spiritual dimension of Life which is the essence of it all. It would mean that all is thought - because matter is a concept including separation, not worthy of pursuit. And truly not up for consideration when it comes to the topic of oneness.
Taking seriously that God and man are one would also mean that in our experience we could depend less on other mortals for happiness, safety, and joy, because we have already all. We could safely lower our expectations in others to grant us their attention, appreciation, back up - because if God and man are truly one, we have already all. And are grateful, relaxed, and joyful.
Being aware that God and man are one would also mean that struggles for supply and prosperity can be less fierce, because we approach solution seeking from the authority of completeness. Companies in search of customers (other mortals) to fill their order books, and in need of a consistent cash flow could become more confident. Ideas could replace objects, and motives and actions could be tested in regard to their integrity. From the perspective of oneness. It would leave no one dependent on circumstance and would empower everyone to do something bold, something honest - without the fear of being thought different, because truly authentic. (If you speak the truth, you need a fast horse, they say!).
It could also mean that relationships are more meaningful, because we don’t require anything from anybody, but rather rejoice in expressing the goodness that is already there. Relationships then being about giving, not taking. God being infinitely good, what would you need from someone else? And what can you give? If "I AM" is good enough for the supreme Power, could this be enough to fill our lives, too? Because this oneness is like living within a source, a sense of unity with our divine source - or if you rather like this image, living in the middle of an inexhaustible fountain. It would mean to stop yearning for a slice of the cake, because you have access to the bakery, including their infinite stock of tested recipes.
Now enough of "would" and "could". The shift from complaint to learning is not as big, as one might think. The oneness IS the thing, the wisest people in the past and present were teaching. Like Mary Baker Eddy who learnt from Jesus how to live a life of unity with God - that is why her voice is so authentic and her spiritual teaching so powerful. It is not her invention, she is finding words for timeless truths that resonate with anybody who has an open heart and a listening ear:
"True prayer is not asking God for love; it is learning to love, and to include all mankind in one affection. Prayer is the utilization of the love wherewith He loves us. Prayer begets an awakened desire to be and do good. It makes new and scientific discoveries of God, of His goodness and power. It shows us more clearly than we saw before, what we already have and are; and most of all, it shows us what God is. Advancing in this light, we reflect it; and this light reveals the pure Mind-pictures, in silent prayer, even as photography grasps the solar light to portray the face of pleasant thought.“ (Mary Baker Eddy, No and Yes, p. 39)
Meet an unsung hero. In my research project on joy I encountered Jérémie Regard, a French blacksmith who was in 1944 arrested and incarcerated in one of the places which came close to hell on earth: The concentration camp Buchenwald. It is Jacques Lusseyran, a blind author, partisan for the French resistance and co-prisoner, who honors him in his book „Life begins today“ (published in Paris 1959).
„In the middle of block 57 Jérémie found joy. He found it in times of day when we all were only terrified … What kind of joy was this? I would like to share a few observations: The joy to be alive, in this moment, in the next moment … It was the joy to discover that joy exists, that it is in us, as life is, that joy is unconditional and that no condition - even the worst - can ever destroy joy."
Jérémie Regard is a tower of serenity, calm and comfort to the 1000 people who are squeezed into a shack for 400. People even form a small aisle when he passes through speaking words of encouragement. The blind author senses all this and can write about it. He feels his way into the mystery of Jérémie:
„Whereever he appeared, one could breathe. The breath of Life touched my face. It was probably not a miracle, but a certain effect only from him. When Jérémie wandered through the block we could breathe. In my memory I can follow the light and pure way he took through the crowd. At that time I understood not who he was, but I have seen it. And this image is a light in me like a light-tower. I didn’t know who he was, because he didn’t talk about it: He belonged to the Christian Science movement. He had even been to the US to meet with other brothers and sisters in his faith, a truly remarkable event for a blacksmith from Northern France; it caught my attention, but didn’t help me much to learn more. It only increased the mystery; that was all. Jérémie meant something, without his history."
The book dedicates an entire chapter in elegant French, to Jérémie Regard. The author being a seeker, a thinker, and someone who finds something, asks himself many times where the joy came from that Jérémie shared with the others daily, the joy right in the middle of block 57, where every one was scared. A joy which helped others, a joy to which everyone could relate to, even when being „a few steps away from hell“. One explanation that the author comes up with is, that he observes that Jérémie doesn’t dream or transform his fear into wishful thinking as everyone else does - shutting their eyes to the reality in front of them: How great it would be to be free, how wonderful it would be to somewhere else. Daydreaming as a means of escape. Jérémie never did that. He lived right in the now and compared this present to any other „normal“ experience people would have had outside the camp. How could this be? How did Jérémie do that?
„What I call supernatural, was the complete breakaway from the ordinary, which he had committed. He had distanced himself completely from the habitual custom after which we call any mischief „fate" or „suffering", from the ordinary urge to hate, to call for revenge or - a lesser but still undisputable form of hate - to protest, in the habitual egocentric frenzy, in which we believe to be innocent every time we suffer. He had been escaped from the net of inevitable reflexes, and it is only this fact - not good health, not even perfect health, if even existing - which can explain his person. He had reached his centre and had found there the supernatural or - if you dislike that word - what’s essential, what is not depending upon circumstances, what exists at every time and in every place, in pain and in joy. He had found the fountain of Life. And at the same time he was enveloped in a cloak of transparency and purity. I have used the word „supernatural“, because it seemed to me that Jérémie’s acting was a religious act: The discovery that God is here, and that to find Him is possible. That was „the good news“ that Jérémie proclaimed in his modest way."
The author continues to speak about the place Jérémie has in his memory:
„When I speak about him, I must speak about Buchenwald. But don’t be fooled: Jérémie was never there. I have encountered him in person, yes, he had tatooted into his arm a number for a prisoner, yes, and others remember him as we’ll. But he was not there is in this exclusive, individual way, which we connect with the sentence „he was in Buchenwald“. The experience of the concentration camp was to him something like a random event: It couldn't touch his centre."
It is a special grace of God that Jérémie Regard passed on a few days before he was scheduled to leave for the gas chamber.
The author finishes his praise for Jérémie Regard, who changed his life for the better and helped him survive:
„The whole secret and the whole power of those men, who serve another cause other than their own provisory existence, lies in the fact that you cannot avoid them."
My research project on "joy" continues - it has reached another dimension, the dimension of sustainability. Sustainability is the capacity to endure, really, - in biology it explains how systems remain diverse and productive for an indefinite period of time. In closed systems this is possible by replacing resources used from within, and it is built-in resiliency which absorbs disturbances in such a way that the whole remains intact, sustainable, whole.
It is easy to relate these ideas to the realm of joy, even before I discovered that Mary Baker Eddy writes that „…joy is self-sustained…“ Sustainability in the material world is often at stake - but in the spiritual world, which is right here, right now, sustainability is a key feature. After my research I can confidently say now: Joy is God's signature song. Continuously. It is impossible to conceive God, Spirit, not as a closed system - simply because it is All and it is One. Spirit maintains processes of productivity indefinitely because Spirit is Life. Relationships build on spiritual qualities such as compassion, unselfishness, tenderness, awareness are sustainable - because they can’t deteriorate, erode, dwindle, become exploitative or co-dependent. They are defined by Spirit, which is true substance - the essence of everything (as even a dictionary says).
Sustainable joy: I am being given a sweet gift in that I wake up almost every morning with a tingling sensation, for a few months now. It is early morning - and this sensation is like butterflies in one’s tummy, only better. This has not been the case always - there was a period of about three months in which I not only woke up around 3 am feeling terrorized and burdened, but woke up after a little more sleep with a sense of dread and fear. I persisted in defending my spiritual center, affirming my resilience against intruding emotions and affirming the pure presence and authority of Spirit in my experience. I didn't give in to this imposition. And it was only after a short while that this tingling started. Joy being simply there. In a sustainable way. It stays.
I feel that Peter Henniker-Heaton captures this sense beautifully in his poem „Threshold“ (which, by the way, is a strip of wood forming the bottom of a doorway and crossed in entering or exiting a house. It was meant to keep the threshed straw laid out on the stone floor in, keeping the house in medieval times warm). This poem is around my family for quite some time and it will stay - perhaps it speaks to you with as much authority as it does to me. Thank you, Sabine, for introducing it to me.
Manhood is come at last. All playthings gone,
I seek the paths of undiscovered joy
And leave each faded book, each battered toy,
The doors of childhood closing one by one.
And by this strange high gladness in my heart
I know that all far lands shall be my home
And every road a place where feet may roam
And every morn a time when journeys start.
I know that distant twilights call to me
And chalk-white roads that wind about a hill,
Over the grassy shoulder climbing still,
Bright with tomorrow’s secret urgency.
The morning wind plays soft upon my face,
Tossing my hair and catching at my cheek.
I must go forth, I must arise and seek;
somewhere a world unknown prepares my place.”
(Peter Henniker- Heaton. Jubilee and other poems. Boston 1979, p. 13)
Who is writing?
In my work as Christian Science practitioner and writer I draw on listening to God and listening to people.
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