One of the most comforting thoughts that comes to me — and it has been coming more frequently during my later years — is that I am, in a very real sense, a part of the created universe, not a thing apart. The old Latin poet, Terence, nearly two thousand years ago, said so truly, "I am a man. Nothing human is alien to me." A part of the universal, the great scheme of a creation, I am in my place. Like the rocks, the trees, the birds, the breezes, all the four-footed creatures, I fit into the picture. When my fellows suffer. I suffer. When they rejoice I too am happy. We are one.
This realization is the result — one of the results — of an acquaintance with my inner nature. Self-realization is the sum of human wisdom. The real things are those that lie below the sense perceptions. When we look without we see differences. When we peer within, we perceive the oneness of God's created world. As one devout astronomer put it, "Oh, God, I think Thy thoughts after Thee."
An extraordinarily interesting "new world" picture of modern physics has been painted by Sir James Jeans, the eminent British scientist and physicist at an annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The old Newtonian physics, with its fixed universe and its unchangeable laws, said Sir James, is quite gone from the credo of science. Nothing, he said, is real in the new world of modern physics except what is in our consciousness and our perceptions. As Sir James put it:
In the old physics the perceiving mind was a spectator; in the new it is an actor. Nature no longer forms a closed system detached from the perceiving mind; the perceiver and perceived are interacting parts of a single system.
Isn't it conceivable that what is true of objects perceived may be true also of the perceiving minds? When we view ourselves in space and time we are quite obviously distinct individuals: When we pass beyond space and time we may, perhaps, form ingredients of a continuous stream of life.
That versatile literary genius, George Sand, often displayed remarkable insight into cosmic realities. In her Intimate Journal she has a striking passage expressing her realization of her "oneness with God." She says (writing in 1840):
God is not a force outside of us. He is the sun and the skies and the gold in the chalice. He is the bread. He is all the elements of the earth. He is the heart of man, and all men, with all their yearnings and fortunes, are one in Him. He is in us and outside of us. We are in Him and never outside of Him. He is the universal spirit. He reveals himself in man. He is I and I am he.
There is one respect, however, in which the human entity we call man may be said not to resemble the rest of creation. His spirit — disposition, if you will — changes with his body. If he lives wisely and on a high plane, although the body may become misshapen with age, the spirit becomes more shapely, more beautiful, more at one with the Divine. Man can show conscious courage — which is a quality both human and divine. In other words, in proportion as one realizes that he is part of Divinity he knows no fear.
Among the better, more apt definitions of courage, is this one, of which, unfortunately, I do not recall the author: (1)
Courage does not lie alone in dying for a cause —
To die is only giving.
Courage is to feel the daily daggers of relentless steel,
And keep on living.
Think also of this, from "Grief," by Aubrey de Vere:
Count each affliction, whether light or grave,
God's messenger sent down to thee; do thou
With courtesy receive him; rise and bow;
And, ere his shadow pass thy threshold, crave
Permission first his heavenly foot to lave.
When we have reached this state, we shall have realized our near Relationship to the gods, for, as Addison put it, heaven is not to be looked upon only as the reward, but as the natural effect of a religious life — which could not be were we not an intimate part of mighty nature.
1. It is by Douglas Malloch. — Eds. (return to text)