Of the Two Wills
We have in us two wills. The Will to live, and the Will to love God and to find Him. The first will we see being used continually and without ceasing, not only by every man, woman, and child, but by every beast of the field and the whole of creation.
The Will to live is the will by which all alike seek the best for themselves, here gaining for themselves all that they can of comfort and well-being out of the circumstances and opportunities of life. This is our natural Will. But it is not the will which gains for us Eternal Life, nor does it even gain for us peace and happiness during this life. It is this Will to live which in Christ's Process we are taught to break and bruise till it finally dies, and the Will to love, and gladly and joyously to please God is the only Will by which we live.
Our great difficulty is that we try at one and the same time to hang to God with the soul and to the world with our heart. What is required is not that we go and live in rags in a desert place, but that in the exact circumstances of life in which we find ourselves we learn in everything to place God first. He requires of us a certain subtle and inward fidelity—a fidelity of the heart, the will, the mind. The natural state of heart and mind in which we all normally find ourselves is to have temporary vague longings for something which, though indefinable, we yet know to be better and more satisfying than anything we can find in the world. This is the soul, trying to overrule the frivolity of the heart and mind and to re-find God. Our difficulties are not made of great things, but of the infinitely small our own caprices. Though we can often do great things, acts of surprising heroism, we are held in chains—at once elastic and iron—of small capricious vanities, so that in one and the same hour we may have wonderful, far-reaching aspirations towards the Sublime, and God; and yet there comes a pretty frock, a pleasant companion, and behold God is forgotten! The mighty and marvellous Maker of the Universe, Lord of everything, is placed upon one side for a piece of chiffon, a flattering word from a passing lover.
So be it. He uses no force. We are still in the Garden of Free-Will. And when the Garden closes down for us, what then? Will chiffon help us? Will the smiles of a long-since faithless lover be our strength? Now is the time to decide; but our decision is made in the world, and by means of the world and not apart from it, and in the exact circumstances in which we find ourselves.
Another difficulty we have, and which forms an insuperable barrier to finding God, is the ever-recurring—we may almost say the continual—secret undercurrent of criticism and hardness towards God over what we imagine to be His Will. We need to seek God with that which is most like Him, with a will which most nearly resembles His own. To be in a state of hardness or criticism, not only for God but for any creature, in even the smallest degree is to be giving allegiance to, and unifying ourselves with, that Will which is opposite to, furthest away from, and opposed to God. He Himself is Ineffable Tenderness.
Having once re-found God, the soul frequently cries to Him in an anguish of pained wonder, "How could I ever have left Thee? How could I ever have been faithless to Thine Unutterable Perfections?" This to the soul remains the mystery of mysteries. Was it because of some imperfection left in her of design by God in order that He might enjoy His power to bring her back to Him? If this were so, then every single soul must be redeemed—and not for love's sake, but for His Honour, His own Holy Name, His Perfection. If the soul left Him because of a deliberate choice, a preference for imperfection, a poisonous curiosity of foreign loves, then love alone is the cause and necessity of our redemption, and so it feels to be, for in experience we find that love is the beginning and the middle and the end of all His dealings with us.
* * *
What is our part and what is our righteousness in all this Process of the Saviour? This—that we obey, and that we renounce our own will, accepting and abiding by the Will of God: and this self-lending, self-surrender, this sacrifice of self-will is counted to us for sufficient righteousness to merit heavenly life. But from first to last we remain conscious that we have no righteousness of our own, that we are very small and full of weaknesses, and remain unable to think or say, "This is my righteousness, I am righteous," any more than a man standing bathed in, or receiving the sunlight can say or think, "I am the sun." Is all this, then, as much as to say that we can sit down and do nothing; but, leaving all to Christ, we merely believe, and because of this believing our redemption is accomplished? No, for we have an active part to play, a part that God never dispenses with—the active keeping of the will in an active state of practical obedience, submission, humble uncomplaining endurance through every kind of test. What will these perhaps too much dreaded tests be that He will put us through? He will make use of the difficulties, opportunities, temptations, and events of everyday life in the world (which difficulties we should have to pass through whether we become regenerated or not) down to the smallest act, the most secret thought, the most hidden intention and desire. But through it all it is the Great Physician Himself who cures, and we are no more able to perform these changes of regeneration in heart and mind than we are able to perform a critical operation on our own body. So He takes our vanities and, one by one, strews them among the winds, and we raise no protest; takes our prides and breaks them in pieces, and we submit; takes our self-gratifications and reduces them to dust, and we stand stripped but patient; takes the natural lusts of the creature and transfigures them to Holy Love. And in all this pain of transition, what is the Divine Anaesthetic that He gives us? His Grace.
Having submitted to all that Christ esteems necessary for our regeneration, what does He set us to? Service. Glad, happy service to all who may need it. He has wonderful ways of making us acquainted with His especial friends, and it pleases Him to make us the means of answering the prayers of His poor for help, to their great wonder and joy and to the increase of their faith in Him. Also He uses us as a human spark, to ignite the fires of another man's heart: when He uses us in this way, it will seem to one like the opening of a window—to another a magnetism. One will see it as a light flashed on dark places, another receives it as the finding of a track where before was no track. But however many times we may be used in this way, the working remains a mystery to us.
What is our reward whilst still in this world for our patient obediences and renunciations? This—that all becomes well with us the moment the process is brought to the stage where the aim of our life ceases to be the enjoyment of worldly life and becomes fixed upon the Invisible and upon God: and all this by and because of love, for it is love alone which can make us genuinely glad to give up our own will and which can keep us from sinning.
We commence by qualifying through our human love, meagre and fluctuating as it is, for God's gift of holy love—of divine reciprocity, and with the presentation of this divine gift immediately we find ourselves in possession of a new set of desires, which for the first time in our experience of living prove themselves completely satisfying in fruition. God does not leave us in an arid waste, because He would have us to be holy, and nowhere are there such ardent desires as in heaven; but He transposes and transfigures the carnal desires into the spiritual by means of this gift of divine reciprocity which is at once access to and union with Himself. Now, and only now do we find the sting pulled out of every adverse happening and every woe of life, and out of death also.
And the whole process is to be gone through just where and how and as we find ourselves—in our own home or in the home of another, married or single, rich or poor,—with these three watchwords, Obedience, Patience and Simplicity.
But it is not sufficient to have once achieved this union with God: to rest in happiness the soul must continually achieve it. It follows then that our need is not an isolated event but a life, a life lived with God, and in experience we find that this alone can satisfy us. A life in which we receive hourly the breath of His tenderness and pity, His infinite solace to a pardoned soul.
Of the Interchange of Thought without Sound
Many persons know what it is to have the experience with another person of a simultaneous exactitude of thought—speaking aloud the same words in the same instant. Others experience in themselves the power to exchange thought and to know the mind of another without the medium of sound, though not without the medium of word-forms, this last being a capacity possessed only by the soul in communion with the Divine. We name these experiences thought-waves, mind-reading, mental telepathy, and understand very little about them; but beyond this mind-telepathy there is a telepathy of the soul about which we understand nothing whatever. This is the divine telepathy, with words or without word-forms, by which Christ instructs His followers. The telepathy of the mind is the indicator to the existence of a telepathy of the soul; for the mind indicates to us that which should be sought and known by the soul, and without we come to divine things first in a creaturely way (being creatures) we shall never come to them at all. The mind desires and indicates, the soul achieves.
This telepathy with Christ is the means by which the soul learns in a direct manner the will and the teaching and the mind of Christ, and it is by this means she gains such wisdom as it is God's will she shall have. The soul seeks this telepathy during the second stage, vaguely, not knowing or understanding the mode of it, receiving it rarely and with great difficulty.
In the third stage she obtains it in abundance, at times briefly, at others at great length.
* * *
That God has his dwelling-place at an incalculably great distance from ourselves is a true knowledge of the soul: but a further knowledge reveals to us that this calamity is mitigated, and for short periods even annulled, by provision of His within the soul to annihilate this distance, and be the means of bringing the soul into such immediate contact with Himself as she is able to endure. But the Joy-Energy of God being insupportable to the very nature of flesh, in His tender love and pity He provides us, through the Person of His Son, with degrees of union of such sweet gentleness that we may continually enjoy them through every hour of life; and through His Son He comes out to meet the prodigal "while yet afar off."
This is strongly observable, that as the process of Christ proceeds and grows in us, though our joys in God are individual, yet they become also clothed in a garment of the universal, so that the soul, when she enters the fires of worship and of blessing and of conversing with God—without any forethought, but by a cause or need now become a part of herself,—enters these states and gives to Him no longer as I, but as We—which is to say, as All Souls.
* * *
Many of us look to death to work a miracle for us, thinking the mere cessation of physical living will give entry to paradise or even heaven, so long as we are baptised and call ourselves Christians. This is a great delusion. In character, personality, cleanliness, goodwill we are, after death, exactly as far advanced as we were before death, and no further. What then is needed, since death will not help us? The Seed of Divine love and life planted and consciously growing in us whilst we are still in this world. And what is this Seed?—the Redeemer.
* * *
What is paradise, what is heaven? The progressive gradations of conditions of a perfect reciprocity of love, and the greater the perfection of this reciprocity the greater the altitudes attained of heaven. Thus we see in Scripture that the angels who stand nearest to God or highest in heaven are the cherubim—that is to say, they are those who have attained a greater reciprocity than all other angels. Now this Divine love is incomprehensible to us until we are initiated into its mystery as a gift, and cannot be understood nor guessed at by comparisons with any human loves however great, noble, or pure; but this burning fiery essence of joy, this radiant glory of delight, this holy and ineffable fulfilment of the uttermost needs, longings, and requirements of the soul must be personally experienced by us to be comprehended.
What madness in us is it that can count as an added cross or burden any means by which we reach such perfection of bliss for ever? The Cross is for us the misery of our own blinding sins and selfishnesses. The burden is the weight of our own distance from God. "Take up thy cross (which is our daily life of ignorance and sin), take up thy cross, and follow Me," says the voice of the Saviour; and as we do it and follow Him the distance between God and ourselves diminishes, and finally the burden and the cross disappear, and behold God! awaiting us with His consolations.
It is the stopping half-way that causes would-be followers of Christ such distress. It is necessary that we follow Him all the way and not merely a part of it—that He may complete His process in us. When we are living altogether in a creaturely, natural, or unregenerated way, absorbed in the ambitions and interests of a worldly life, we are perhaps content. When we live regenerated and in the spirit, we are in great joy; but when we try to live between the two and would serve God and worldly interests at the same time we are in gloomy wretchedness, vacillation, depression.
The Master said, "The kingdom of heaven is within you," which signified that within us was the potentiality to have entrance to, and to know, the mystery of the Divine Secret, and to participate whilst still living here, in the early degrees or manifestations of Divine Love—that Power which glorifies the angels, and is Heaven.
Of the three Stages of God-Consciousness
(Which more properly expressed is the gift of immediate access of the soul of God)
There are three principal stages on the way of progress—three separate degrees of God-Consciousness. The first is the Consciousness of the Presence of Jesus, the Perfect Man. We take Him into the heart, accept and know Him, love and obey Him. In the second stage we receive Jesus as the Christ and recognise Him as the Messiah (of which the mind was not sure in the first stage). We rejoice in Him, giving Him a more perfect obedience. In the third the soul is given the Consciousness of the Father, and, being filled with a very great love and joy, worships Him as the Known God. Now life immediately becomes totally changed, fear and sin are swept away, and love rules the Universe.
It is now that God makes us know His glamour; that He casts over the soul His golden net of spiritual delights, and by them seems to challenge her, saying to the soul, "Now that I reveal Myself to thee, canst thou ever return to the joys of the world, canst thou find its pleasures sweet, canst thou be satisfied with any human love; canst thou by any means resist Me now that I show Myself?" And the soul answers Him, "Nay Lord, in truth I cannot."
The remembrance of these powers and these spells of God make for the soul a sure foundation of repose and certainty in the days of the testing of fidelity that still lie before her: they also further reveal to her His consummate care of her exact requirements, for she cannot pass beyond a certain stage without a direct personal assurance is given her. First He demands of us that we have, and actively maintain, a clean will to turn and cleave to Him, without any assurance beyond written assurance (Scripture); and having given Him a thorough proof of fidelity, He then grants us the personal assurance. Having been given these rapturous concessions, what would perfection demand of us—a total withdrawal from the world—a hiding away in secret with our soul's treasure of delights? Maybe for some; but a higher perfection calls us back to service in the wretched turmoil of the world, to work and to stand in the House of Rimmon and never bow the knee, to carry with us everywhere the Divine Consciousness and preserve its light undimmed in every sordid petty circumstance of daily life, to endure with perfect patience the follies and the prides of the unenlightened. Whoever can achieve those things may find himself at last a saint.
Very early in this third stage a miracle is performed in us: without knowing how it came about or what day it was done, we suddenly know that the heart and the mind have become virgin—and this without any variation. Every kind of lust, whether of eye, body, heart, or mind, has been removed from us, and never again has any power over us, for the will has become superior to lust, and there is a finish to all such contending: this moral healing is more impressive than any physical healing. Before this miracle is performed for us, we have suffered many things, as much as we can bear: subtle and astonishing temptations of mind and body and spirit "call to remembrance the former days in which after ye were illuminated ye endured a great fight of afflictions" (Heb. x. 32).
This person that writes formerly supposed that no creature was admitted to the blessedness of being in any way with God in Spirit without they were already become a saint; but this is not so, and He accepts the sinner long before he is a saint (if ever we become one in this world, which is doubtful), provided the will is always held good towards God.
This is the mighty Process of Christ which he desires to perform for all. Of the tears we shed over it the less mention the better; they are precious tears, necessary tears, cleansing tears, and if we will not lend ourselves to this Process of Christ we may have as many tears for our portion and no benefit from them in the way of advancement. Let us weep the tears that God Himself will wipe away.
So then in the first stage the Soul tastes of the sweet companionship of Jesus. In the second, of the might and graciousness of Christ; in the third, of the fullness of God and His unspeakable delights. "Thou shalt give them to drink of Thy pleasures, as out of the river" (Psalm xxxvi.).
In the third stage of God-Consciousness a great change takes place in our relationship to God. Besides the magnitude of the alterations of the inner life—the sweeping spiritual changes—the body also shares in a change, for, whilst we formerly prayed to God with a bowed head and a hidden face, we now become unable to pray or approach Him except with a raised head and an uncovered face. This change is not from any thought or intention of our own, but we are forced to it by a sweet necessity. In a company of persons praying, all those in the third stage could be immediately known by this necessity of the raised and bared face if we were not taught by the Holy Spirit never to reveal to others that we are in the third stage except in special instances. For this reason it is not possible to enter true communion with God in a public place of worship unless we can conceal ourselves from others. For the face undergoes a change in communion with God, and it is not pleasing to Him that this should be seen by any eye but His own.
If anyone finds great difficulty (and the most of us do) in coming to the first stage—that of taking Jesus into the heart—he must pray every day in a few short words from the heart that God will give him to Jesus, and in due time he will be heard.
In the third stage of progress we have the home-coming of the soul as far as we are able to know it in the flesh: "We taste of the powers of God" (Hebrews).
But the fullness of home-coming is reserved for that day in which the greatest of all the mysteries will be revealed to us—the mystery of the Relation of the Soul to God.
In that great day we shall know God by His Own Name.
* * *
We do not find God by denying the existence of things not pleasing to Him. We do not find the Eternal Goodness by saying that Evil does not exist. We do not find true health of spirit because we deny all sickness, pain, and disease. Such a mode of Christianity may give a sense of comfort, lend a false security to the heart and mind at once weary of God-searching, and disenchanted with the world; but it is not the Christianity which regenerates. It is a narcotic, not a Redemption. It is the way of a mind unwilling to face truths because they pain. If there was anything made plain by Christ it is that the way of Redemption lies through heroism and not cowardice. Let those of us who too much fear a passing pain of sacrifice of will remember that the deepest of all pains, the last word in the tragedy of life, is to come to old age and descend to the grave without having found the Saviour. For our calamity is that we are lost souls. Our opportunity is that in this world we find the track of Christ which leads us home.
* * *
God does not create a new world on purpose for His lovers immediately to live in, yet though we remain our full time in this same world it is not the same world. We see a person in a severe illness and again in full health. It is the same person, and not the same person. We see a garden filled with flowers in the rain under grey clouds, and again the same garden filled with mellow sunlight under blue skies; it is the same garden, and not the same garden.
These changes could never be described or conveyed to the man blind from birth; neither can spiritual changes be described or conveyed till we ourselves gain similarity of experience. God transposes our pleasures, taking the glamour from the guilty and transferring it to the blameless; by this transforming our lives. He increases the pleasure of unworldly enjoyments so we are independent of the worldly ones. But we cannot remain in this transformed world of His unless we are at peace both with ourself and all persons around us.
Though from earliest childhood we may have found in the beauties of Nature a great delight, when we become the lover of God He passes His fingers over our hearts and our eyes and opens them to marvellous new powers for joy. Oh, the ecstasy that may be known in one short walk alone with God! The overflowing heart cries out to Him, What other lover is there can give such bliss as this, and what is all Nature but a lovely language between Thee and me! Then the soul spreads wings into the blue and sings to Him like soaring lark.
But do not let us seek Him only because of His Delights, for so we might miss Him altogether. But let it be because it is His wish: because Perfection calls, and mystery calls to mystery, and love to love, and Light calls to the darkness and the Dawn is born.
The glamour of God is come down about my soul, And He who made all loveliness has decked my heart in spring, And garlanded me round about with tender buds Of flowers and scented things, and love and light. I see no rain, no sad grey skies, For the glamour of God has come down about mine eyes, And the Voice of the Maker of all loveliness Calling to my soul, leads me enchanted Up the glittering mysteries of Infinity.
[Transcriber's notes: The name of the author, Lilian Staveley, is not mentioned on the title page of this text, but I have added it here. Also I have made two spelling changes:
"subsitute another picture" to "substitute another picture"
"accepts the sinner long long before he is a saint" to "accepts the sinner long before he is a saint".]