In the Bible, Jesus tells us that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him [would] have everlasting life.” *
Jesus, in referring here to the importance of belief, was speaking of belief directed with energy. As the word is used here, belief means more than acceptance: It means personal commitment to whatever one accepts. Belief is not a careful nod of approval, while puffing thoughtfully on a pipe and saying something like, “Hmmm, yes, that does appear to make sense.”
In the world of science, true belief is a hypothesis, which the scientist tests and either proves or disproves. True faith comes when a hypothesis has been proved valid. The belief needed for such definite results contains sufficient energy to commit theory to the test of experience. Of Thomas Edison it is said that he performed over 43,000 experiments before he found the right filament for the electric light bulb. His associates wanted to quit in discouragement after “only” twenty thousand experiments! Edison alone had the belief and the energy to continue on to success.
Belief directed with energy
Belief directed with energy is the secret of all spiritual success. Dogmatic belief may parade itself proudly, marching to the rhythm of an accepted pattern of thought, but it is as brittle as a tree limb through which the sap of life no longer flows. When strong winds of a new insight blow, the limb resists rigidly, preferring time-sanctioned dogmas to the risk involved in any practical test.
Jesus offers us in this passage not only the encouragement to seek everlasting life, but also the courage to test our beliefs and see where they lead. In addition, he gives us a clue to the outcome of this process. For we are not alone on our voyage of discovery. The basic truths of human nature are as universal as the law of gravity.
Belief in God lifts the mind in aspiration toward enlightenment. Doubt, on the contrary, depresses the mind and makes a person fear the divine light. The test is based on the fact that one of these alternatives leads to what everyone really wants in life – perfect love and happiness – whereas the other leads to what nobody really wants, even if, by confused understanding, he feels attracted to them – hatred, fear, and unhappiness.
Ways to manifest your belief in God
Seek by outer reminders and by an inner expansion of awareness and sympathy to manifest your belief in God. The proof of these truths is ever before us. We needn’t wait for all the results to be in, as Edison had to do with his light filament, before we may state firmly, “Yes, now I know that this practice works!” For even our first tests already show us the way.
Every time we turn away from the path of love and express hatred toward anyone; every time we criticize others unkindly; every time we desire to revenge ourselves on anyone; and every time we seek personal satisfaction at the expense of others – we reinforce the wall of egoism we’ve built around ourselves. Thus, we imprison ourselves and limit our ability to be happy. This wall of darkness is made of the “bricks” of our own thoughts.
Every time we open up our hearts to others, however, and to God who dwells in their hearts, we shatter a few of those bricks and let in the sunlight of understanding. Many results are immediate and give us either instant punishment or instant reward: the subtle punishment of nagging self-doubt and unsettled feelings, perhaps, or the gratifying awareness of increased inner happiness.
True belief in God excludes all negativity
In all of God’s Truth there is no room for any kind of negativity, and certainly none for judgment either of others, or of oneself. We are God’s children. He has placed us all together in this School of Life that we might learn – from one another, as well as by our own inner reactions. Truth is absolute, but the pathway to it is winding and long. The soul must have the freedom to advance according to its present abilities, and also the freedom to make its own mistakes. Without this freedom, it may never learn its lessons thoroughly.
What a person needs in his spiritual growth is not the judgment of others, but their encouragement. At the same time, never identify yourself with your mistakes. Above all, never tell yourself, “I live in darkness, therefore I am dark!”
If you are tempted to explode with anger over someone else’s behavior, then, instead of suppressing that “explosion,” try deliberately to change its nature. If your urge is toward violence, direct your anger toward some constructive act; don’t injure that person. Chop wood, knead bread (afterward you may want to throw it away, and not bake and eat it!), sing —anything, rather than reinforce your negativity by affirming it by outward action.
Best of all, if you can manage it: Relax your heart’s feelings, then expand them to include that other person’s needs and realities. Expand your sympathy, until you find you can forgive and bless him mentally. Then reflect: Which of the two feelings has given you greater satisfaction: explosive anger, or calm forgiveness?
Again—and do this especially when a measure of personal sacrifice is required: Share something of yours with someone else: money, perhaps, or an opportunity you’ve been coveting personally. Don’t make a sacrifice greater than your own emotional readiness for it. Be realistic as to your actual, as opposed to your idealized, nature. You will soon find that with heartfelt generosity comes a deeper sense of fulfillment than you’ve ever known when you thought only of your own fulfillment!
When your feelings are deeply hurt by someone you love, ask yourself, “Will I gain anything by allowing myself to suffer twice? It’s true that I’ve been hurt, but this hurt will only deepen if I allow myself to become bitter. Let me meet unkindness, instead, with love, even if for no other reason than this: that I am happier, when I love!”
Concentrate on the energy flow itself
It isn’t always easy to find reinforcement outwardly for our belief in God, if we define that belief by such things as holy images. It is easier to practice seeing God, everywhere: in the flowers, the meadows, in every kindly act. And it is easiest of all to uplift our consciousness, wherever we may be, by directing our energy to the Christ center between the eyebrows. Churches, temples, and altars of all kinds are limited as to location, but the Christ center is wherever we ourselves are.
We can also breathe deeply with the thought of raising our energy in the body: In this case, the lungs act as magnets and draw the energy upward. Indeed, we can concentrate on the flow of energy itself, directing it up through the spine by an act of will. Most of the techniques contained in the yoga science are designed to assist in this process. What is more, by any insightful definition of yoga, Jesus Christ himself was a great yogi.
Proceed steadily, step by step
Don’t let your belief in God be a sort of “New Year’s resolution,” intending more than it ever performs. Climb the mountain of awakening step by step. Every action, every thought, every feeling must be patiently attuned to the Divine within.
The Bhagavad Gita encourages us, whatever our present station on the spiritual path, to grow upward and outward: upward, that is, in rising awareness; and outward in expansive sympathy for all. The Gita also urges us not to be discouraged if we don’t find immediate self-transformation at all levels. A rock is seldom shattered by a single blow. We should proceed steadily, by natural degrees, and always joyfully. We should accept our own nature, for the time being, as it is, but seek to harmonize it ever more perfectly with our higher realities.
It is not possible to reach a mountaintop by a single leap. It must be attained step by step. Accept that, though there is satisfaction for the climber in every step upward, the journey to the peak will take time. It will be helpful, on the other hand, to take stock of your feelings every now and then. Are your spirits growing a little lighter? Freer? Happier? As your sense of inner fulfillment increases, your pace will quicken, until you find yourself fairly rushing toward the goal! At the top of the mountain you’ll find a (literally!) breath-taking view spread out in all directions: range after range of shining peaks and slopes covered with fields that are colorful with wildflowers of joy.
At last you’ll know that everything God ever wanted from you was the sweetness of your love. His own love has always been yours. What He wants, however, for your own true fulfillment, is your love. Everything you’ve ever sought was but a suggestion from your imagination, a hint of your soul’s craving. God, forever, has been your sole reality.
*Gospel of St. John, Chapter 3
From: The Promise of Immortality, Chapter 16, “The Way Beckons.”