Over the years I have believed and often said, that the essence of Americanism is the revolutionary concept set forth in the Declaration of Independence: “that all men . . . are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” This belief in divinely endowed personal rights is, in my view, the launching pad of our idea of limited government and the only creditable explanation of the genesis of the American miracle.
The importance I attach to this idea is not generally shared; it has been understood by a few, and not much contested by the many. The Creator-sovereignty idea was the highest spiritual note struck at the time of our country’s founding; it gave tone to our country’s early days. In no other instance, to my knowledge, have the founders of any political agency heeded so scrupulously the Biblical injunction, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness,” and history reveals no case where the promise, “and these things shall be added unto you,” has been so overwhelmingly verified.
Today, the spiritual genesis of the real American revolution is all but forgotten; indeed, attempted refutations of the Creator concept assume the proportions of an epidemic. Many are now proudly affirming, as if it were a sign of enlightenment, “I am an atheist,” while a growing number of believers acknowledge their faith as if it were irrelevant to earthly concerns. Even from professors of religion we hear the refrain, “God is dead.” In response to the question, “What seek ye first?” the number is dwindling who will reply, “the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.” Nor need the dissenters reply in explicit terms, for their actions speak louder than words. The answer their actions proclaim is, “We seek first these things,” that is, wealth, affluence, fame, power, and the like. In a word, most people have become addicts of the additives! When the eye is on “these things” and not on the genesis, the priorities are inverted and “these things” might not be long for this world.
The Question Each Must Answer
Man has no more important question to answer than, “What seek ye first?”
Numerous persons have said to me, “I don’t have to believe in God to believe in freedom, do I?” My answer is, “No, you do not have to believe in an Omnipotent Principle, or Infinite Consciousness, or God, to believe in freedom. Yes, you can be an atheist and, at the same time, believe in freedom. But a society of active, militant atheists will not be a free society.” This affirmation, I discover, seems incredible even to believers. Therefore, if it be valid, the reasons should be set forth. Is there a correlation between militant atheism and authoritarianism, on the one hand, and between the Creator concept and freedom, on the other? I think there is.
Holbach (1723-89), one of the Encyclopedists and an opponent of Christianity, had written a book advocating atheism. The book fell into the hands of Frederick the Great, who asked Voltaire for his views. The book has eloquence but no proof, Voltaire declared, and contains matter pernicious to Prince and people alike. His letter closed with these words: “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him. But all Nature cries aloud that He does exist, that there is a Supreme Intelligence, an Immense Power, an Admirable Order, and everything teaches us our own dependence on it.”
Voltaire’s statement falls into two distinct parts: (1) If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him, and (2) He does exist. I shall comment on the latter first, and only casually, because it is the former—the necessity of God—that I wish to examine in order to give my answer to “What seek ye first?”
As to the existence of a Supreme Intelligence, there are atheists on the one side of the question, and theists on the other—with deists, agnostics, and other shades in between. Apparently, The Existence is as unthinkable to the atheist as his tenets of ultimate meaningless are baffling to me.
I can only suggest that possibly his life thus far may be barren of certain perceptions or spiritual experiences that fall into the noncommunicable category—the kind that no one else’s word can be taken for. The mind barely outruns experience. Or else the would-be atheist is rebelling against a notion of the deity he should have outgrown in boyhood.1
How Little Each of Us Knows
Let’s pause for a look at ourselves as related to the Infinite Mystery. How difficult it is to appreciate the littleness of our private wisdom, awareness, perception, consciousness! The tendency is to compare one’s self with one’s fellows which, more often than not, leads to the conclusion, “What a bright boy am I!”
Infinite time, space, consciousness, or whatever, cannot be fractionalized. However, to help with my point, assume The Infinite to be The Whole—all-there-is. Based on the incontrovertible fact that the more one knows the more is one exposed to the unknown, it would be an exaggeration for me to claim awareness of one trillionth of all-there-is. Now, for the sake of speculation, assume that you are fifty times as richly endowed as I. You would still possess only fifty trillionths of all-there-is!
I am merely suggesting that no person is any more than an intellectual mite, a spiritual speck in the Cosmic Scheme. The political officeholder who recently intimated that he and his bureaucratic staff now had the will and the power to maintain an ever-expanding economy may be less a speck than you or I, for he doesn’t even know how little he knows. The oft-heard statement, “We have doubled our knowledge in the past decade,” means no more to me than a leap from one trillionth to two trillionths! Why, it is easily demonstrable that no living person knows anything, really, about himself; a few superficial observations are all that any person can rightfully claim.
Parenthetically, being an intellectual and spiritual speck does not spell insignificance. The atom is significant!
Three other facts about human beings that are relevant to this analysis: First, while each person is no more than a tiny speck, each is unique; there are no carbon copies; the variation is all-pervasive; no two souls are alike in any respect.2
Second, we are extremely active specks, each being, to some extent, a self-steering entity. In a word, we have some control over what phases of our personalities will be active and, also, what directions the activities will take.
And, third, each of us has the potentiality for growth in awareness, perception, consciousness.
To summarize the above sketchy view of the situation, there are on this earth some three billion comparative know-nothings, not an exception! Each has the potentiality to grow in awareness; each sees but a fragment, but what is seen by any one is not seen precisely the same by any other; each possesses energy, but no two exert or direct it identically.
Contemplate this host of energetic entities, differing in every respect, and then assume that not one of them is aware of a Creation over and beyond his infinitesimally small mentality. In short, reflect on a world of active, militant atheists; each one completely egocentric, which is to say, believing in his own omniscience—egoism in the saddle! Only I am right; all who do not agree precisely with me are off course; in a word, three billion abysmally ignorant individuals, each preoccupied with his own righteousness.
We must bear in mind that these three billion energetic entities constitute an enormous force. But, a force to what purpose? Unless a Supreme Intelligence, an Infinite Consciousness, a First Principle be conceded, there is no integrative attracting center.3 These varied entities are propelled by their energies every which way, a societal situation at sixes and sevens; in a word, chaos!
Man has no affinity for social chaos; as a matter of fact, he will pay about any price for social order, and order there will be.4 But how? All history attests to the answer: The cleverest and most energetic know-nothing will take over, not on a mutual-consent basis, because there is no mutuality of minds; the take-over will be achieved by the use of coercion. Some one know-nothing will forcibly impose his own concept of rightness on all the others. There can be no more freedom in this arrangement than in godless Russia, and for the same reason.
Man with his built-in variations and lively energies cannot achieve his earthly destiny—his potentiality to grow in awareness, perception, consciousness—where all human energy exerts itself in helter-skelter fashion. Conceded, deviant forces are tolerable—there can be both passive and active atheists—but it is an absolute requirement that there be an integrative force—belief in God—more powerful than the deviant forces. Voltaire could have had no reason, other than this, for repeating the old saying: “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him”! Put another way, it is necessary that there be men, sufficient to establish a prevailing tendency, who are drawn to an Infinite Ideal. Lecomte du Noüy phrased it this way, “To really participate in the divine task, man must place his ideal as high as possible, out of reach if necessary.”5 God—Infinite Consciousness—is assuredly out of reach.
A Goal Worth Pursuing
In what manner does the recognition of an Infinite Consciousness serve as an integrative force? First, it puts us, the creatures, in proper perspective. It is easily demonstrable that the individual consciousness is potentially expansible. But, regardless of progress, there is no end to achievement, for this Ideal, being infinite, is always and forever out of reach. Thus, humility is induced, the sense of know-it-all-ness demolished. It is axiomatic that the know-it-all cannot grow in knowing; only when one is emptied of such egotism can the individual grow in the direction of his potential uniqueness. The acceptance of God draws the individual toward the highest conceivable Ideal, this attraction being toward a harmony with Being or Natural Law.
To assess the second way in which a recognition of the Creator concept serves as a harmonizing force, we need only acknowledge the central presupposition of the Infinite Consciousness idea: the immortality of the individual spirit or consciousness. Reduced to its essence, this earthly moment is only the beginning; consciousness, the reality, is eternal, retaining its growth potential. Once this is accepted and lived by, the individual seeks approval of the Eternal Ideal; his prime objective cannot be fame before men. Daily actions have a higher guide than momentary expediency; whatever one does is premised on his highest concept of rightness and righteousness. The accurate reflection, in word and deed, of one’s highest concept of Truth, is integrity in its highest form, this being the cohesive agent without which man in his variation and specialization cannot exist.6 Integrity’s integrative quality is a harmonizing force.
The third manner in which this spiritual faith serves as a harmonizing force is its cultivation of tolerance.7 Once an individual grasps the idea that he, as all others, is a child of Creation, that each is varied, and is meant to be, all inclination to mastermind others dissolves; the notion becomes absurd. Those with varying systems of thought are no longer condemned but, instead, inspected for what light they may shed. If no light, let them pass; if some light, use it to grow by. To rule or to try to reform others is not to play God; it is to work against God. The Creator does not forcibly impose the Kingdom on anyone. Why, then, should I take unto myself a role that the Creator has spurned? Intolerance is a divisive, driving-away force; tolerance is a harmonizing, ingathering force. Daily experiences confirm this.
One Nation Under God
Man, among animals, being both social and individualistic, cannot be too much torn asunder from others. At stake in his relations with others is nothing less than survival, for man’s differences, specializations, variations must be more complementary than antagonistic—an economic fact of life. I repeat, the harmonizing forces must, to avoid disaster, be stronger than the combined divisive forces. This brings me to the fourth, and by far the most important, way that the Creator concept serves as such a force. Reflect on what might be called the intellectual love of God. Love, in this deepest sense, is a process which, in completion, spells enlightenment. The Supreme Intelligence is the source of all creation, of all Truth or enlightenment, even of all the little truths we come upon and call our own. Those of this spiritual faith have their eyes turned ever toward The Light that they may better find their way to enlightenment; it is this that is the love of God, the strongest harmonizing force there is. To the extent that one succeeds in the Divine Venture, to that extent does one share in Creation.
The question, “I don’t have to believe in God to believe in freedom, do I?” is like asking, “I don’t have to believe in an end to believe in its means, do I?” For freedom is the primary means to the highest end; at best, it is a secondary end. The primary aim of earthly life, in the view of believers, is not “these things,” but “the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.” It is to expand individual consciousness into as near a harmony as possible with Infinite Consciousness. Freedom is the first and absolutely necessary means to this end. Anyone who in any way frustrates the freedom of another to act creatively acts against the Supreme Intelligence, this being the gravest of evils.8
It is impossible for man to act consistently except as he reasons from a fundamental point of reference, a major premise. This is to be found in the answer to “What seek ye first?” If the answer be wrong, he will act consistently but in error. To act consistently and rationally, his answer must be correct. To act consistently, rationally, and correctly, it is my conviction that his answer must be, “the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.” For I share, unreservedly, what Voltaire observed, “All Nature cries aloud that there is a Supreme Intelligence, an Immense Power, an Admirable Order, and everything teaches us our own dependence on It.”
Conceding the Kingdom to be the major premise, the one from which all lesser premises are deduced, it follows, then, that our dependence on the Kingdom is complete, and that our abiding by It is The Way, the only way. Get off course, as we say, and devolution—another dark age—will assuredly be our lot, this being the Cosmic signal to again get on course. Get back on, and there’ll be another upsurge in evolution—man growing, emerging, evolving in awareness, perception, consciousness. Human destiny!
Perhaps the separation of Church and State—a necessary break-up of power—has been, in some measure, responsible for the popular fallacy that spiritual faith and earthly concerns belong in two distinctly separate compartments. Many people seem to think that it is enough to doff our hat to God on the Sabbath and ignore him during the work-a-day week; they feel that matters of the spirit are for the churches and matters of the flesh for secular educational efforts, that the Kingdom of God and “these things” are in unrelated realms, that a concern for one’s immortal soul is for the confessional, but not for the market place, that spiritual faith and political economy don’t mix.
Man may separate or decentralize his organizations, often to advantage. But man’s soul is of a piece and cannot be “worn on the sleeve” without fracturing. One’s soul, the distinctive feature of being human, is exclusively spiritual in content. What else than spiritual are such qualities as integrity, belief, understanding, tolerance, kindness, charity, humility, conscience, perception, thinking, willing, intuiting? As a pool of water cannot be polluted at any point without pollution of the pool, so the soul cannot be corrupted here or there, now or then, without damage to the whole!
A Spiritual Performance
All human actions, as well as every artifact by which we live and grow and prosper, are spiritual in their roots.9 “These things” are the fruits; they are dividends, whose nature and abundance will be determined by how the souls of men are structured—not so much on Sundays, or only in the churches, or entirely in the hideaways of privacy but, even more, in the whole scope of every day, and every place, and every thing. Each precious moment gives a living answer to what the soul seeks first, be the firsts fickle, or inconsistent, or expedient—or, happily, the First of all firsts.
What seek ye first? Actions speak louder than words; therefore, as for me, my daily living must testify before nonbelievers as in my prayers, as much during the week as on the Sabbath, in the market place as in a House of Worship: the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.
This view, instead of being shied away from or mumbled apologetically, is announced openly and proudly once we glimpse, if ever so dimly, our place in Creation’s Design, what late-comers we are on the Cosmic Scene, how little we know, and what some of our startling problems are. An awareness of our unawareness helps mightily in recognizing that we are not gods but, instead, Creation’s children, that such consciousness as we possess is but an infinitesimal perception of Infinite Consciousness. So, let me try to view the human situation through that tiny aperture which is mine. . . .