August 10, 2016
The first idea to understand about spiritual understanding is that no one ever attains it without first striving for it. As Charles Fillmore emphasizes in The Twelve Powers, each of our creative faculties of mind is a potential power. The development of these powers to their fullest expression is not an automatic process, nor is it even guaranteed. In short, if we don’t look for it, we will never find it. If we do not ask for it, we will not receive it.
In the Hebrew scriptures, we learn that King Solomon’s “wisdom” was the result of his having asked for it. As the story goes, Jehovah appeared to Solomon in a dream and directed him to “ask what I shall give thee.” In reply, Solomon entreats:
“Give thy servant therefore an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and evil.”
Because Solomon asked for an “understanding heart” rather than wealth for himself, Jehovah not only granted Solomon’s request, but also granted him “both riches and honor.” This part of Solomon’s story resonates with Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:33 to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be added.”
Like so many aspects of the development of our spiritual nature, to achieve the full potential of any one of our creative powers requires a persevering willingness on our part to exercise, condition and refine that power into its ultimate expression.
Long before we achieve mastery, we have to first see the value or usefulness in developing the power, then have the desire to do so, and then act on that desire to bring it into our experience. Unless we willingly cross the threshold between our desire and action, no one of our creative or spiritual powers stands a chance of achieving its fullest expression. Fortunately, virtually anyone from any walk of life has the potential to achieve this end.
What Exactly Is Spiritual Understanding Anyway?
To get a handle on the power of spiritual understanding, it is best to first understand that it is often likened to knowledge, intelligence and wisdom. While there are some subtle connotations among these that resonate or intersect with it, the activity or power of understanding is actually quite different from those three. Likewise, understanding is also often confused with the power of judgment or discernment. Once again, closely related but different. While parsing the subtle differences among these is not our main objective here, for now, some broad stroke distinctions among them will be helpful in understanding spiritual understanding.
First, the process of understanding is an activity of the human mind, an active power of creative potential. Knowledge, intelligence and wisdom generally do not imply activity. They are more like nouns, symbolizing things, or in metaphysical terms, divine ideas. At the level of Divine Mind, there is no need for power of understanding, but there is a sure need of it in the mind of humankind. Knowledge, intelligence and wisdom reside in the realm of Divine Mind as perfect ideas of truth and are independent of understanding. Charles Fillmore acknowledged that wisdom is above all the other powers and that knowledge and intelligence are auxiliary to wisdom.
As an active creative power of humankind, understanding has access to all objective knowledge, intelligence or wisdom, yet is a separate idea altogether. Understanding is not knowledge, intelligence or wisdom. Yet, understanding is dependent upon knowledge and intelligence if wisdom is ever to be achieved.
The power of understanding is an intuitive faculty of human mind activity that enables us to derive meaning from objective knowledge, intelligence or wisdom.
There is a similar potential for confusion among truth students and teachers regarding the nature and character of the power of understanding, compared to the power of judgment or as I prefer to call it, the power of discernment. The primary distinction between these twin powers is that judgment or discernment is primarily a thinking or rational activity that mostly takes place in the left brain, while the power of understanding is an intuitive activity occurring more in the right brain.
Judgment or discernment can think through and reason out the facts and circumstances to determine truth, while the power of understanding intuitively gleans meaning from that truth. Stated another way, judgment or discernment reason out the truth, while understanding determines truth’s meaning.
Humankind’s Flawed Understanding of the Mind
In the chapter on spiritual law and order in The Twelve Powers, Fillmore asserts that man can never master his experience until “he knows who and what he is.” To Fillmore, humankind’s biggest failing is a “flawed understanding” of the true nature of our being anew the true relationship between humankind and God, or Divine Mind. This misunderstanding is ultimately the cause of most of the drama and suffering on the planet.
Over time, many writers, philosophers, poets and mystics have opined on the nature of being. Over time, two basic schools of metaphysical thought have emerged in the body of literature on the subject. The first school is that of philosophers like Kant, Hegel and Schopenhauer who maintain that the study of the mind and its faculties is an intellectual pursuit. The other school is that of the great spiritual or religious writers throughout history who treat mind as a spiritual inquiry, seeing mind as an effect caused by “Spirit and soul.” Because compilers of dictionaries typically only source the “intellectual” school for definitions, over time mankind has adopted a flawed and incomplete understanding of mind. By extension, our “incomplete understanding” is the flaw that leads to the misunderstanding of the nature of being itself.
Understanding the Two Realms of Mind
At the most fundamental level, the activity of mind is broadly divided into two realms. The first is the realm of “pure ideas and pure logic,” which forms the basis for all spiritual principle or law. This is also the realm of Divine Mind, where truth or principle never changes, is everywhere present and universally available to all, always. All objective “knowledge, intelligence or wisdom” resides in the realm of Divine Mind as divine ideas. In the human mind, we access these divine ideas more in the subconscious (intuitive) mind, rather than the conscious (thinking) mind.
The second realm resides in the “conscious mind” of all human beings. This is the realm of the mind where human thought activity concerns itself with reason (judgment or discernment) and the relationship of mind (or human consciousness) to the external world. The conscious mind is the domain of all thinking activity. Yet, it is also this realm of mind where we have the potential to activate and exercise our creative powers. For example, the exercise of our will is largely a rational, left brained action. As stated at the beginning, in order to achieve understanding we have to first desire it, then we have to decide to go for it. However, if we have a “flawed understanding” of the nature of our being, then the exercise of our creative powers wI’ll in turn produces flawed results.
The Metaphysical Science of Jesus, Einstein & Fillmore
As described above, the two schools of metaphysical thought have largely maintained separate identities, with the intellectual school being favored in terms of popularly defining the nature of being, and by extension, the nature of the mind.
The teachings of Jesus time and again use spiritual principle (or scientific law) to communicate the metaphysical truth of beingness. In his parables, Jesus routinely communicated the truth of being and the principles of spiritual law governing all life activity. He explained in many ways the effects and consequences of both the right use, or misuse, of spiritual principle. Studying the teachings of Jesus is always a worthy pursuit for someone looking to develop their power of spiritual understanding. In this way, Jesus could be said to be a metaphysical scientist, maybe the first to communicate so thoroughly, but certainly not the last.
Like Jesus, Albert Einstein too could lay claim to being a metaphysical scientist. Einstein frequently encountered the question of whether, as a scientist, he believed in God. In response, Einstein would answer that he did not believe in a God that “maliciously or arbitrarily interferes in the personal affairs of mankind.” However, he would add that his “religion consists of an humble admiration for the vast power which manifests itself in that small part of the universe, which our poor, weak minds can grasp.”
Like Jesus, and Charles Fillmore for that matter, Einstein would agree that humankind largely misunderstands the true nature of being, and therefore the creative power that is available for the correct expression of our being. However, Einstein also strongly believed that anyone from any walk of life could correct a “flawed understanding” through a conscious willingness to do so. He also believed there is a connection between spiritual understanding and intuition. Fillmore recounts a quote attributed to Einstein in a 1930 article in American Magazine that provides the perfect summation for this article.
“Every man knows that in his work he does best and accomplishes most when he has attained a proficiency that enables him to work intuitively. That is, there are things which we come to know so well that we do not know how we know them. So it seems to me in matters of principle that perhaps we live best and do things best when we are not too conscious of how and why we do them.”
Einstein’s statement is as clear a description of the truth implied by the power of spiritual understanding as any made by Charles Fillmore or Jesus. In all of humankind, there is a knowing capacity that transcends intellectual knowledge. Each one of us has the potential to achieve that level of intuitive, spiritual understanding. But first, we have to desire it. Then, we have to take action to accomplish it. We can never find it, unless we consciously look for it. And, until we begin looking for it, we will continue to demonstrate a flawed understanding of its creative power.