One of our greatest problems still remains the inability of the religious world to cut through its own orthodoxies to the arrival at some point of common vision or insight.
The goal of religion is to establish an inner strength against all exterior circumstances. The nature of God is truth, beauty, love and joy. These are divine qualities, and the universe in which we live was founded upon these great spiritual principles. Yet we accepting these as true, still do not experience in our own life the wonderful inward composure of spirit that comes from the simple acceptance that God is good.
Perhaps one of the reasons we have trouble with this situation is that we mistake the works of men for the works of God. We live surrounded by a peculiar confusion of our own kind-a confusion that is rooted largely in the inability of devout persons to find beauty in their own devotion. Most religions emphasize a certain stern sense of duty so therefore, religion has come to be a more or less militant dedication.
The individual feels that he must come under a very strict administration by the universe; that his spiritual salvation depends upon the unquestionable obedience to something that is superior to himself, which he cannot and does not rightly define. So instead of religion bringing a great release of spiritual values, it has a tendency to bring submergence, a state of the individual being tied to some credo, and this cannot be entirely the beautiful thing, which we sense it to be.
Practically all-religious people believe that God is love, but they do not believe it sufficiently to find God’s love in the things that are. They believe in some way that an evil power has corrupted God’s love, and that there must be some great process of redemption by means of which it can be restored again. There is a process of redemption but it is nothing but an awakening. It is a waking up again into the life that is eternal.
This whole thing is a strange world of delusions in which individuals try to delude each other with only reasonable success, and manage to delude themselves with greater success. And in this delusion, everything that is really fine and happy and good and joyful is sacrificed. It is like a strange intoxication of the alcoholic, in which his toxicity causes him to finally to fall into the terrors of delirium tremens.
To most people of antiquity, God had the implication of great Joy, and this is something we seem to have lost. In the sense of responsibility and duty, we have in some way lost the happiness, and have been unable to make our faith an immediately beautiful, joyful experience of conduct. We affirm these things we believe that Deity wants us to be happy, but we do not seem to find a way of being happy. The moment it looks as though we might be happy, we become conscience-stricken, for nearly all of our so-called daily happiness is so selfish and self-centered that we can scarcely justify our own attitudes.
God wanted to be made manifest in man. God wanted to know himself in man. God wanted to release all the good, beauty, the truth, the love, and the joy through man. These different releases were not evil things if we understand them correctly and build our lives in which good brought joy, truth brought happiness and wisdom brought peace of soul.
Recognizing that the dictionary is the expression of our usage of words, we can check the word happiness to see what the dictionary has to say about it. The first definition given is “good fortune and prosperity.” Now this is exactly what we would expect, for it is typical of our idea of what constitutes happiness. Happiness is having more than the neighbor, a certain smug sense of satisfaction at some phase of real or assumed superiority. Happiness today comes to the individual who wins in some kind of a competition with others. It also has to do something with luck, according to this definition “good fortune” some sudden unexpected pleasure that comes to us, perhaps out of space which we are all looking for but which the majority of us never find.
This happiness therefore simply means a certain creature reaction it is the individual who says, “I am perfectly willing to smile and be happy if everything goes my way. If I have what I want, do as I please, and influence other people as much as I want to, I will be happy.” One thing that happiness must require today is a vast amount of forgetfulness. If we could forget our own past, forget everything that other people have done to us, and forget all the mistakes that we have made, the result would probably be a colossal peace of mind; but we cannot forget these things.
The idea that happiness is simple the result of status – the larger swimming pool, the better car, the larger home- these things can no longer be regarded as valid. Yet this is where the dictionary takes its first stand, because it means just that to most people, and words have no meanings except the usage that we give them. When an individual tells us they are happy, it almost certainly means that they have been favored in some way by circumstances outside themselves, that something desirable or pleasurable has happened to them from the outside.
The dictionary does however; give us a second meaning for happiness, and that is, “a state of well-being.” Now, if the truth were known, that should have been the first definition, because a state of well-being must precede any effort to be happy. It really does not make much difference whether fortune smiles or not; unless the individual has some experience of well-being within himself, even the greatest gifts that nature can bestow, or the greatest success that can be attained, will not bring any real or lasting happiness. So happiness is a condition that must be cultivated through the establishment of a state of well-being.
We can talk about how to be happy until the end of time, and still be miserable. We can develop all kinds of reasons why we should be grateful, and still remain ungrateful. There has to be something more than in intellectualizing, or even a theologizing, of the idea. In theology, we are constantly reminded of the blessing that we receive from heaven, but very few people are very excited over these blessings because they are really still fighting desperately against the small personal miseries that beset them.
In order to discover happiness, we must have some kind of a vital experience of it within ourselves. There has to be a living kind of happiness, and the only way we can combat the experience of unhappiness is to set up the experience of happiness.
There used to be something of a gaiety, naturalness about growing up something that we have lost. As a result very few people have any vital experience of happiness. They have nothing to hook the happiness concept onto. Broken homes, depressions and insecurity have taken away the laughter, joy and close association with family. Because of these trends, which have become more and more dominant since we have depended so heavily upon artificial sources of pleasure, the average person today does not have the living inner visualization of happiness set within himself.
It becomes very easy for us to be critical and suspicious of other people, to be dissatisfied and rebellious, until finally we have developed one of the heaviest burdens of the present generation – hypercriticism. There is hardly a day when we do not criticize something. We seem to live in a world that suggests criticism, and although we can do nothing about it, still we become critics, constantly dissatisfied.
Out of this dissatisfaction comes a subtle form of self-excuse mechanism. Feeling that we live in a world that is topsy-turvy, in which nothing makes sense, we have a wonderful reasons to be poor citizens. We have every reason to excuse our own failings. We become victims of circumstances, and we say “How can one individual live well in a world that is going to pieces?”
One thing we do not realize in all of our thinking, however, is that this generation is not essentially different, in its basic problems, from the generations in which individuals did find a certain amount of security and peace of mind. We cannot hope that we can create entirely new solutions. We can create new solutions only if the problems that we face are new, but the problems that we face are not new. They are the eternal heritage of our kind.
We all want to live in a world in which we are happy but we also want a world tailored to our desires. We want the world to make us happy, to provide us with everything we need. We want to surround ourselves with situations that will give us happiness and pleasure. Of course, as long as everyone in the world feels that way, the complex gets more and more difficult, because each person trying to fulfill his own ambitions out of the reservoir of world materials ultimately comes into conflict with every other human being and the tensions simply increase and compound.
Happiness is not a matter of environment but of the adjustment of consciousness to the values of life; that the very things that make us unhappy could perhaps be the sources of happiness if we understood them correctly. Always complication destroys peace of mind, and without peace of mind, there is no real hope that any individual can be truly happy. Of course, we have our moments, but even in those moments the heavy burden of destiny hangs over us.
There have always been some who have realized that unhappiness was neither desirable nor necessary; so they have left us rules and patterns by which we could guide our way to a certain degree. A life to find happiness must be a life that has discriminated values. If we use our minds we come to one standard of value. If we use our hearts and our intuitions, we come to another standard of value, and it is this second standard that must come first. In order to know what happiness is, we must finally decide what will make us happy.
We all feel that when we can pay off the mortgage, we will be happy, when we can get that new car we will be happy. We have the simple feeling that if we have what we want, we will be happy. But what do we want? Above all things, we want freedom of fear. We want freedom from ignorance. We want freedom of faith. We want freedom of growth. Of all things we want freedom from insecurity within ourselves, freedom from mental and emotional sickness. We want freedom from the ills and weaknesses, which we recognize in our own natures. The only real freedoms the only real things that can bring us happiness are those attainments within ourselves by which we are free forever from the delusions and illusions that cause misery.
The most difficult and miserable adventure in the world is the desperate quest for personal happiness. The individual, who makes happiness their goal, will fail, because they usually have the wrong concept of what will make them happy. We have not yet realized that we have to be happy from within and that all other things are accidents and incidents- the elements of a providence that may change at any moment.
Pythagoras said, “all men know what they want, but only God knows what they need.” In our desperate effort to get what we want, we are miserable, we must therefore change to the concept of what we need, to what is most necessary to us. We live in a universe in which love and wisdom, and joy are the very substance out of which creation fashioned things. We live in a tremendous potential for good, and to realize this and cooperate with it, is to begin the unfoldment of our own lives.
The ancients believed there was only one life, the life of God. To live with love for this life was to live in peace with it; to live in hate and fear was to destroy God. The individual who hates and fears is the only true atheist. No one can hate, fear, and worship at the same time.
Happiness does not arise from copying other people because the things that make them happy might make us miserable. There has to be a universal happiness- something infinitely beyond the individual patterned pleasures which we recognize; and this happiness is the freedom of life in itself. It is not necessarily a theological state at all. It is the transference of our citizenship, an inner belonging to another world, so that the suddenly the world of realities becomes meaningful and we realize that this material creation floats as a bubble in an infinitely vaster spiritual creation; that far beyond anything we can estimate is the power of infinite love infinitely working.
Live and Learn. We All Do.
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