Thursday, July 7, 2011

Eric Butterworth: 'Discover the Power Within You'

If I were asked what my religious bearing was years ago, I would have declared myself an atheist. After all I had grown up in the West, and though my mother was a Christian Scientist, it was a decidedly scientific household. Not having much religious instruction myself, I had formulated a typical quasi-anthropomorphic view of a God "out there." And while I was told that God was "omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent" such words had little or no meaning to me, and I rejected (as I suppose many others have) the notion of some Old Testament-like patriarch who was invisible, and presumably, external to the universe. I had no knowledge that, as Jesus succinctly put it, "the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21). In actual fact, then, I was agnostic, i.e., one who does not know or have first-hand experience of the divine.

If I were asked today what my religious bearing is, I would say that I am a Transcendental Realist, having experienced glimpses of a higher state of consciousness where the universe is atemporal and a unitive whole beyond the ordinary egoic state of self-consciousness.

In writing of such inner, religious experiences (phenomena discussed at length in William James' great work, "The Varieties of Religious Experience") Carl Jung observed: "The only right and legitimate way to such an experience is that it happens to you in reality, and it can only happen to you when you walk on a path which leads you to higher understanding. You might be led to that goal," Jung notes, "by an act of grace or through a personal and honest contact with friends, or through a higher education of the mind beyond mere rationalism."

As a decided scientific rationalist at the time of my first such glimpses, I was fortunate in coming to understand the nature of these experiences to have not only two older friends who were experienced and self-realized spiritual seekers to direct me on a voyage of self-discovery, but also to have a psychoanalyst who could attest to the veracity of such experiences and could contextualize them into what I already knew of consciousness from a scientific perspective. Were it not for their assistance, it would have been all too easy to dismiss these incidents as madness - divine madness, perhaps, but madness nonetheless.

As a voracious reader, I had dismissively read a modest amount about Christianity and portions of the Bible, just enough to try and debunk what committed religionists were talking about. Thus, I was fortunate, indeed, in having one of my more experienced friends lend me a book that discussed the religion of Jesus, rather than the religion about Jesus, as he tried to show me the significance of what I had experienced. And although today I am not a Christian (or, more accurately, although I am not exclusively Christian), I still find this book to be an invaluable aid in understanding myself and my fellow man.

Written in the 1960s by Eric Butterworth, a Unity minister, "Discover the Power Within You: A Guide to the Unexplored Depths Within" is a precursor to the many spiritual/self-help books that are available today, but one that puts Christianity into a perspective that is still relevant to a person with a deep appreciation of all that science has revealed and continues to reveal today.

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Eric Butterworth
"Life is growth and unfoldment, and is lived from the inside out," Butterworth observes. "How few people really know this! The average person lives his life from the outside in. He frustrates his potential when he lets his level of consciousness be determined by what people say, what conditions appear to be, what he reads in the newspapers. He becomes little more than a barometer that registers the conditions of his world. Then he is caught up in the dilemma of whether to conform to the world around him or to spend his life resisting it."

"Jesus," he points out, "came declaring, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free" (John 8:32). It really doesn't matter what happens around you or to you. These things are in the world, and you can overcome the world. All that really matters is what happens in you or your thoughts about conditions and people. And you can control your thoughts, for you are the master of your mind - or you can be."

"There is a belief," Butterworth observes, "deeply rooted in the collective consciousness of the human race that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" - you can't change human nature. Reject this for the great lie that it is," he urges.

"When you catch Jesus' concept of the Divinity of Man," Butterworth notes, "you see that you not only can change human nature, but this is whole object of the Christian teaching. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up" (John 3:14). And you are that son of man and you can transcend your basement experiences and come to live in the upper rooms of life."

"Jesus' message of the Kingdom is the message of wholeness," he points out. "We are forever seeing only part of life and concluding that the part is the whole. This is a great problem in formulating religious views. Shelly says that religion is the perception of the relation in which man stands to the universe. But that perception is an individual experience. Someone communicates his perception to another and we are on the way toward the creation of dogma. In time whole bodies of people accept a "perception" that is given to them secondhand. They might even insist that there is no individual perception, or think of such an awareness, or firsthand experience, as a "work of the devil.""

"The word 'religion' means to 'bind together'," Butterworth notes. "It is a relationship, an awareness of man's unity with the great creative force of God."

"The church has a vital place in the life of man," Butterworth concludes, "but not as a supermarket in which to pick up take-out orders of faith and prayer. The church," he declares, "must be a school in which the individual learns the Truth of his unity with God, of his own divine sonship, and of the Kingdom of Heaven within him. Like any place of learning the church must seek to make itself progressively unnecessary, to help people to become self-reliant. In other words, if the church is doing its job sincerely, it will be forever trying to put itself out of business."
[Eric Butterworth, "Discover the Power Within You," pp. 226-227]

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