Understanding & Help
J. G. Bennett
Understanding and Help- J.G. Bennett << download as Word doc
UNDERSTANDING AND HELP
Talk given in 6 June 1965
J.G. Bennett / From Sunday Talks at Coombe Springs / excerpts only
We should keep in front of us that we are beings capable of growth, development and transformation, not beings destined to remain such as we are. The meaning of our lives is not to be found in what we are now, but in what we can become. The conditions for this growth and development are in part provided for us, but we have also in part to create them ourselves. We are provided with nourishment of three kinds: Nature gives us nourishment for our bodies; human culture gives us psychic nourishment; and we are provided with spiritual nourishment from a spiritual Source. But we cannot benefit by all this provision unless a certain minimum cooperation comes from ourselves. We have to work in order to pay for and profit from the food that is made available to us by the working of Nature, and this work, in one way or another, has to be done. If we do not do it ourselves, someone else has to do it for us, and we must not forget that in that case we are in debt, because someone has done for us what we were required to do for ourselves.
The same is true of our psychic nourishment. We can receive this nourishment passively, by allowing other people to influence, encourage, support us, but if we do not make our own contribution corresponding to the nourishment we receive, here again we are in debt.
The same is not less true of our spiritual nourishment. This nourishment is being poured into the stream of human life and we can take it out; but there is a difference here from the other kinds, and that is that it is not possible for someone else to do the work for us, or only in a very limited degree. That is, things which draw us towards a greater reality can be given to us, like psychic nourishment, through things that interest and excite us, but when it comes to the true spiritual nourishment, we have to recognize it, value it, take it in and make use of it ourselves.
All three forms of nourishment are for our growth: the growth of our physical body, the growth of our psychic body, the growth of our spiritual body. But this is not the whole story. There is also our will, which also requires something it requires help, which is different from nourishment. This help firstly resides in the conditions which make it possible for us to begin to feel that we are able to meet the call and the hope of our life. It may therefore appear as a challenge, which even sometimes withholds the nourishment so that we are obliged to bestir ourselves in order to obtain it. So that sometimes this help appears to us as if it is something against our growth, as if it were depriving us of something that we need. This we do not understand unless we realize that, without this challenge, this other part of us—which is the part where our will must be present—cannot find itself.
There has therefore to be a certain distinction between the growth which comes from the different kinds of nourishment; and the strengthening of this other part in us. This part is strengthened firstly by overcoming difficulties and secondly by the clarification of what we truly wish for. What we wish for is what we serve. Wish is the magnet which draws us towards something to which we will give our service. Our service depends upon our understanding. The will of man, without understanding, is like a headless chicken. If we do not understand how to direct our wish, our desire to serve is drawn towards ourselves. It can be service towards our self-love or our fears, or habits, in which case that is where our wish is and that is where our will remains imprisoned. It can be as high as we choose to make it; that is, we can wish to serve the very highest and most perfect aim, that which is truly and wholly Right. But we cannot yet know what this is, nor have we the power or the means to serve it. Therefore all that we can do is to have an intention towards it. This intention is not nothing however unsuccessful it is, however much we remain in ignorance and helplessness about it. We must never underrate this intention of ours it is in our power to make it stronger. Again and again we should ask ourselves: “what do I really intend, what do I really wish that my life should serve? And as it becomes clearer, a transformation accompanies it. That transformation is something other than growth, because it is transforming us from one kind of being to another. Therefore it is not just enabling us to develop our natural powers, or even our spiritual powers.
The possibility of being transformed is not offered to us in the way that nourishment is offered to us. It comes about because there is a higher will. When we have the intention to serve, we are getting connected with Something, or Someone, or we may picture it as a Will or Intelligence that we cannot yet know, but which is really there and, most important of all, which really does need us. Because of this we are given help, to which we at first are not able to respond, and sometimes it appears to us quite opposite to help. People often speak to me about things which appear to them to be obstacles, or events which appear to them to be failures, or states in which they think something has gone wrong with them, whereas it is possible to see from experience that, in many cases, what is happening to them is that they are being helped to make some step. But because they cannot yet understand, this help arouses in them revolt, despair, apathy and rejection. And yet these same people really intend and wish to serve; only they do not understand that help often comes in ways that we do not expect and cannot understand. With more experience, these situations or happenings which seem to us to be difficulties and failures, begin to come into a right perspective. We then begin to see that these apparent obstacles in the way are the very means by which this intention of ours can come to grips with our own need to relate ourselves to something higher. This is the second stage in understanding help. We still do not recognize its true nature, but we do begin to see for ourselves that what previously appeared to be failure and misery is really a means for us to make a step forward.
This help may also come to us in the form of joyful, blissful experiences which we are perhaps afraid of accepting fully because it seems to us that they are going to draw us away from our aim. We do not see that they are given to us in order to have a taste of what is a right relationship to something higher, which is certainly a blissful relationship. And so, as we reject suffering and failure and frustration, we also tend to reject the joys and the satisfactions of life. These can also be a form of help because they, as I said, are a way to get the taste of that state towards which we have to go.
For some people it is even sometimes harder to come to the understanding of this kind of help, and to see what it means, than to understand the other kind of help, that is, the opportunity of making the right use of our failures and sufferings. But one has to realize that this bliss, this satisfaction, whatever it is we may experience, is still only a means towards something, it is not to be taken as an end for itself. It is by passing through such experiences without identifying ourselves with them, that we can come to a third understanding. This is the beginning of true insight into the hidden pattern of Destiny. When we see how exactly timed and regulated the help is that is offered to us, we begin to have faith in the Intelligence that is behind it. The help that comes in this way is not always of a personal kind, we do occasionally get glimpses—perhaps in moments of special difficulty—when help comes that corresponds to our actual needs of that very moment. Even then, we sometimes do not even recognize what has happened to us because it appears to us as luck or accident.
I am saying all this to remind you that, in its early stages, help can reach us only with difficulty because of our own lack of understanding. We are cut off from it by all the wrong ways we have of thinking of almost everything that happens to us. Later, if our progress goes on in this way and we are not satisfied with growth and development, but really wish to be able to serve the purpose of our existence, we begin to develop the power to recognize help in a finer, more inward way, still not knowing where it comes from, but beginning to recognize what it is.
Beyond this there are, of course, further stages. Finally this relationship is seen and understood directly, and then man really knows where he belongs and who he is, and there is no separation between him and the Source from which he gets help. And then he is able to serve that Source fully, with everything he has, because there is no separation.
What I speak about now is the necessity of preparing ourselves to be able to recognize this relationship better. With people who are quite new to what we call Work, one of the earliest things it is useful to tell them about is the power of listening, to help them to see how seldom it is that we hear what is being said by another person. And this will lead to the realization of how little we hear of what is being said within us: how our capacity for hearing ourselves is clouded by our own habits. If you will practice listening, if you will practice simply observing and noticing what happens within you. You are already on the way to being able to recognize better how help comes to us. When you begin to understand how unexpectedness-disturbance of our habitual ways of living, sometimes unexpected bliss and satisfaction, new interests and so on- may be means for us to understand differently and better what our lives are for, not just something to be borne because it is painful, or to be grasped after because it is delightful, then you will take another step forward towards deeper understanding.
Copyright - J.G.Bennett and Elizabeth Bennett