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Chapter XVIII Stumbling Blocks
Not infrequently the remark is made by people who have no sympathy with or aspirations to live the higher life, that it unfits people for the world’s work. Unfortunately it cannot be denied that there is seeming justification for the assertion, though in reality the very first requisite for living the higher life involves an obligation to comport oneself irreproachably in dealing with material matters, for unless we are faithful in the little things, how can we expect to be trusted with greater responsibilities? It has therefore been deemed expedient to devote a lesson to the discussion of some of the things which act as stumbling blocks in the life of aspirants.

In the Bible story where the king sent out his servants with invitations to the feast he had prepared, we are told that his invitations were refused on various grounds. Each one had material cares, buying, selling, marrying, therefore they could not attend to the spiritual things, and such people we may say represent the greater number of humanity today, who139 are too engrossed in the cares of the world to devote even a thought to aspiration in the higher direction. But there are others who become so enthusiastic upon the first taste of the higher teachings that they are ready to give up all work in the world, repudiate every obligation, and devote their time to what they are pleased to call “helping humanity.” They will readily admit that it takes time to learn how to be a watchmaker, a shoemaker, an engineer, or a musician, and they would not for a moment dream of giving up their present material business to establish themselves as shoemaker, watchmaker, or music teacher just because they felt enthusiastic about or inclined to take up such work. They would know that lacking the proper preparation and training they would be doomed to failure, and yet they think that just because they have become enthusiastic over the higher teachings they are at once fitted to step out of the world’s work and devote their time to service similar, even though in a lesser degree, to that rendered by the Christ in His ministry.

One writes to Headquarters: “I have given up flesh eating, and I long to live the ascetic life, far from the world’s noise that jars upon me. I want to give my life for humanity.” Another says: “I want to live the spiritual life, but I have a wife who needs my care and support. Do you think I would be justified in leaving her to help my fellow men?” Still another says:140 “I am in a business which is unspiritual; every day I must do things which are against my higher nature, but I have a daughter dependent upon me for an education. What shall I do: continue or give up?” There are of course many other problems presented to us, but these serve as fair samples, for they represent a class which is ready to give up the world at the slightest word of encouragement, and rush off to the hills in the expectation of sprouting wings immediately. If the people who are in that class have any ties, they break them without a scruple or a moment’s consideration.

Another class still feels some obligation, but could be easily persuaded to repudiate it in order that they might live what they call “the spiritual life.” It cannot be denied that when people get into this state of mind, when they lose their ambition to work in the world, when they become shiftless and neglectful of their duties, they merit the reproach of the community.

But as already said such conduct is based upon a misunderstanding of the higher teachings and is not at all sanctioned by the Bible or the Elder Brothers.

It is a step in the right direction when a person ceases to feed on flesh because he feels compassion for the suffering of the animals. There are many people who abstain from flesh foods for health’s sake, but theirs being a selfish motive, the sacrifice carries with it no merit. Where the aspirant to the higher life is prompted to abstain from flesh food because he141 realizes that the refining influence of a meatless diet upon the body will aid him in his quest by making the body more sensitive to spiritual influences, there is no real merit either. Truly, the person who abstains from flesh foods for the sake of health will be much benefited, and the person who abstains to make his body more sensitive will also get his reward in that respect, but from the spiritual point of view neither will be very much better. On the other hand, whoever abstains from flesh food because he realizes that God’s life is immanent in every animal just as in himself, that in the final analysis God feels all suffering felt by the animal, that it is a divine law, “Thou shalt not kill,” and that he must abstain out of compassion, this person is not only benefited in health and by making his body more sensitive to spiritual impacts, but because of the motive which prompts him he reaps a reward in soul growth immeasurably more precious than any other consideration. Therefore we would say by all means abstain from flesh food, but be sure to do so prompted by the right spiritual motive or it will not affect your spiritual interests one iota.

When the enthusiast says that he wants to get away from the world and the noise that jars upon him to live the ascetic life, it is truly a strange idea of service. The reason why we are here in this world is that we may gather experience, which is then transmuted into soul growth. If a diamond in the rough were142 laid away in a drawer for years and years, it would be no different than before, but when it is placed against the grindstone by the lapidary the harsh grinding process removes the last atom of the rough coating and brings out the beautiful, luminous gem. Every one of us is a diamond in the rough, and God, the Great Lapidary, uses the world as a grindstone which rubs off the rough and ugly coating, allowing our spiritual selves to shine forth and become luminous. The Christ was a living example of this. He did not go away from the centers of civilization, but moved constantly among the suffering and the poor, teaching, healing, and helping until by the glorious service rendered, His body was made luminous on the Mount of Transfiguration, and He who ha............
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