The life of the Spirit, or, in other words, the true religious life, is not a life of mere contemplation or a life of inactivity. As Fichte, in "The Way Toward the Blessed Life," has said: " True religion, notwithstanding that it raises the view of those who are inspired by it to its own region, nevertheless, retains their Life firmly in the domain of action, and of right moral action. . . . Religion is not a business by and for itself which a man may practise apart from his other occupations, perhaps on certain fixed days and hours; but it is the inmost spirit that penetrates, inspires, and pervades all our Thought and Action, which in other respects pursue their appointed course without change or interruption. That the Divine Life and Energy actually lives in us is inseparable from Religion."
How thoroughly this is in keeping with the thought of the highly illumined seer, Sweden-borg, is indicated when he says: " The Lord's Kingdom is a Kingdom of ends and uses."
And again: " Forsaking the world means loving God and the neighbour; and God is loved when a man lives according to His commandments, and the neighbour is loved when a man performs uses." And still again: " To be of use means to desire the welfare of others for the sake of the common good; and not to be of use means to desire the welfare of others not for the sake of the common good but for one's own sake. ... In order that man may receive heavenly life he must live in the world and engage in its business and occupations, and thus by a moral and civil life acquire spiritual life. In no other way can spiritual life be generated in man, or his spirit be prepared for heaven."
We hear much today both in various writings and in public utterances of " the spiritual " and " the spiritual life." I am sure that to the great majority of men and women the term spiritual, or better, the spiritual life, means something, but something by no means fully tangible or clear-cut. I shall be glad indeed if I am able to suggest a more comprehensible concept of it, or putting it in another form and better perhaps, to present a more clear-cut portraiture of the spiritual life in expression - in action.
And first let us note that in the mind and in the teachings of Jesus there is no such thing as the secular life and the religious life. His ministry pertained to every phase of life. The truth that he taught was a truth that was to permeate every thought and every act of life.
We make our arbitrary divisions. We are too apt to deny the fact that the Lord is the Lord of the week-day, the same as He is the Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus refused to be bound by any such consideration. He taught that every act that is a good act, every act that is of service to mankind is not only a legitimate act to be done on the Sabbath day, but an act that should be performed on the Sabbath day. And any act that is not right and legitimate for the Sabbath day is neither right nor legitimate for the week-day. In other words, it is the spirit of righteousness that must permeate and must govern every act of life and every moment of life.
In seeking to define the spiritual life, it were better to regard the world as the expression of the Divine mind. The spirit is the life; the world and all things in it, the material to be moulded, raised, and transmuted from the lower to the higher. This is indeed the law of evolution, that has been through all the ages and that today is at work. It is the God-Power that is at work and every form of useful activity that helps on with this process of lifting and bettering is a form of Divine activity.
If therefore we recognise the one Divine life working in and through all, the animating force, therefore the Life of all, and if we are consciously helping in this process we are spiritual men.
No man of intelligence can fail to recognise the fact that life is more important than things. Life is the chief thing, and material things are the elements that minister to, that serve the purposes of the life, Whoever does anything in the world to preserve life, to better its conditions, who, recognising the Divine force at work lifting life up always to better, finer conditions, is doing God's work in the world - because cooperating with the great Cosmic world plan.
The ideal, then, is men and women of the spirit, open and responsive always to its guidance, recognising the Divine plan and the Divine ideal, working cooperatively in the world to make all conditions of life fairer, finer, more happy. He who lives and works not as an individual, that is not for his good alone, but who recognises the essential oneness of life - is carrying out his share of the Divine plan.
A man may be unusually gifted; he may have unusual ability in business, in administration; he may be a giant in finance, in administration, but if for self alone, if lack of vision blinds him to the great Divine plan, if he does not recognise his relative place and value; if he gains his purposes by selfishness, by climbing over others, by indifference to human pain or suffering - oblivious to human welfare - his ways are the ways of the jungle. His mind and his life are purely sordid, grossly and blindly self-centred - wholly material. He gains his object, but by Divine law not happiness, not satisfaction, not peace. He is outside the Kingdom of Heaven - the kingdom of harmony. He is living and working out of harmony with the Divine mind that is evolving a higher order of life in the world. He is blind too, he is working against the Divine plan.
Now what is the Divine call? Can he be made into a spiritual man? Yes. A different understanding, a different motive, a different object - then will follow a difference in methods. Instead of self alone he will have a sense of, he will have a call to service. And this man, formerly a hinderer in the Divine plan, becomes a spiritual giant. His splendid powers and his qualities do not need to be changed. Merely his motives and thereby his methods, and he is changed into a giant engine of righteousness. He is a part of the great world force and plan. He is doing his part in the great world work - he is a coworker with God. And here lies salvation. Saved from self and the dwarfed and stunted condition that will follow, his spiritual nature unfolds and envelops his entire life. His powers and his wealth are thereafter to bless mankind. But behold! by another great fundamental law of life in doing this he is blessed ten, a hundred, a millionfold.
Material prosperity is or may become a true gain, a veritable blessing. But it can become a curse to the world and still more to its possessor when made an end in itself, and at the expense of all the higher attributes and powers of human life.
We have reason to rejoice that a great change of estimate has not only begun but is now rapidly creeping over the world. He of even a generation ago who piled and piled, but who remained ignorant of the more fundamental laws of life, blind to the law of mutuality and service, would be regarded today as a low, beastly type. I speak advisedly. It is this obedience to the life of the spirit that Whitman had in mind when he said: " And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own funeral drest in his shroud." It was the full flowering of the law of mutuality and service that he saw when he said: " I saw a city invincible to the attacks of the whole of the rest of the earth. I dream'd that it was the new City of Friends. Nothing was greater there than the quality of robust love; it led the rest. It was seen every hour in the actions of the men of that city and in all their looks and words." It is through obedience to this life of the spirit that order is brought out of chaos in the life of the individual and in the life of the community, in the business world, the labour world, and in our great world relations.