Infinite Way Letter
By Joel Goldsmith
Part 5 of 6
What Is Religion?
The following is the text of my second talk given to devotees of Anandashram, on December 9th, 1955:
We have learned that religion has its beginning in India and spread out from India to the East and to the West. Now we ask: What is religion? What is the religion that was given to us in the beginning, when the hearts and Souls of men opened themselves to God for light?
The study of the many scriptures that comprise our spiritual literature reveals that religion is a release—a release from the limitations of humanhood into God awareness. Even today, religion should be understood as a release from our mortal selfhood and our material sense of life into an expanded universe-consciousness, God consciousness, spiritual consciousness.
In the next order was revealed the way—yes, the term is “the Way”—the way to be freed of the limitations of sinful desires, physical, mental, and moral sicknesses, financial lack. But how is one to be free of these, and how is one to be expanded into an awareness of God’s abundance? The secret is this: it is God’s abundance that becomes our experience. Really, it is God’s life that is realized as our life. It is God’s abundant supply that becomes our individual supply. It is God’s love that is shown forth as our love for each other. The way is through prayer, for prayer is our means of contact with our infinite Source.
Prayer has many forms. Probably, the easiest form for the youngest students to understand is a prayer of words, spoken silently within or audibly without. This is the voice of our own heart speaking to our concept of God, and very often the heart is unburdened as we speak to God with words. Later, prayer ascends to thoughts—unspoken thoughts instead of words. In our periods of silence we learn to speak with God silently, with thoughts of communion, thoughts of joy, thoughts of peace.
From these two simple beginnings, prayer continues to ascend until, through meditation, eventually prayer becomes an absolute silence, in which and through which the voice of God reaches and speaks to us. No longer do we speak to God; no longer do we think up to God; but, rather, in the silence, God speaks to us, guides and leads us, and reveals Himself to us.
In these many centuries since religion was revealed to man’s consciousness, prayer has taken many wrong turns, until a great deal of prayer, both in the East and in the West, is now perverted, turned into wrong channels, and becomes a means of selfishness. That is why we find the world today in chaos, in discord, in inharmony. Too many prayers are merely asking and beseeching God for blessings for me, my family, and my nation. These prayers can never be answered, because God is Love, and God does not love one more than another, nor does God benefit one at the expense of another. And so, until prayer becomes the unselfish realization of God’s universal goodness, prayer continues unanswered and darkness remains. Darkness remains in the consciousness of the individual and in the consciousness of the world, and that darkness then interferes with human affairs.
The enlightened prayer of God realization dispels that darkness in the mind and body, in the home and nation. Enlightened prayer must always be a turning to the inner divine Self for revelation of its light, that this light may dispel our sense of separateness. When we pray: “Give us bread, give us freedom, give us health, give us wealth,” the darkness only deepens. But when we pray: “Give us light—let Thy light be revealed,” there follows, even in the very earliest stages of such enlightened prayer, a most wonderful revelation. A message is received which says, either in these words or in this sense: “God’s grace is thy sufficiency!” Through this we realize that our only prayer need be: “Let Thy grace—thy grace alone—be revealed, that Thy grace may become evident as peace in the mind and heart and Soul, and peace in human affairs.
“Without doubt, one of the happiest days that ever comes to an individual is when he first realizes that God’s grace is all he will ever need. Grace is our only need. Although we think we have need of food and clothing, through grace it is revealed that man shall not live by bread alone, and even the lilies of the field are clothed. We need only the realization of God’s grace, and when grace descends upon us we are abundantly provided and lovingly cared for.
It has taken many centuries and the devotion of countless saints and seers to bring the world back, in this twentieth century, to where it was in the very beginning when it was first revealed that God’s grace was a sufficiency for all our need. Today, in many parts of the world, there are enlightened individuals who are turning the thought of people away from praying for things and conditions to the prayer of realization of God’s grace as a sufficiency in all things. It is these few to whom the world will look for guidance and direction in this enlightened prayer, until such time as the world itself comes into an understanding of the true nature of prayer.
Harmony of body and supply, harmony of family life, and harmony of national and international life are the natural unfoldments of God realization. It is no more necessary to pray specifically for help than it is to pray for sunshine. It is no more necessary to pray for supply and abundance than it is to pray for potatoes to produce potatoes or for rice to produce rice. Always there is in operation the law of like begetting like: from the rose shall come roses, and from the cow shall come cows. Already there is in operation a law that day must follow night and night must follow day. One need not pray for these things—merely become aware that God’s grace is the law, and God’s law is love. It is because of this law of love that the tides turn on schedule, that the stars are in the appointed places on time, that the sun and moon and earth maintain their positions. The universe is maintained and sustained by God’s law of love, and in just this same manner does God’s law of love care and provide for every child of God, be he human or animal, vegetable or mineral. But this we must understand and remember: this law and this love only operate for us as we, individually, open ourselves to God’s grace.
The Western world often asks the question: If the religion originated and given to the world by the East is the true religion, why has the East suffered and endured such hardships in the last centuries? It also asks: If there is a great God of divine love, the Father-God of whom Jesus taught, why do the Western nations undergo a ceaseless succession of disease, dissension, strife, and war? To both questions the answer is the same: God is; God’s goodness is; God’s grace is; but it is only operative in our experience in proportion to the degree of our acceptance and realization of this truth. For example, if we were to lock ourselves in a room with all the blinds drawn, we would sit in darkness without benefit of the light and warmth of the sun outside. In the same manner, if we draw the blinds against the Spirit, the grace of God cannot infiltrate and penetrate the darkness of human sense. In order to achieve harmony in our individual and collective affairs, it is necessary that we open consciousness to permit the entrance of God, not by seeking to get something from God, but by giving something of God to our fellow-men.