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THE SEEKER THE SEARCH THE SACRED
JOURNEY TO THE GREATNESS WITHIN
By Guy Finley
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2011 Guy Finley
All rights reserved.
THE INVISIBLE NEED IN EVERY SEED
There is a very old idea that, as best can be determined, comes to us from the days of the early Christian Desert Fathers. In six concise words it touches upon a certain fact of human nature that even volumes of books would prove unable to express any better: "Fish swim, birds fly ... man prays."
In other words, it's the nature of fish to glide through water, for birds to soar through open skies, because they are at home there. Sea and sky, accordingly, are the worlds of their origin, where they belong, the place they are free. But where is our true home? What is the nature of that place where our original self is one with its longing to explore its own deepest possibilities, and where discovering the treasures waiting there is the same as fulfilling our purpose for being? What world is there for us where our essential nature—and its right to live free—is one and the same?
We're granted a quick glimpse of this secret destination in these spirit-filled lines from American poet Walt Whitman's classic work, Leaves of Grass.
Would you sound below the restless ocean of the entire world? Would you know the dissatisfaction? the urge and spur of every life; the something never still'd—never entirely gone? the invisible need of every seed? It is the central urge in every atom to return to its divine source and origin, however distant.
In the first of these four lines, we're asked a vital question: is there a part of us that longs to know—that's willing to seek out—what lies hidden just beneath the thought-tossed surface of ourselves? If our answer is "Yes," then Mr. Whitman goes on to suggest what awaits us there in that great, undiscovered country of our innermost Self. In summary, he asks: Are we willing to bear—to share in the being of an unceasing creation—to embody what he calls "the invisible need of every seed"? And then, for those who still affirm their wish to drink from that eternal cup of life, he pours out the rest. We learn, at once, why seekers of all ages have always felt this "central urge" to merge with the highest part of themselves: we are called ... to "return to our divine source and origin."
It may be difficult to see at first, like a pearl washed ashore nestled into a bed of small pebbles, but hidden within this last idea is a beautiful spiritual fact: those who feel this call—who "hunger and thirst after righteousness"—are not alone in their search to find their way back home. A simple example proves this point:
A child at play in the yard can't see the concerned parent whose voice calls out to him, "It's getting dark, time to come in!" And yet, even that small child understands that although the parent isn't in view, he's still there: unseen doesn't mean unreal. With this truth in mind, follow the logic of the next few ideas; your patient work to understand them will help open your eyes to the light of a new hope in things unseen.
No natural need can exist without that which has been created to directly answer it. For instance, a creature couldn't thirst for water if water didn't preexist its need to drink. This feeling of attraction that we have—whether to take a drink of water or connect with the world above us—is proof of the existence of two parties. First is the part of us that feels this draw, and then there is by necessity something acting upon us to create the longing itself. As paradoxical as it may seem, if we are moved to seek the Divine, it's because the Divine is calling us! Let's pause here to see how this celestial need expresses itself through some simple examples that are common to all of us: Where does our longing for someone to love originate? Is it not with the awakening of an internal force urging us to explore and experience the deepest parts of ourselves? When we say—or feel toward another—"You complete me," what we're really saying is something like "Through you I've realized parts of myself I wouldn't have known even existed; you have helped introduce me to who I really am."
Perhaps we've a yearning to learn how to paint, write poetry, climb a mountain, or become a chef. We are drawn to that pursuit—whatever its nature—for much the same reason we search for a lover. Something in us knows that it is only through this relationship that we will be introduced to—awakened to—our own higher possibilities.
C. S. Lewis, the great author, essayist, and Christian apologist, supports this important finding in The Problem of Pain:
All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it—tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if IT should really become manifest—if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself— you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say, "Here at last is the thing I was made for." We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work.
The need for whatever it may be that we're drawn to is the yet to be realized presence within us of that very thing to which we are drawn. This means that no matter how distant seems our guiding star, or how isolated we may feel in our journey toward its light, these higher truths we're learning would have us know otherwise; we are not alone. Even more importantly, just as a small filing of iron must fly to the magnet that pulls upon it, so too must those who are drawn to the Divine eventually answer its call.
In the following section, you will read the innermost thoughts and feelings of inspired seekers who have gone before you. Some names you may know; others you will be glad to meet! But as you journey along with them in the pages that follow, sharing in their discoveries and discouragements, one thing should grow increasingly clear: the Spirit that called them—that awakened their hearts, and quickened their minds—so that they might have "eyes to see, and ears to hear"—is the same spirit calling you. These individuals came to know, as will you, the truth that sets us free: There is but one seeker, one search, and one sacred intelligence awakening you with its call.
THE MASTERS SPEAK OF THE SEEKER
Wisdom is sweeter than honey, brings more joy than wine, illumines more than the sun, is more precious than jewels. She causes the ears to hear and the heart to comprehend.
—Queen Makeda (1000 BCE, Ethiopia)
The Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes.
—Isaiah, Old Testament (700 BCE)
If you persist in trying To attain what is never attained If you persist in making effort To obtain what effort cannot get; If you persist in reasoning About what cannot be understood, You will be destroyed By the very thing you seek. To know when to stop To know when you can get no further By your own action, This is the right beginning!
—Lao Tzu (ca. 570–490 BCE, China)
He who knoweth not what he ought to know is a brute beast among men; he that knoweth no more than he hath need of, is a man among brute beasts; and he that knoweth all that may be known, is as a God among men.
—Pythagoras (569–475 BCE, Greece)
The intelligible substance, if it is drawn near to God, has power over itself.... If it falls away, it chooses the corporeal world and in that way becomes subject to necessity which rules the Kosmos.
—Ioannis Stobaei (500 BCE, Macedonia)
Thinking about sense objects Will attach you to sense objects; Grow attached, and you become addicted; Thwart your addiction, it turns to anger; Be angry, and you confuse your mind; Confuse your mind, you forget the lesson of experience; Forget experience, you lose discrimination; Lose discrimination, and you miss life's Only purpose.
—Bhagavad Gita (500–200 BCE, India)
God made the senses turn outward, man therefore looks outward, not into himself. Sometimes a daring man has looked round and found himself. Then he is immortal!
—Katha Upanishad (4th c. BCE, India)
Each one of us is made up of ten thousand different and successive states, a scrap-heap of units, a mob of individuals.
—Plutarch (45–125, Greece)
This people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing and their eyes have closed, lest haply they should perceive with their eyes and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart.
—St. Matthew, New Testament (55–60)
God made man so that He should seek the Lord.
—Acts, New Testament (55–95)
When therefore we are hindered, or disturbed, or grieved, let us seek the cause rather in ourselves than elsewhere. It is the action of an uninstructed person to lay the fault of his own bad condition upon others; of a partly instructed person, to lay the fault on himself; and of one perfectly instructed, neither on others, nor on himself.
—Epictetus (55–135, Phrygia, Asia Minor)
Now ... Faith is a conviction of the reality of the things which we do not see. Through faith we understand that the world came into being and still exists at the command of God, so that what is seen does not owe its existence to that which is visible.
—Hebrews, New Testament (60–100)
When you know yourselves, then you will be known and you will understand that you are children of the living father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you dwell in poverty, and you are poverty.
—Gospel of Thomas (60–140, Egypt)
Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
—St. John, New Testament (ca. 90)
Charity bears all things, is long suffering in all things. There is nothing mean to charity, nothing arrogant. Charity knows no schism, does not rebel, does all things in concord. In charity all the elect of God have been made perfect.
—Clement of Rome (d. 101 CE, Italy)
Fall in love with Wisdom and she will keep you ... put her around you, and she will exalt you; honor her that she may embrace you....
—Origen (185–254, Egypt)
To know goodness is not sufficient to reach blessedness; if one does not put goodness into practice with works. Piety towards God is actually the beginning of knowledge.
—Didymus the Blind (313–398, Greece)
Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.
—St. Augustine (354–430, Algeria)
This thing we tell of can never be found by seeking, yet only seekers find it.
—Bayazid Bastami (804–874, Persia)
The whole world is you. Yet you keep thinking there is something else.
—Hsüeh-Feng I-ts'un (822–908, China)
When you are deluded and full of doubt, even a thousand books of scripture are not enough. When you have realized understanding, even one word is too much.
—Fen-Yang (947–1024, Ancient Taiyuan)
"Has the road an end or not?" He answered: "The road has an end, but the stations have no end, for the journey is twofold, one to God and one in God."
—Fariduddin Attar (ca. 1142–ca. 1220, Nishapur, Khorasan)
Don't grieve for what doesn't come. Some things that don't happen Keep disasters from happening.
—Jalal al-Din Rumi (ca. 1207–1273, Balkh, Persia)
I remember that in the time of childhood I was very religious; I rose in the night, was punctual in the performance of my devotions, and abstinent. One night I had been sitting in the presence of my father, not having closed my eyes during the whole time, and with the holy Koran in my embrace, whilst numbers around us were asleep. I said to my father: "Not one of these lifteth up his head to perform his genuflexions, but they are all so fast asleep you would say they are dead." He replied: "Life of your father, it were better if thou also wert asleep than to be searching out the faults of mankind. The boaster sees nothing but himself, having a veil of conceit before his eyes. If he were endowed with an eye capable of discerning God, he would not discern any person weaker than himself.
—Saadi (ca. 1213–1292, Persia)
We are the cause of all our obstacles.
—Meister Eckhart (1260–ca. 1327, Thuringia)
The humble knowledge of thyself is a surer way to God than the deepest search after science.
—Thomas A' Kempis (ca. 1380–1471, the Netherlands)
I laugh when I hear that the fish in the water are thirsty. You don't grasp the fact that what is most alive of all is inside your own house; and so you walk from one holy city to the next with a confused look!
—Kabir (1398–1518, India)
My unassisted heart is barren clay, That of its native self can nothing feed: Of Good and pious works Thou art the seed, That quickens only where Thou sayest it may: Unless Thou show to us Thine own true way No man can find it: Father! Thou must lead.
—Michelangelo (1475–1564, Caprese, Tuscany)
Man does not know himself and does not know how to use the energies hidden in him, nor does he know that he carries the stars hidden in himself and that he is the microcosm, and thus carries within him the whole firmament with all its influence.
—Paracelcus (1493–1541, Switzerland)
Who seeks, and will not take when once 'tis offered, shall never find it more.
—William Shakespeare (1564–1616, England)
Who overcomes by force, hath overcome but half his foe.
—John Milton (1608–1674, England)
Ah! knew we but the want we have of the grace and assistance of God, we should never lose sight of Him—no, not for a moment. Believe me; make immediately a holy and firm resolution never more willfully to forget Him, and to spend the rest of your days in His sacred presence, deprived for the love of Him, if He thinks fit, of all consolations.
—Brother Lawrence (1611–1691, France)
There are only three types of people; those who have found God and serve him; those who have not found God and seek him, and those who live not seeking, or finding him. The first are rational and happy; the second unhappy and rational, and the third foolish and unhappy.
—Blaise Pascal (1623–1662, France)
Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.
—Matsuo Basho (1644–1694, Iga Province, Japan)
It is very rare to find ground which produces nothing. If it is not covered with flowers, fruit trees, and grains, it produces briars and pines. It is the same with man; if he is not virtuous, he becomes vicious.
—Jean de La Bruyère (1645–1696, France)
But when people are told to seek God within, it is like telling them to go to another planet. What is farther away and more unknown than the bottom of your own heart?
—François Fenelon (1651–1715, France)
The greatest part of mankind ... may be said to be asleep, and that particular way of life which takes up each man's mind, thoughts, and actions, may be very well called his particular dream. This degree of vanity is equally visible in every form and order of life. The learned and the ignorant, the rich and the poor, are all in the same state of slumber.
—William Law (1686–1761, England)
All that is needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
—Edmund Burke (1729–1797, Ireland)
We do not worship the Great Spirit as the white men do, but we believe that forms of worship do not matter to the Great Spirit; what pleases him is the offering of a sincere heart, and this is how we worship him. We do not want to destroy your religion or to take it from you. We want only to enjoy our own.
—Chief Sa-Go-Ye-Wat-Ha, aka Chief Red Jacket (1750–1830, United States)
No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.
—William Blake (1757–1827, England)
The brave man is not he who feels no fear, for that were stupid and irrational, but he whose noble soul its fear subdues, and bravely dares the danger nature shrinks from.
—Joanna Baillie (1762–1851, Scotland)
The aim of education should be to convert the mind into a living fountain, and not a reservoir. That which is filled by merely pumping in, will be emptied by pumping out.
—John M. Mason (1770–1829, United States)
Man who man would be Must rule the empire of himself; in it Must be supreme, establishing his throne, Of vanquished will, quelling the anarchy Of hopes and fears, being himself alone.
—Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822, England)
Excerpted from THE SEEKER THE SEARCH THE SACRED by Guy Finley. Copyright © 2011 Guy Finley. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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