FOLLOW the Church bell back to the village, and into the village through to that church. Come out again and hear one hundred church-bells and know that the pinnacles from which they call, extend far over one hundred, one thousand - over a planet, in most regions of the Globe.
The holy forefathers of the church envisioned this with hopes aflame. It may have been difficult enough penetrating country after custom, without the added toil of rock upon rock, building the edifice of faith. We looked to the day when all men should have a church which was local to them. No matter what the overall condition was, it was indeed important for them to have a dwelling which was not inhabited by men - visited, but not inhabited - whereby the Holy Spirit could infill. One which was not contaminated by lowly thoughts, but was set aside with definite purpose, as a statement from men of their love of God the Father, Christ our Protector and Heaven with all her emissaries (not to forget those saints and holy men to whom we are endeared also).
Think of the hopes and also the aspiration, as it was said "Where there are men we shall build a church - or perhaps a great cathedral!" This is civilization at its best. Many, many changes occurred because of this exodus into society and suburb. What was once priority to build a bathhouse or theater became 'the church'.
Formerly, yes, there had always been temples and libraries where scholars could frequent. So too, the many dwellings of all manner of worship and subsequent revelation which were of God, but excluding Christ.
Christianity is very young! Twenty centuries is of little account in the face of men and their adopted reasonings. One would have to say that Christianity was born, but was apparent before its birth; as the infant waivers about the parents before conception.
Similarly, if it were not for a certain few (relatively) there should not have been the advancement into the world as was. For the greatest of powers may not find repose in an unwelcome bosom. There had to be 'takers' - good soil for good seed - and much preparation tens of thousands of years before His coming.
We shall return to the matter of the churches. It is obvious to say that whilst some are full of eager spirits, many are quite empty and under-used. However, more remarkably than that are those societies whose majority do not frequent them all. Not even at Christmas! Because of this we are bound to ask why this is so. For the original vision of erecting our churches in more popular times, offered their community many varieties in many locations. Still, the youth are not drawn, the lonely have withdrawn, the cynical are without.
A congregation would double within a week if each was supplied with an armchair- an armchair and a footstool. (The footstool would make good kneeling apparatus!) The wood of a pew is very beautiful of course, and the emanations from such are undoubtedly of value.
There should be many a protest, as they would suggest that one does not enter a church that they may be so comfortable as to fall asleep. However, how much the better if they are comfortable and content, with the simplest of needs met. One can change a format you know. Perhaps this is the least of issues and yet at the forefront of attitude and the question of opinions and their value. One does not sit their guests upon a bench-seat. One does not choose a bench-seat in preference to a comfy chair - why deny ourselves or our guests?
Observe one who has just 'settled' into the comfortable chair - there is an almighty breathing out (a large sigh) followed by deeper, relaxed rhythmical rises and falls of the chest. The face is not taut, the composure not strained, the 'wildness' of the man has been calmed. Contrary to this, place him on an awkward seat: he does derive the benefit of a properly placed back, but is consciously or unconsciously aware of the displacement of bony bits and fat. The length of time to be endured in one cannot be compared to the other.
Of course there is a splendid inference of community brought about by shared seating; although whether or not this is genuinely enjoyed is another matter.
One may be solemn without being tense. One should enter into a church similarly as one enters into death, and vice versa. In this one would hope for comfort, for reconciliation within, for sanctuary from the busy and erratic affairs of men, for commune with kindred souls and great affections, physical and spiritual warmth, the strength, experience and expression which comes with combined prayer and song, perspicacious thinking- one's home for soul and spirit as differing from that place which we call our everyday home; these and more.
We expect in any case, that a church be inviting. That one would by choice desire to be there above any other, to look forward with lively interest, and that it not be conducted like a business forum, nor with such somber composures as does meet the grave today. Relaxed, and with vitality!
There seems to be a contradiction but it is not so. Vitality does not imply fanaticism nor the mechanics of ritualistic overstimulation within a susceptible low-ego congregation. Vitality comes when the individual is so relaxed as to release his personal demons and submit them to holy reformation; relaxed, that he might surface the consciousness with a pure mind receiving pure insights; relaxed that worldly strains, cares and criticisms may dissolve along with wanton illness; relaxed that he may separate himself and fellow companions from an all-too-binding personality which over-presumes the true individuality. It is essential therefore, for a man to come to worship in a condition of body and mind and attitude which is relaxed.
It is wise therefore if anger or such words that might provoke anger, should be avoided by all speakers. There is a place for social forums to be aired with political allusions (generally by contemptuous people), but it does break the disposition of holy reverence to be exposed to the emanations which angry words expel and draw. It is preferable, far preferable, that all words issued are sympathetic and not antipathetic. One can be sympathetic to joy, as to sorrow, as to God, however that which is antipathy brings with it tensions which are no longer responsive to the remedy.
It must be said that not one church has failed. Insomuch as the men who did carry forth what necessarily began only as a vision - each and every church is a testament to the courage of men: courage to put Heaven first.
And it is not only the entity and establishment and the legacy left after both have dissipated, it is also the offshoot organizations which actually become entities also, because of the central 'lighthouse' of faith. The overall influence gives attributes to the surrounding community; as does a resident monastery also. The community will prosper with beings who are so attracted, assisting in all manner of organizations, bringing elements necessary to their continuance, to their cognition. For whether in business or in institution, certain elements are altogether necessary as ingredients to that survival and maintenance of that entity. And all aspects must run in compliance with one another, similarly to characteristics in which an individual is mixed.
The Roman Catholic Church evolved along these lines of itself, whereby the original hierarchical entity brought to it those attributes which could motivate almost any organization envisaged and designed. Well apart from radiating much of this to the general surrounding population, such influence and force turned within itself, incorporating elements which would best have suited general society. It succeeded however, in becoming 'worldly' successful - with now an emphasis in exoteric enterprise and commitment.
It is not enough to be both - to be so worldly active with political interests and then pretend to be committed firstly to Heaven. The Moslems cannot make this distinction either. One is one or the other in order of priority, one cannot prioritize both; and this is an unsavory idiocy which only provokes bad judgment.
The matters of the world shall always tire, and in time, fail to give over to that which is 'inspired' afresh. Pursuits of the world and of men are just fragments, and a church is best confined to exploits of nurture, of healing, of feeding; if it is to be involved in the world at large. However, if it is to hold investments and controlling interests in corporations and local governments; and become distinctive as to who its 'preferred' souls are. . . then it gives over to the world and is a sham instead of divine representative.
Again however, one must stress that it is perhaps an evolvement to be expected, and that entities as brought about by men may move onto some other body of men who are most 'like' the entity, as was originally inspired. You cannot necessarily expect the entity to indefinitely bond with a group which is in name only; and furthermore, it shall remain if it is to be furthered, but not if it is without 'feeding' - feeding of the stuff which it is colored by (characterized by).
And so in others, that which was and is the original Roman Catholic Church may be most happily attuned and expressing itself in some remote region of central Africa, or conversely (and most likely), be dwelling amongst the Shi’ite Moslems - working an influence there also.
Many an oriental entity was drawn into the early church. Many a corresponding entity has passed through the doors of the highest spiritual passion. And many a newborn takes shape and form and becomes 'inspired' by men with original trends in pronouncing a future world.
The church as entity - or more correctly, a multiplicity of entities - relies on a daily account of exactly the expression it has to offer. The merit, the character, of each unique body of men, deigns exactly what shall be brought to them, and what becomes of their signatory being. The 'mascot' was a symbol of this, so too the totem and the sacred animal. If the ego-consciousness of the group is inclined to be encouraged to be suppressed, then it can happen that the entity as born from the people, begins to dictate and persuade the group as a whole.
Unison need not be divorced from individuality of those united. True community is only realized when men have developed a corresponding condition within themselves.
If the consciousness is at a low ebb and requires external stimulation to determine judgment, if it cannot be aroused by internal discernment, if a man gives over his powers to some other agent, then he cannot develop aspects whilst denying them. And if he cannot develop, he may not come to full attainment of those specifics required to meet with his own humanity. If he cannot meet with his own humanity, he clearly cannot distinguish or experience community with fellow men. He may give over to the appearance of such, with little or no qualified love or ability to truly do so.
Of course, in part and fully, we do not have to be five-star souls to enable us to embrace our community, but we are speaking of yet a fuller realization than is known now. How wonderful to think that by such individual development we do not draw away from fellow men, but indeed move much closer. This is the nature of true comprehension*.
We are fortunate to be enabled to fill with virtue and divine knowledge in the manner that a fruit fills with water until it swells against the skin. And our development is all the more possible when our endeavors run aside those of our friends and fellows. Pick your friends well!
Returning to the concept of comfortable chairs in church: we should wonder at our readiness to dismiss such a notion. Why the protests? And we should question our perspective and consideration of worship in the face of such issues as personal comfort corresponding with such.
If one is fortunate to have beverages, heating and fabrics for upholstery, one can certainly make the initial effort to echo such comforts as are known and experienced, without being overly lavish in the enterprise. If indeed the fittings and the comforts were commensurate with those of the Dorchester, or any lounge of a five-star hotel, what would be the bother? You know people would certainly attend - and happily!
Why the argument as to 'common folk' enjoying such comfort? This does not mean that one introduces a casino (and we might add that Bingo is an undesirable evil as any), nor that one needs paid help or the trappings of a wine bar. But one can get a 'feel' for an environment which has all the attributes of absolute comfort as well as beauty.
Comfort is very different to sensual pleasure which may be overindulged. As described before, it heals the weary, and provides for an even state of mind; a reflective repose. To be and feel 'womb held': this is common that men seek such a basic longing.
The church is the portal between this our Earth, and these our Heavens. Before death and rebirth we stand before God and expose our hearts to Him. All that we are is before Him. The church lessens our grief and enables us to come to Him before death calls. And He is the greatest comforter of all.
*[In Anglicanism comprehension (or comprehensiveness) refers to theological inclusiveness and liturgical breadth.]
From the Spiritual Science Discussion Group:
You can be relaxed in any environment, any chair, any temperature, anywhere, anytime; if you think of yourself as a spirit, rather than a body....Rise above the bench. Rise above it all........and stay there.....
The Brother’s reply:
If one were to follow this statement (in relation to comfortable churches) it may also then follow that there would be no need for the 'spirit' to be within a church at all ... indeed the spirit, rather than the body, can rise above all conditions to refer in prayer, in contemplation, in ecstasy, in devotion, and draw into the physical world many heavenly influences without. Yes, that is one way of perceiving the spiritual in Man.
However, we would go on to suggest that the work placed within churches is that of a collective force - it begets a community of men who are effectual in the spiritual worlds (and back again into the physical) in ways which are not possible for those working solely on their own.
The task of such 'working' alongside other men - of praying together, of directing thought, of partaking in the event of the Sacraments - this work within the church is obviously more powerful when the homogeny is happy. Now, of course it is difficult in the best of conditions given that men are apt to wear many individual problems which follow them into the congregational mix. But even so, if the sanctified space has been maintained properly, there shall be much in this regard made impotent for the time within ...
What is reckoned and actual is the time spent together within those walls moment to moment. And, moment to moment, comfort rather than discomfort, beauty rather than ugliness, fragrance in preference to stench, congenial humor in place of bad temperedness... these will predispose the community as a group to be further enabled into a relaxed and open spirituality combined.
The term 'relax', is used primarily within our teachings to explain a condition of the ego whereby we can take in to ourselves - rather than by definition, just merely falling asleep (although this was discussed).
Prayer can be willful; in which case there would be no need to 'take in' as it were - and yet how wonderful it is when a man in his spiritual transactions can bring into his heart, his being and this world, that which has answered the longings of all.
From our perspective, the time for asceticism is truthfully behind. Men everywhere actually need comfort, help and supplication. These things are not devilish, nor a sign of 'weakness' which is to be ignored. All cries are heard and bring answer, and if we are to be self-appointed agents for the divine then a little assistance, understanding and provision, is surely what is expected and hoped for, from us to our brothers, with all of the care and consideration that it takes.
The proof that development does not come easily is there before us. And during the time that it takes, men require as much help as they can get. Further to this must be the compassionate and patient perspective alongside the assistance - else the help shall be short-lived.
The greater point here though is: if we can 'rise above' the discomforts then that is well and good - but wouldn't it be to greater purpose if we gave cushions to those who can't yet make it?
If the sun rose twice in one day, would men call this two days?