I was sitting and looking at these beautiful, courageous people who came out on this bit chilly and grey morning in Florida, which I consider a beautiful morning, though the Floridians might consider it cold. I love you all and I enjoy being with you.
This is supposed to be the informal service so I thought we might have some questions if you want to ask questions. Let's do this the way we do in the colleges. I'll start talking and as soon as you want to ask a question just raise your hand to attract my attention. Then as soon as I have finished the sentence or the thought I will recognize you and we will begin to talk along your line of interest. I'm going to be talking about a pilgrimage for peace. I'm going to be telling about my pilgrimage. I'm sure there will be many things you will think of to ask and I hope you will. It will make for a beautiful meeting if you join in.
I am a pilgrim, a wanderer. My vow says I shall remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace. A pilgrimage, traditionally, is a journey which is undertaken on foot and on faith, without any visible means of support; prayerfully and as an opportunity to contact people. It can be to a place or it can be for a thing and mine is for a thing. My pilgrimage is for peace, and my life work covers the whole peace picture. Not only peace among nations and peace among groups but peace among individuals and the very, very important inner peace which I talk about the most and which will be my subject tomorrow morning.
I have no money and I do not accept any money. I deal with spiritual truth which of course should never be sold and need never be bought. As soon as you're ready it will be given. I own only what I wear and the few things I carry in my little pockets. It's not much, it's not burdensome. My pilgrimage slogan is, "every ounce counts". If you ever try to carry everything you own, I tell you, you'll think about ounces when you have to carry it. I don't belong to any organization. There is no organizational backing behind me. I walk until given shelter, I fast until given food. I do not ask. I believe it would be very unloving to ask. I might put someone in a position of having to say no and from my point of view it would be completely unnecessary to ask. When you are following your calling whatever you need is given without asking, and so it has been in 2O years of walking.
I celebrated the 2Oth anniversary of my pilgrimage this past new year's day, and much more than 25,OOO miles of walking. I had counted that way back in 1964. I have been supplied with everything I needed without asking for it. You see how good people really are? I believe nothing is too big to pray for. I believe it all adds up. All good prayer has good effect whether you see the results or not. And right prayer also motivates to right action, so I pray about big things like world peace.
Many people have said to me, "Of course you're going to stop walking now. There's a cease fire in Viet Nam." And my answer is, of course I'm not going to stop walking now. Peace is much more than the temporary absence of war. It is the absence of the causes of war which are so much still with us in the world today. There's still some fighting in Viet Nam for that matter. Just last night on television it said we were still bombing Laos and Cambodia. There's an unpeaceful situation in the Middle East, there's an unpeaceful situation on the British Isles and there are some unpeaceful situations still right within our own country. And so I certainly am not going to stop walking. Even when I do stop walking I will keep on talking about the inner peace.
You see there's a great deal of difference between the inner peace and the outer peace. The outer peace is what you might call a law and order situation. Just as in our own country the smaller units, the states, gave up to the larger unit, the United States, the right to make war, so that civil war seems to be impossible - we couldn't imagine Florida declaring war on Georgia, for instance - just so in the world, the smaller units, the nations, can come to the point, and I believe they will, when they will give up (to I hope a very much improved) United Nations, one single right which is the right to make war. Then I talk about the inner peace which must sustain the outer peace, because until enough of us have found enough inner peace we will not have a really peaceful situation anywhere.
Now I said I was walking as an opportunity to contact people, and I am. I wear my tunic so they'll stop and talk. That's the purpose of my lettered tunic. It makes my contacts for me. I walk along wearing my lettered tunic and sooner or later someone is interested enough or curious enough to stop and talk with me and it gives me an opportunity to share with them. And let me tell you, you're in a much better position to talk to people when they approach you than when you approach them. So the pilgrimage tunic makes all of my contacts for me and that is its purpose. It's of course a very selective garment because you can well imagine that it selects out all superficial people who would judge by appearances, so that the people who approach me are worthwhile people. They are interested or at least they have a lively curiosity. Of course I couldn't talk to all of the people, so isn't it wonderful to have these very worthwhile people come to me. This is what my tunic does for me. It gets me in trouble sometimes, too. I'm going to tell about some of those experiences in the service.
A pilgrim's job, I would say, is to rouse people from their apathy and make them think. That's a pilgrim's job. When I started out, that was January first of 1953, it was a long time ago and people were in a state of real apathy. There was a lot of fear at that time. It was the time when congressional committees were considering people guilty until they could prove themselves innocent and people were just afraid. It was a period that was apt to call forth a pilgrim. In fact when I spoke at one of the classes at the University of Tampa, I remember a particular professor mentioned that, that at the time when there is great apathy in the face of a crises situation, a pilgrim is apt to be called forth. So I was trying to make people think about peace in general because at that time people seemed to consider war a natural part of life. They accepted it, and I felt like a voice crying in the wilderness when I started out 2O years ago. Now lo and behold I'm on the popular side and even congressmen are taking peace seriously.
Now I'm trying to make people think about 3 things in general. I'm trying to make them think about the way of peace. This is the way of peace: overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love. Nothing new about that, except the practice of it. I'm sure some of you think immediately of the words, "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." This is the lesson for today. In our immaturity, we people of the world have been attempting to overcome evil with more evil and we have multiplied the evil. Evil can only be overcome by good. This becomes the message of my peace pilgrimage. It's one of the things I'm trying to make people think about.
Another thing I'm trying to make people think about is the fact that peace in the world is possible today. Not inevitable, but possible and let me tell you why. We basically suffer from immaturity. Of course if we were mature people peace would be assured. But immature people are capable of learning by their own mistakes. Look back into history. Dueling ceased when it was at its height. Why? Because so many men who were legally right were being killed in duels that finally the most stupid person could see that dueling was solving no problem. Then they did something about it. In the world today can any nation think in terms of military victory? You don't need to be very bright to see that war is solving no problem and that brings us to the brink of the possibility of being able to do something about it for the first time in written history. The worst block is that we don't believe it's possible and therefore we do not act meaningfully in that direction.
The third thing I'm trying to make people think about is the fact that inner peace is possible. You see most people only scratch the surface of their real potential. They have no idea what they are capable of.
Q: Isn't this all part of the natural progression?
Isn't this all part of the natural progression of man? Learning by their own mistakes, yes. As long as they're immature they will have to learn by their own mistakes. But there is another way. For instance, in dietary matters, actually in all matters, I practice prevention. Everything that is known to be bad for your health I have cut out long ago. Why should I wait until I get sick? That's the other way you see. When man gets a little more mature he won't have to learn by his own mistakes. He will voluntarily do the right thing. So at the moment, while man is immature, one can say it is a part of the natural progression of things, that he learns by his own mistakes. But there is a better way. And remember that when enough of us have found enough inner peace we will be able to affect for the better our institutions. Institutions of education, political institutions, institutions of radio and television. And then the bettered institutions will in turn through better example, affect for the better all who are still immature. So you see there will come a time in the natural progression of things when enough of us will have found enough inner peace to accomplish this. That's why I talk such a great deal about peace within ourselves as a step toward peace in our world.
Thirty-five years ago my life was completely different. I had money at that time and I had colllected a good many things. The world considered me successful because I had money and things. This is a material age in which we live and money and things are highly regarded. So I had to learn by my own mistakes at that time, thirty-five years ago, that you can't fill a life with money and things. It takes more than that.
And so thirty five years ago - actually I had realized for a long time that I needed to find a meaningful way of life - but 35 years ago, I walked all one night through the woods feeling that I would walk until I found what I was seeking, until I found a meaningful way of life. It seemed to be just beyond my grasp. At the end of that night I remember I came out into a clearing where the moonlight was shining down, and as I looked up into God's wonderful moonlight something within me stirred and awakened and I spoke aloud and I said, "If you can use me for anything, please use me." And I just felt, "Here I am, take all of me - use me in any way you can. I withhold nothing." And then I felt I had found what I was seeking, because you see I had gotten over a very difficult spiritual hump. I had felt a complete willingness without any reservations, to give my life. It's a point of no return. You will never be able to get back into completely self-centered living after that. That's a very important spiritual hump when you feel completely willing to leave the life governed by the self-centered viewpoint or the self-centered nature.
Spiritual growing up is a process. It takes awhile, just as the physical growing up takes awhile; just as the mental growing up takes awhile; just as the emotional growing up, learning to get along with people and with ourselves takes awhile, so does the spiritual growing up take awhile. My life began to improve from the very beginning, when I began to give what I could instead of to get what I could. My life just blossomed out. The first thing I knew, I had obtained the great blessing of good health. I haven't had a cold or a headache since. From that time on I knew what my life's work was going to be. I knew it was going to be work for peace and I knew it was going to cover the whole peace picture. Peace among nations, peace among groups, peace among individuals and the very, very important inner peace. I didn't talk about the inner peace until 15 years later after I had done the spiritual growing up, after I had found inner peace.
My life began to improve 35 years ago. But there was a struggle in my life 35 years ago, a struggle between the self-centered nature and the nature which is centered in the good of the whole. But then there had been struggle in my life before. You see, body, mind and emotions are instruments. They can be used either by the self-centered nature or by the God-centered nature which is centered in the good of the whole which Jesus called the kingdom of God within and which is sometimes called the indwelling Christ and we even sing about it. Christ within, the hope of glory. Your life can be governed by either one. But only the God-centered nature can control body, mind and emotion. So in the beginning of your life you're somewhat controlled by the wishes for comfort and convenience on the part of the body, by the demands of the mind and by the outbursts of emotion. There's a struggle then, between body, mind and emotions and the self-centered nature which uses them to a certain extent without being fully able to control them. Then comes the time of getting over the spiritual hump of feeling completely willing to give your life or leave the life governed by the self-centered nature. Then comes another struggle, more or less stormy, mine was about medium, between the self-centered nature and the nature which is centered in the good of the whole, the God-centered nature.
I drew this on a college black board one day and one of the college students came up to me afterwards and she said, "I know exactly what you mean by that. I'm in it. One time all I think about is I want a new dress. I want a new pair of shoes. And then the next minute I'm thinking, what's the matter with me. A lot of people in this world have no shoes. Why should I be thinking about such superficial things." One is self-centered, one is centered in the good of the whole or God centered.
Then about half way through this spiritual growing up of mine came an experience which we also sing about: "Open my eyes, illumine me." Even the scientists have a name for it, they call it the peak experience. It's the experience when you feel a complete and absolute oneness with not only fellow human beings, you may have sensed before that, that human beings are all cells in the body of humanity, every cell of equal worth, of equal importance in the eyes of God. But now you even feel a oneness with all of God's creations; the creatures, the earth, the air, the water. You would never be a polluter after that. And most wonderful of all, you sense now a oneness with God.
It is the illumination experience and it came to me about half way through the spiritual growing up period. After that I never completely lost the awareness of the presence of God, though I slipped in and out still, of this awareness, yet I always remembered and I missed this peak experience when I slipped out of it. Before you've known it, you can't miss it. Once you've known it, you can miss it. This experience, the illumination experience, comes sometimes with some phenomena. It's called the illumination experience because there is often a light experience. If it's at night there's actually a sensation of light. Mine was in the daytime. I'll tell you about the phenomena that came with it though this is not what's important. It's just very incidental to the experience.
I was walking, I was out for my time alone with God, and as I walked along just thinking of God, came this experience. I was on my feet, it was early in the morning. I felt a lightness, you've heard of walking on air, or walking on clouds. I didn't seem to be walking on the earth. And I knew timelessness and spacelessness. That is, I couldn't have told you how long this experience took or how much area I covered. Everything, every flower, every bush, every tree seemed to have a light emanation around it, to wear a halo you might say. And specks of gold fell like slanted rain through the air. That was my light experience. Now remember, this is merely the tinsel, the window dressing, there is nothing important about this. This is just the phenomena connected with it.
The important thing is that you know this complete and absolute oneness. As I say, I have never been able to feel completely separate again. And then after a little slipping in and out I got on what is sometimes call the plateaus. You're in harmony most of the time, you only slip out just occasionally. I was working with psychologically disturbed individuals at the time. I began by working some with the elderly at first, and then I started working with psychologically disturbed ones afterwards, after I had sufficient stability in my own life. I had slipped out of harmony one day and when I went to bed that night, it's my custom to think about God constantly now, but at that time, I at least began by thinking about God last thing at night and first thing in the morning. And so when I thought about God that night I thought, it seems to me that if I could just remain in harmony, I could be of much greater usefulness. And when I woke up in the morning I was back on the mountain top and I knew I would never have to descend again into the valley. With this wonderful feeling I went out for my time alone with God and I was back with my friends in less than an hour.
While I was out I remember, I felt this strong inner motivation toward this next way of witnessing for peace. You might say a thought just struck my mind. I saw in my mind's eye myself walking along and wearing the garb of my mission. And I saw in my mind's eye a map of the United States with the large cities marked in and it looked as though someone had taken a colored crayon and marked a route across from Los Angeles to New York City which was my first pilgrimage route. I'm just about completing my fifth pilgrimage route this month. I'll be starting a sixth one next month from California. I guess I can understand very well why, when I announced that I was going to start out, my friends thought I had taken leave of my senses. My hair had turned to silver, I had no previous athletic experience, I had no previous speaking experience, there was no reason in the world to suppose that I would be able to walk across the country without killing myself in the process. So my friends naturally thought I had taken leave of my senses when I told them I was going to walk across the country.
...It never runs out. You feel plugged in to the source of Universal Supply. That's what I live on. Without asking it is given. You also feel plugged in to the source of Universal Truth. Endlessly available. I tell you, that's the time I looked around and said, why most human beings only scratch the surface of their real potential. They have no idea what they're capable of. And you can imagine why, from that time on, I have been trying to inspire people to live according to their highest potential, to find inner peace. No one can tell me it's not possible for them to find inner peace, because if I have found it, they can find it, too! I've even lived in it for 2O years.
After you come to the point where you have actually given your life, or surrendered your life to God's will, or put your life completely into God's hands, or whatever you want to call it, there is still progress. It's not the end of progress. I can tell you that from 2O years experience. Progress continues but the struggle is over. Progress continues harmoniously without any more struggle. You know that hymn, "Until with Thee I Will One Will," as soon as you will to do God's will the struggle is over and progress takes place without struggle. It's as though the central figure of the jigsaw of your life is complete now and clear and unchanging. There is stability in your life but around the edges the pieces keep right on fitting in. It keeps enlarging. I can't foresee the end of growth in this earth life, but it is possible to attain harmony. And it can be a harmonious growth.
Now talking about that endless energy, I was walking out of a town one day (a fairly big town actually, as I had been on radio and television there) and a truck driver stopped to talk with me. He said, "I heard you say something on television about that endless energy and I just wanted to tell you that I ad it once. Yes," he said, "I was marooned in a town by a flood and I got so bored that I finally offered to help." And he said, "I worked without eating, I worked without sleeping, and I wasn't tired," but he said, "I don't have it anymore." I said, well what are you working for now? He said, "Money." I said, well of course you don't have it anymore. You have that endless energy only insofar as you are working for the good of the whole. As soon as you start working for your selfish little self it's gone. That's the secret of it. In this world you are given as you give.
Q: Have you ever been overseas or just in the United States?
My field is actually the 48 states. That's what I would say if I were a missionary. I haven't even been in the 49th or the 5Oth. I have, however, visited my neighbors Mexico and Canada, walking in all ten Canadian Provinces. I haven't ever been off the continent. But let me tell you why my field is the 48 states. I'm not a nationalistic person. In feeling I am a citizen of the world and a member of the human family. But you see at this moment in history I feel that we are the most influential nation in the world and if we were to turn in the direction of peace and a better way of life, if we were to live our religious teachings, I think the world would follow. And knowing you can only change through example, I work to make my own land a shining example through which the world may be changed. And that's why I make my field the 48 states, although I have visited my neighbors.
Q: Have you ever been in contact with the President or Congress or anyone in the government?
I have actually talked to a good many congressmen at one time or another, also governors and people like that. And then I have written to all the congressmen with constructive suggestions and I have written to all of the United Nations Representatives with constructive suggestions. I have also written to congressmen occasionally when they do something which is definitely on the positive side. My pet project is, praise good things to strengthen them. We live in a time when there is very rapid social change taking place. All kinds of things taking place. History is moving so swiftly you can see it being made. You can even help to make it. So many new things are being tried, and my pet project is praise good things to strengthen them. So when a good new thing is being tried I will praise the person. If I can speak to them that's fine. If I'm in their town I might call them on the phone, or if I'm far away I might write them a letter to praise them. So I've written to some congressman that were doing things on the good side and I have received some nice letters in return. And they say, "Thank you for commending me. Usually I only hear from people when they have something to criticize."
So I have had some contact, but my main contact is with people at the grassroots level. People at the grassroots level do not realize that they are extremely important - that they need to affect their legislators. Remember they elect them. After all, our government reflects our immaturity. As we become more mature, more religious in our thinking, as we act more on spiritual principles, we will elect legislators who will act more on spiritual principles. It's up to us, and therefore my work is primarily at the grassroots level. It will take many of us little people talking together to talk to people in the government, so that's why I talk to the little people primarily.
Q: Do you have a home base that you return to periodically or are you always on the move?
I literally have no home. The house were I was born was sold long ago. The rented apartments were I used to live are rented to somebody else and I don't need a home to keep anything because I wear and carry my things. So for 2O years I have not had a home anywhere, and I have been a wanderer for 2O years. But I do have a forwarding address: Peace Pilgrim, Cologne, NJ O8213. It's a tiny farming community. I have never lived there but I've visited there. The lady that forwards my mail lives there. She crosses out the Cologne, NJ and puts in care of general delivery to wherever I am and puts it back in the mail, and with a little delay I receive it. I let her know where I'll be. She knows until the end of November exactly where I'll be picking up mail. I pick up mail only once a week, and therefore I get quite a bit when I pick it up. And I answer more promptly than most because I have to carry it until I get it answered.
I feel at home wherever I am and if you're wondering about how I fare, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food, I really fare very, very well. As far as helpers are concerned, I have not only the lovely helper who forwards my mail, I'm so very grateful for her, and she feels this is her little peace project in this farming community, I have another lovely helper in Pennsylvania who is the sixth one who has gotten out my literature. She sends literature to people free of charge and I'm going to offer it to you people also.
You may wonder how a penniless pilgrim gives out, free of charge, literature. I want to tell you that I have some trouble remaining a penniless pilgrim. This is an interesting thing. This is a spiritual law. of course. I will not accept money or permit anyone to take a collection for me where I speak, but every time I open my mail, out falls a little money, which I haven't asked for. My literature says no Peace Pilgrim material is ever copyrighted and there is never any charge for it and yet there it is. I wouldn't use the money for myself, so I use it for printing and postage. That literature is simply waiting on the shelf to be sent to anybody who wants to receive it and I do offer it to you. I will have my list for you to sign after the meeting. This literature tells the thoughts I'm thinking and the things I'm doing as I walk along and it's gotten out intermittently.
I'm also grateful, besides the lady that sends my literature out, to the lady that prints it. I'm grateful for her. All these people who help me seem to think it's their little peace job. It's very nice. I'm also grateful to the lady who's making out the scrapbook for the Swathmore Peace Collection. They asked for a scrapbook of my clippings and a lady in Georgia is making that up. A Lady near Washington prints the literature. So I'm grateful for these helpers and I'm also grateful for all the food and shelter that is offered.
I was going to tell you how I fare with food and shelter because often people wonder about this. I very seldom skip more than 3 or 4 meals in a row. Very seldom. Three days, one time, I wasn't given food, but even then I found some apples under a tree on the third day. So I fare very well with food. I once had a 45 day period of prayer and fasting so I know how long one can go without food. I'm not a slave to comfort and convenience. I'll tell you about one of my food experiences. You know sometimes Mother Nature offers food and that is the most delicious food. Organically grown, like the berries you pick in some places. I remember that I had been walking on a trail in New England and coming down from the trail early in the morning, I found some blueberries. They were so delicious because I hadn't eaten in awhile, that I wrote a little article about them, and the first couple of lines of the article said, "This morning for breakfast I had blueberries covered with dew, picking them from the bushes as I journeyed through the scenic New England countryside. And I thought if I could choose my breakfast from all the menus of the world I couldn't choose anything more delicious than blueberries covered with dew!" So you see sometimes I feed on the best of fare.
Now as to shelter, do you know that I am given a bed by total strangers about 3/4 of the time. People are good. When I'm not given a bed I'm not necessarily out in the cold because I might be sleeping in a bus station in a city, or in a truck stop out on the highway, but sometimes I sleep beside the road. I can remember sleeping on the lovely soft matted grass of Florida. It makes a lovely bed. And sometimes I walk all night to keep warm. But if you're concerned enough about what you're doing you don't mind any of the little so called hardships and I'm very concerned about peace. Sometimes I'm offered food and shelter in advance through invitation, that's true, but I'll tell you about one of my shelter experiences.
I was walking in a very isolated section of the country, a woodsy section. It was in the fall and there were a lot of nice autumn leaves. It was a beautiful place to be walking, but there was no human habitation anywhere near. Toward evening, it was on a Sunday, and I saw that someone had read one of those thick Sunday newspapers and tossed it out beside the road, as they shouldn't but they did. I picked up the big thick newspaper and put it under my arm and walked off the road a little bit. I found a thick evergreen tree and underneath there was a little gully with some dry leaves in it, so I pushed some more dry leaves into the gully, then I put some sheets of paper down and I put the rest of the paper over me. I slept very comfortably that night. In the morning when I woke up there was a thick white frost over everything but the evergreen tree had kept it off of me and I was snug and warm in my nest of leaves and paper. That's just a little tip in case you might get caught out sometime.
This is much more than an answer to your question but I had intended to tell you a little bit about food and shelter experiences because this represents the curiosity of a great many people about the pilgrimage. How in the world do I fare walking on faith as I do.
Q: I understand you are a vegetarian. Have you been for many years?
Yes, for thirty years. I have a rule of life that I will not ask anyone to do my dirty work for me. I would never kill a creature. I wouldn't kill a chicken. I wouldn't kill a fish, so I haven't eaten any flesh for thirty years. Of course I would have cut it out by now anyhow because I've learned about the eight poisonous residues meat leaves in the body and just because I practice prevention I would have cut it out by now. But that was my original reason for abstaining from the eating of flesh. I suspect that if you had to kill what you ate at least half the people in this room would become vegetarians too.
Do we have any fellow vegetarians in this room? Well good, we have a few. This is good for you not only physically but spiritually. Yes, I'm definitely a vegetarian and I also don't eat white flour and white sugar and all that trash. I never was addicted to either alcohol or nicotine. I have also ridded myself of the addiction to caffeine. It's an addicting thing, too. I don't even have the salt habit. I want to be free.
Q: Do you drink only water?
Pure water. I don't drink that chemical cocktail from the faucets. And fruit juice.
Q: Where do you find pure water?
It's still available if you really look for it. In any location where you are you can find a source of it if you really seek it. There's a spring somewhere and of course you can buy bottled water which is spring water. It's available if you look for it.
Now I'm going to tell you pilgrimage experiences, but I realize that in a sense my entire life has been a pilgrimage. My entire life has prepared me for the pilgrimage that I walk today. For instance, I can look back to my very early life before I was even going to school and remember that when my parents put me to bed at night they would say to me very wisely, "It gets dark so that it will be restful for you to sleep. Now go to sleep in the nice, friendly, restful darkness." So to me the darkness has always seemed friendly and restful. And when I'm sleeping beside the road or walking all night to keep warm, there I am in the nice, friendly, restful darkness. I think this prepared me for my pilgrimage. In fact there were other very little things that prepared me for my pilgrimage.
My feet were prepared, believe it or not. I never wore high boots to weaken my ankles or arch supports to weaken my arches. Any muscle you support, of course breaks down. I never wore high heels to stretch my leg muscles and throw my spine out of alignment. I never wore shoes too short to give me bunions or too tight to give me crippled toes. I remember when they measured my feet they would say to me, "You take a 5 1/2 B" and I'd say, "Nope, they're not comfortable. Give me a 6 C. I like to wiggle all my toes inside my shoes. So even my feet were prepared for the journey.
At the level of early training, there was nothing formal of a religious nature. I'm one of the half of the people in this country who do not receive any religious training in youth. Although I'm a deeply religious person now, it's at the level of experience and insight rather than at the level of early training. Although the early training did teach me to get along well with my fellow human beings, it taught me some useful things.
When I was in grammar school I read the Golden Rule in history, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."
It was expressed in a whole lot of different ways, because what I was finding out was that every culture had a golden rule expressed in one way or another. This just caught my eye. Something in me confirmed it and said this is true. This is for me. And I started to live by it. Through living by the golden rule, I attained a good attitude toward and a good association with my fellow human beings. That was my first religious attitude. I remember I carried it over into high school with me with my little saying, "If you want to make friends, you must be friendly." I just went around being friendly and I had a host of friends. In fact I even carry it over into my present life with my little saying, "If you want to make peace you must be peaceful." And that works too.
I was a senior in high school when I made my search for God. There are three things that motivate your life: your early trainings, unless they are laboriously uprooted or unless you allow the higher nature to take ove,r in which case they no longer apply because they apply to the lower nature; the things you touch from outside and receive an inner confirmation on from the higher nature as I did with the golden rule; plus the thing you directly perceive from a direct awakening of the higher nature, and that's what I'm coming to now.
When I was a senior in high school I thought here I am, a senior in high school and I felt so old at that time. I guess you do when you're a senior in high school. And I thought, I'm this old and I still don't know anything about God. I better try and find out. I waited until I heard somebody mention God and then I went up to that person and asked expectantly, "What is God?" But I didn't get any answer so I tried another person and another person. Only people who mentioned God. I asked them all, "What is God?" and I didn't get an answer. Oh some of them said, "Well, you know - the heavenly father." They gave me another name for God, a few of them. "Why the dear Lord, of course," one lady said. But nobody told me anything about the nature of God. I didn't give up. I pondered deeply upon it. I went to bed and slept over it and in the morning from the inside I had my answer. My high school answer was that we human beings lump together everything in this universe which is beyond the capacity of all of us collectively. Some people may even call some of those things nature, but I realize that this is what some people call God, and other names are given to it also. All those things in this universe which are beyond the capacity of all of us collectively.
The first thing I picked out, I looked at a tree and I said, there's one. All of us together couldn't create that one tree. Oh, it might look like a tree but it wouldn't grow. There is a creative force in this world which is beyond us. I looked at my beloved stars at night and said there's another. There's something that motivates toward constant change in the universe. I was learning the physical laws in school. And through the golden rule, that there were also spiritual laws governing human conduct. And I said there's another, an overall intelligence that governs the universe by physical and spiritual law.
Then I touched God as Truth many times while I was a student. It's a thrilling experience to touch God as truth. I did that intellectually, but emotionally I also touched God. Emotionally I touched God as love. I touched God as goodness, as kindness, as beauty. I felt God through the beauty of a sunrise or a sunset. I had many touches with God. Light, power, life itself. Many touches with God. But later I was able to touch God in an even closer way, because later, through an awakening of my own spark of God or kingdom of God within, as Jesus called it, or indwelling Christ, I was able to perceive God as a spirit. God is a spirit and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. I perceived God as the ever present, all pervading essence or spirit which binds everything in the universe together and gives life to everything in the universe, and that brought God close. I am within God. God is within me. I could not be where God is not.
Maybe that does not remove fear from your life. There are really three things that remove fear from your life and they are three religious attitudes: A religious attitude or a loving attitude toward your fellow human beings. Perfect love casts out fear. You cannot fear that which you really love. Second, a religious attitude or an obedient attitude toward God, which will bring you into the constant awareness of God's presence, and then fear is gone. I live in the constant awareness of God's presence. How can I be afraid? And then the third thing that removes fear from your life, the third religious attitude, is a religious attitude toward yourself. Not only recognizing your potential, recognizing that you are more than that self centered nature, that you are actually that God centered nature, the kingdom of God within, the indwelling Christ, but also recognizing that you are more that this transient body and that life is more that this transient earth life.
Now I had perhaps a little more preparation in my early life, in my early pilgrimage. There is a story I want to tell you. It illustrates my putting the golden rule into practice in my life. When I was just past my student days one of my girl friends thought she hated me because I had been given a job she wanted and I had been elected to some little office in the community club that she wanted. Yes, she thought she hated me. She said all manner of unkind things about me. I knew this was a very unhealthy situation. I began to apply the golden rule to this situation. I started to say every good thing I could think of about her. I just racked my brains to think of good things I could possibly say about her. And I thought of a few. Oh yes, if you think about it you can. I don't like to say anything untruthful but I said all the good things I could that were truthful about her and I also tried to do her a favor. And you know how beautiful our lives are arranged. It fell to my lot to do her a significant favor. To make a long story short when she married a year later I was maid of honor at her wedding. Yes, I tell you, just a little spiritual light put into practice really works.
One other thing I want to mention. In my early life I chose freedom. This was an important thing I think, that in my early life I chose freedom. Some of the young folks don't realize that there were hang ups in my day, too. Not drugs. We didn't have access to them. We heard vaguely that people in something called the underworld, sometimes used drugs but we had no access to drugs, except the legal ones. In any case, there were hang ups. I was offered real cigarettes before I got to high school. I didn't smoke them but some of my friends did. I was offered every kind of alcoholic beverage you could think of, even whiskey, when I was in high school. I didn't drink it but some of my friends did. There were hang ups in my day. They're carried over even into this day.
I remember just after my student days I was going with a crowd and I realized that everyone of those people in my crowd used both alcohol and nicotine. Not only that, but there was such a push toward conformity in those days. These days some of them will say at least, "Well, she has to do her thing," they allow for some individual action. But in those days they looked down on me because I didn't have their hang ups. I can remember sitting down in somebody's living room and saying to them, "Look, like is a series of choices, decisions. And I can't stop you from making your choices, but I have a right to make my choices, too. And I have chosen freedom." Today I say freedom from hang ups.
This was mentioned twice more but not by me. It was mentioned just a couple of weeks later. What happened was that one of the young men in our crowd got very drunk and killed himself in a one car accident on the way home and you can imagine how shaken we were. And when we gathered one of them said, "Well, if he had chosen freedom he'd be alive today," and you know some of them quit drinking. Another time was quite a few years hence. I was visiting one of my girl friends in the hospital. She was a chain smoker, and when I visited her she was dying of lung cancer. She said to me in a very weak voice, "I have often wished that I had chosen freedom." But by then it was too late.
The immature learn either by their mistakes or by the mistakes of somebody right close to them. I can remember, for instance, walking out of a college class room with one of the students and he said to me, "I used to smoke pot and drop acid and I even tried speed. But no amount of money would pay me to touch that stuff today. My buddy is dead. My room mate is dead." It had come real close so he had quit.
But I chose freedom from these things and this has definitely helped me. It was only about ten years before my pilgrimage started that I chose freedom from the caffeine habit. Up until that time I had taken hot coffee and iced tea. But I remember one morning I was drinking my morning cup of coffee. I had drunk it, and I sat there and looked at that coffee cup and I said, "You're depending on that to get you perking in the morning. This is going to stop right here!" and it did. So you see I chose freedom from that. Oh, it wouldn't be practical for me to have the caffeine habit. Remember I eat intermittently. I walk until given shelter and fast until given food. I don't eat steadily. If I had the caffeine habit, why, if I weren't given my morning cup of coffee I'd have a headache. It wouldn't be practical at all for me to have the caffeine habit. I don't even have the salt habit. So you see I have chosen freedom in everything that would enslave me and make me unfit for a pilgrimage even in a physical way. And of course choosing freedom you can multiply and multiply. I have also chosen freedom from negative thinking and things like that.
Let me get along a little bit farther to the pilgrimage itself. I just wanted to point out that my whole life has prepared me for the pilgrimage. The 15 years just prior to the pilgrimage were my principal preparation for the pilgrimage because in those years I did the spiritual growing up. Thirty-five years ago was the time when I felt completely willing to leave the life governed by the self-centered nature or to give my life, and 2O years ago was the time when I succeeded in leaving the life governed by the self centered nature or giving my life or finding inner peace. It took 15 years. Just as any growing up takes awhile, the spiritual growing up takes awhile, too.
I would like to repeat something that I said earlier. When I started out 2O years ago my hair had turned to silver. In fact I saw some film taken of me just a little while ago, a home movie film, but I couldn't really see any difference in the way I looked 2O years ago and the way I look now. I had silver hair and I looked just about the same. The only thing that looked different was the tunic. The letters were much bigger at that time on the tunic. They had been painted by a sign painter.
When I started out naturally my friends thought I had taken leave of my senses, that I was probably going to kill myself that first year walking across the country. But when you have found inner peace you feel plugged into the source of universal energy which is what I walk on. It never runs out. You feel plugged into the source of universal supply which is what I live on. Without asking it is given. And you feel plugged into the source of universal truth which is endlessly available from the source. Your divine nature, your kingdom of God within, your indwelling Christ, is a drop from the ocean of divine essence around you and has access to the ocean. From that source came all inspired writing in the first place and somebody wrote it down, and you yourself can reach out directly into that source. So it is from that source that the strength for the pilgrimage comes.
Now the beginning of the pilgrimage was an interesting pilgrimage experience. The very beginning of it, the first day. I had envisioned the pilgrimage as being a person to person thing. I would walk along, I would of course use the walk as a prayer discipline to keep me concentrated on my prayer for peace. I have also used fasting as a prayer discipline. I had a 45 day period of prayer and fasting. I now pray without ceasing and therefore the discipline isn't really necessary to me anymore but in the beginning I had thought of it as that and in the beginning it was that. But I had also thought of the pilgrimage as making contacts with people. I would walk along wearing my tunic, sooner or later someone would be interested or curious enough to approach me, and person to person I would have an opportunity to talk to them. Having no previous speaking experience I didn't think of making speeches. I had never seen the inside of a radio or television station. I had never been interviewed by or photographed by a newspaper reporter or photographer. All of this was completely foreign to me. Actually I also had no previous athletic experience.
In any case, somebody said, "Well, you could walk ahead along the line of march in the Tournament of Roses parade," because it was January first of 1953. I was there a few days earlier and I had bought a little piece of material for my first tunic with the last few cents I had. I had bought that material and also a stencil and a little bit of mimeographed paper. Someone had stitched up a little tunic for me and a sign painter had painted it and I had made a little stencil of my message and I had mimeographed a few copies of the message. I remember I mimeographed it on the mimeograph of the peace group called the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Some of you may have heard of that. It had an office in Los Angeles at that time.
So they said, "Maybe if you walk a little ahead of the line of march, a lot of people will be waiting there for the parade to start, and it will give you a good chance to talk to people." So with my tunic and my messages in my pocket I walked along ahead of the line of march at the Tournament of Roses parade. And I did talk to people. But the newsmen and the newswomen where also there, the news media were represented there. They asked for a piece of literature and a phone number where I could be located. I gave them my hostess's phone number where I could be located, my hostess in Los Angeles.
The next morning, bright and early, the newspapers were calling. I said yes, I can come over and see you and I did. Story and picture appeared on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. They've always been friendly, they've interviewed me every time I've come in. Probably will this time, too. The story and the picture went out over all the wires. Then when I got back, my hostess said all these radio and television stations have been calling you. I called them back and said yes, I can come over to Hollywood tomorrow. Hollywood is just within Los Angeles actually and it's the place where most of the television and radio programs originate.
I went there at nine in the morning and was interviewed right through the day. The last show was between eight and nine. I didn't even stop to eat. I did every national network of radio and television and the big shows in the Los Angeles area in one day. That's the first time I had ever been inside a radio or television station. So it never was just person to person.
I started out walking then and got down to San Diego where a high school teacher met me on the street. She wanted me to come in and speak to her high school classes. I explained to her that I had actually never done any public speaking and she said, "That's all right. Just come in and let them ask you some questions." It was easy. If you have something to say you can say it. Then I got as far as Tucson, Arizona before I was asked to speak in a college. At Tucson I was also asked to speak in the first church. It was the Sunday school class I was asked to speak to, a young couples class. Then I got as far as Pennsylvania before I was asked to give my first sermon.
My record is seven sermons on a Sunday. I give lots of sermons now. Different churches, of course. The Prespaterian church last Sunday, for instance. I speak in a lot of churches. So that's how I got started. That in itself was a wonderful experience. It was never meant to be just person to person apparently, it was meant to be group to group and even through the mass media and so that is what materialized. I tell you our lives are beautifully ordered and arranged for us if we'll just let it happen.
In the beginning I was definitely tested. I faced prison. I was investigated to discover whether I was a vagrant or a religious pilgrim. It was decided I was a religious pilgrim, but they held me for 24 hours first and it was one of my most interesting experiences. You know a lot of people live in prisons and most people haven't even seen the inside of a prison. I remember that as a very interesting experience.
I also faced death in a snow storm. It was one of my most wonderful experiences and I will tell you about that today. I also was hit by a disturbed teen-age boy. That was the only time I was ever hit. It was one of my tests. It was my test as to whether when confronted with an actual situation I would be able to face hatred with love, and remember that's my message. This is the way of peace: overcome evil with good and falsehood with truth and hatred with love. So I was tested. And my most difficult test, believe it or not, was not any one of them. Not even facing death. My most difficult test was when I had to defend a frail little eight year old girl against a large man who was about to beat her. That was my most difficult test and I'll tell you about that too.
Let me put the experiences into some order, into the order of religious attitudes. Let me tell you one illustrating a religious attitude, a loving attitude, an accepting attitude, a non-judgmental attitude toward fellow human beings:
I was walking along one day and a cafe owner asked me to come into his cafe to have something to eat. And when I got inside I saw that I was actually in a saloon. There was a bar there and the cafe owner was very friendly. He had seen me on TV and he seated me at a table and he brought me some food. Then he came and sat across the table from me and he said, "How do you feel being in a place like this?" And I said, "I know that all human beings are God's children and they could act that way. So I love them for what they could be or for what they really are." And as I got up to leave here was a man on his feet with some kind of a drink in his hand. When he caught my eye he smiled a little bit and I smiled right back at him. He said, "You smiled at me. I should think you wouldn't even want to speak to me but you smiled at me." I said, "I am not here to judge my fellow human beings. I'm here to love them, and to serve them if I can." And the next thing I knew, I'd never been so surprised, the man was kneeling on the floor in front of me. The drink was still in his hand. He was saying, "Everybody else judged me so I defended myself. But you didn't judge me so now I judge myself. I'm a no good worthless sinner. I've been squandering my money on liquor, I've been mistreating my family, I've been going from bad to worse."
I reached over and I put my hand on his shoulder and I said, "You are God's child and you could act that way." He was very disgusted with the drink in his hand and suddenly he threw it against the bar so that it shattered and he said, "I swear that I will never touch that stuff again. Never!" And with a very determined light in his eye he walked through the door and was gone.
You know I even know the happy ending to that story. About a year later I heard from a woman in that town and she wrote, "You will be happy to know that the man in the saloon has kept his promise. He never has touched liquor again. He now has a good job, is getting along well with his family and has joined a church." You see if you approach people in judgement they're on the defensive but when you are able to approach them in a kindly, loving manner, without judgement, then they will judge themselves and be transformed.
I was walking down the highway one day and a very nice car stopped and a very well dressed couple started talking with me. I started to explain to them what I was doing when suddenly, to my complete amazement, the man burst into tears. I was simply astounded. He said, "Because I have done nothing for peace you have to do so much." You see the pilgrimage tends to arouse people from their apathy, and remember that's a pilgrim's job - to arouse people from their apathy and make them think.
I'll tell you one time when I had no feeling whatsoever of danger, and of course I have no fear. I fear nothing and accept only good and so to me only good comes. But this was a situation where I had been walking all night to keep warm. I hadn't yet been offered shelter. It was the first year of my pilgrimage and this happened in the middle of the night in the middle of the desert in an extremely lonely spot. I saw this man parked off the side of the road. When I passed by he called to me, he said, "Come on, come in the car here and get warm." You see it's very cold out there on the desert at night, as hot as it gets in the daytime. I said, "Well now, I don't ride." And he said, "I'm not going anywhere. I'm just parked here."
So over I went and got into the car. When I looked at the man I realized he was what the world might call a rough looking individual, but to me he was God's child. We talked for awhile. Then he said, "Wouldn't you like to get a few winks of sleep while you're sitting here where it's warm?" I said, "Oh yes, thank you, I certainly would." And of course I can sleep anywhere so I curled up right where I was and I went to sleep. I have no idea how long I slept but as soon as I awoke I could just feel a change of attitude on his part. He seemed to be very puzzled about something. He talked for a long time before he got around to admitting to me that when he had asked me to get into that car he had certainly meant me no good. But he added, "You know, when you curled up so trustingly and went to sleep, I just couldn't touch you." Of course he couldn't. The good within him prevented him, even though he was surprised to find there was any good there. And as I walked away from the car I saw that the man had gotten out and was standing there looking up at the stars and I wondered if perhaps he might be thinking of God.
To illustrate an obedient attitude toward God, obeying God's law of love even under very difficult circumstances, I want to tell you about the time I was hit. You know it was the only time I was hit, just once. I was trying to help a disturbed teen age boy and when I tried to help a disturbed person I would find one good thing the person really wanted to do and then I would help him to do it. In other words, bring some good into this life. This is how I always worked with those who had problems. I had started my pilgrimage but I thought I would try to help him a little bit. He was known to be violent at times. He had once beaten his mother so that she had to spend a couple of weeks in the hospital.
But he had also lovingly nursed her through a spell of illness. He had attacked other people. He had attacked a group of people with an ax one time or a hatchet I think it was. In any case, he was just disturbed.
He was a big fellow. He stood 6 foot 3 and looked like a football player and was known to be violent at times. Well, I was trying to help him and he wanted to take a walking trip into the hills which I knew would be good for him so I encouraged him to go. Then I discovered he was afraid to go alone. He was afraid he might break a leg and be left lying there. And he couldn't find anyone who was willing to go with him. So I offered to go with him and in going with him I met my test. Although we started on a very good note, when we got on the first hill top a thunder shower came along which was very close.
He was very terrified and off the beam he went. The first thing I knew I saw this big boy come hurtling toward me. His eyes looked terrible and he was just hitting at me as he came toward me. I didn't run away. I could have done that, he had a big heavy pack on his back. It didn't even occur to me to pick up some stick or stone and hit him over the head with it, which I suppose I might even have done. He was as clumsy as a drunken man in his condition.
I just felt the deepest compassion for him. I stood and looked at him in the kindest, loving manner. I saw the good in him, I knew it was there. I reached for it. I prayed for him. But in my test I was even hit. Well, I wasn't seriously injured but I had some bruises, especially along my arms. However, the hitting stopped very quickly. He was very bewildered by this new situation because never before had his hatred been met with love. He said, "You didn't hit back. Mother always hits back."
And then delayed reaction because of his disturbance. It reached the good in him which is always there, no matter how deeply it may be buried, and he experienced remorse. Complete self-condemnation, which is a terrible thing to witness. It lasts for quite a long time. But when it was over he was just limp. The fight was all out of him. And he said, "I guess you're going home now and I don't blame you." I said, "No, I'm not going home. But the next time perhaps you will think before you harm anyone.
Well, some people might say, "Your method failed. He hit you." But looking back over a period of years I can only say did my method fail? Did God's method of love fail? What are a few bruises on my body in comparison with the transformation of a human life. He never was violent again. He is a useful citizen. Of course God's laws work - when we use them. Although results we must leave in God's hands as I leave in God's hands the results of my pilgrimage for peace.
I'll tell you about the little girl. Another one of my tests. She was a very frail little girl. We were alone on a farm, her family had gone to town. I saw him come. He was one of her relations. He had beaten other members of his family who were bigger and better able to take it and he had seriously injured some of them. She was very frail and very terrified. He chased her into the barn. I came into the barn. She was cowering in a corner in terror. Of course you attract to you the very thing that you fear. "That which I feared came upon me." So she was in danger because of her fear.
He was advancing toward her slowly, deliberately. I was behind him at that time. But I immediately put my body across the corner, between the man and the girl and I have never felt such power in my body as when I stood and looked at that poor, psychologically sick man with loving compassion. Because if you do God's will you receive God's protection.
He stopped dead in his tracks, almost as though he had hit something. He looked at me for quite awhile and then turned around and walked away and the girl was saved. Had I used the jungle law of tooth and claw, I would probably be dead today and so would the little girl. Don't ever underestimate the power of the way of love. It reaches the good in the other fellow and is disarming. It can be used in small things. Let me tell you a couple of little things where I used it. It can be used where nobody's life is in danger. Just little things.
As I said earlier, my tunic sometimes gets me into trouble. I came into a town and it said in the paper I was going to speak at a church and it showed my picture, front and back, wearing my lettered tunic. A man who belonged to that church was simply horrified to discover that this creature wearing a lettered tunic was about to speak at his church. He called his preacher to complain about it and he called all his friends about it and somebody told me who he was. Now was this his problem or my problem? His of course! I accepted him. He was unaccepting of one of his fellow human beings.
Of course it was his problem, but nevertheless, he's important too. In God's sight all human beings are of equal worth. So I thought I would see if I could do something about it and I called him. I said, "Is this Mr. so and so?" "Yes." I said, "This is Peace Pilgrim calling you." You could just feel his apprehension. He was sure I was about to bawl him out. I said, "I have called to apologize to you. Evidently I must have done something to offend you, because without even knowing me, you have been apprehensive about my speaking at your church. Therefore I feel somehow I owe you an apology and I have called to apologize." You know he was in tears before the conversation was over. He came to the meeting and brought his friends and even corresponded with me afterwards.
I'll tell you another one where it had to be non-verbal. I guess you can tell that isn't my usual way. I was trying to help a lady. This was many years ago, it was in the early part of my pilgrimage and I still had my driver's license. I have now retired from driving. By the way, I retired with a perfect record. I never had an accident and I never had a traffic ticket. May you all retire with such a perfect record.
Anyhow, I still had my driver's license at that time and this lady had been seriously ill. She was so weak she couldn't drive a car and she wanted to get to her older sister's house for a few weeks bed rest. So I said, "Well I'll drive you there." We got half way there and she said, "Peace, I wish you would stay with me for a little while. My older sister is so domineering I just dread being left alone with her in the beginning." And I said, "Well, I have a little extra time, all right I will. I'll stay with you a little awhile."
When we were turning into her older sister's yard she said to me, "Peace, I really don't know how my older sister will accept you." And she was quite right about her sister. Her older sister took one look at me and ordered me out of the house. But it was late at night and she was so afraid of the dark she said, "Not tonight. You may sleep on the sofa tonight. But the first thing in the morning you must leave." And then she hurried her younger sister off to bed and that was the end of all possiblilty of verbal communication.
But I didn't give up. I looked around at the situation to see if there was anything in the situation which would permit me to communicate. I looked in the kitchen and there was a mountain of dirty dishes with no dish washer, so I went in and I washed up all the dishes and I cleaned the kitchen then I lay down and slept for a few hours. In the morning the older sister was in tears when she asked me to stay. She said, "Of course you understand I was so tired last night I just didn't know what I was saying." And you know when someone's have been real mean there's a reaction and they're real nice. So we had several beautiful days together before I left.
I will take time to tell you that one experience about the snow storm and facing death. This illustrates a good attitude toward yourself. A recognition of yourself as more than the transient body. This was one of my most wonderful experiences. It was my test of faith. This was the time I faced death in a snowstorm. I was walking in a very isolated area of the country. I knew there was no human habitation within many, many miles. That afternoon there came one of those quick snowstorms. It was out of season too. If it had been a rainstorm you would have called it a cloud burst. The snow just piled up so quickly. Toward evening I noticed that the cars had stopped running on the road because they were getting stuck in the snow. And right after that darkness descended. Total darkness. I couldn't even see my hand before my eyes. The snow was blowing in my face and it was getting bitter cold. It was the kind of cold that penetrates into the marrow of your bones.
Well if ever I were to lose faith and feel fear certainly this should have been the time. But instead this whole experience of the cold and the snow and the darkness seemed to be unreal, to be an illusion. And the only thing that seemed real to me in that situation was the awareness of the presence of God. And indeed that is the only reality. The spark of God within and the ocean of God around. Everything else is transient. At that moment I knew that I was not this transient body. I knew that I was the indestructible reality which activates this body. When you identify not with the destructible clay garment, but with the indestructible reality, how free you feel. I knew everything was going to be all right whether I remained to serve in this earth life or whether I went on to serve in a freer life beyond.
Now I felt guided to keep on walking. I couldn't see if I was walking along that highway or out into some field. I couldn't see anything. My feet in my low canvas shoes were like lumps of ice. They just felt so heavy as I plodded along. Then my whole body began to become numb with the cold. When there was more numbness than pain, there came what some would refer to as an hallucination, and what some would refer to as a vision. It was as though I became aware not only of the embodied side of life where everything was black darkness and bitter cold and swirling snow, but also and it seemed so close I could step right over into it, indeed it is right here in another dimension, the unembodied side of life where everything was warm and light.
It seemed like warm light. There was great beauty. It began with familiar color and yet it transcended familiar color. Maybe that's what the artists see. It began with familiar tone or music but it transcended familiar tone. Perhaps that's what the musicians hear. Then I saw beings, way off at a great distance, a lot of them, but only one moved toward me. She moved quickly toward me and when she came within ten or twelve feet of me I recognized her, although she looked much younger than she had looked when she had stepped over. Since I believe that at the time of the beginning of the change called death those nearest and dearest come to welcome us, you see I've been with those who stepped over and I remember well how they talked to their loved ones on both sides as though they were all right there in the room together, I thought my time had come now to step over, and so I greeted her. I either said or thought to her, "You have come for me?" But she shook her head and motioned for me to go back.
Just at that point I ran into the railing of a bridge and the vision faded. Then because I felt guided to do so, I groped my way down that snowy embankment and under that bridge I found a large cardboard packing box. It was full of wrapping paper, and very slowly and clumsily in my numb condition, I managed to get myself inside of that packing box. And somehow with my numb fingers I managed to pull that wrapping paper around me. Then there under the bridge, during the snow storm, I slept. Even there shelter had been provided.
But provided also had been this experience. Now had you looked at me in the midst of it you might have said, "What a terrible experience that poor woman is going through." But looking back on it I can only say, what a wonderful experience in which I faced death feeling not fear, but the constant awareness of the presence of God which you take right over with you. And of course I believe that I have had the great privilege of experiencing the beginning of the change called death. A beautiful experience. And now I rejoice with my loved ones as they make the glorious transition to a freer living.
You know in our world today we also seem to be in the midst of a terrible situation. But how can we judge while we're in the midst of it. We're too close to it. There is darkness in our world today, yes. It is due to the disintegration of things which are contrary to God's will, to God's law of love. But let us never say hopelessly, "Oh, this is the darkness before a storm." Let us rather say with faith, "This is the darkness before the dawn of a Golden Age of peace which we cannot now even imagine." For this let us hope and work and pray.
Now, there is a great deal of difference between being willing to give your life and actually giving your life. And that period between I have come to call the spiritual growing up. We recognize that there is a physical growing up, there is a mental growing up and most people recognize that there is also an emotional growing up, learning to get along with people and with ourselves. But the spiritual growing up which I consider the most important growing up, begins at the time when you feel this complete and absolute willingness without any reservations, to give your life. To leave the life governed by the self-centered nature. And it ends when you have succeeded in giving your life. When your life is governed by your God centered nature which Jesus called the kingdom of God within and which is sometimes called the indwelling christ.
It took me 15 years. And that doesn't mean it will take you 15 years. But it did take me 15 years between the time 35 years ago when I felt completely willing to give my life and the time 2O years ago when I succeeded ion giving my life. After I had found inner peace or succeeded in giving my life I noted that the struggle in my life was over. The struggle between my self centered nature and the nature which is centered in the good of the whole. But progress was not over. Progress continues, a harmonious progress without any more struggle. Twenty years ago was the time when my pilgrimage began. I'm going to talk to you about the 15 year preparation period for the pilgrimage or the 15 year spiritual growing up period in my life.
The steps toward inner peace are taken in such varied order that the first step for one person may very well turn out to be the last step for another person. And this is why it is difficult for a group to say now we're going to take step number one, and then we're going to take step number two, and so on. So finding inner peace becomes a do it yourself project. No one can do it for you but you can do it for yourself. If you have a spiritual fellowship along the way this is helpful. Yet in the final analysis, you see, this is something that you do for yourself insofar as you are willing to turn toward God.
We have free will throughout this whole thing. But how far does free will extend? God's laws are set, you can't change them. You have free will as to whether you will obey them or disobey them. There's your free will. You come in already having chosen your place in the divine plan. Your job, what you intend to do in this earth life. Now you still have free will on whether you will do this or refuse to do this. That's how far your free will extends. If you make the right choice your life is easy, there is harmony in your life. If you make the wrong choice you have difficulties. The purpose of the difficulties is to push you toward harmony.
I remember I had talked about the steps toward inner peace in California. After I had finished speaking a woman came up to me and she said to me referring to one of the steps, "Peace Pilgrim, this I could never do." And I said, "Well, could you take any of those steps?" And she said, "Oh yes, I could do this. That doesn't seem so difficult." "All right," I said. "That's the place to start. Start on the things that seem easy for you. Never mind the things you think you can never do." Well a year later I was back speaking to that same group on another subject and the same lady was there and she came up to me afterwards and she said, "Do you remember me?" And I said, "I certainly do remember you." And she said, "You will be happy to know that the step I thought I could never take only a year ago I'm taking now because as I took a few steps it made it easier for me to make a few more."
So you start on the steps that seem easiest for you. And I suspect that as I give the steps toward inner peace there will be those of you who will recognize steps that you also have taken. First I would like to share with you what I call some preparations that were required of me.
The first preparation was a right attitude toward life. There was a time when I was an escapist. There was a time when I was a surface liver who stayed right in the froth on the surface. There are millions of escapists. There are millions of surface livers. They never find anything really worth while because you must delve very deeply for life's verities and realities. There was a time when I was confronted with a problem, I tried to get rid of it. I tried to get somebody else to solve it for me. But then I began to realize that every problem that came to me I was capable of solving if I turned to God for help.
I began to realize that with every problem that came to me I attained a little more spiritual growth if I solved that problem according to the highest light I had. So I began to realize that problems are opportunities in disguise, and the greater the problem, the greater the opportunity for spiritual growth. I began to face my problems with anticipation. Here's a problem. What can I learn from this?
I began to work meaningfully to solve those problems. I began to realize that I had a part to play in solving the great collective problems that are set before all of us. Problems like attaining world peace. I began to pray about those problems, and as I prayed about them I was motivated to act upon them, because right prayer motivates to right action. So I began doing my part in solving the collective problems that are set before all of us. Through solving not only the personal problems but helping to solve the collective problems, I was able to grow and grow and grow. So I would not wish for people a life without problems. I would wish for them the strength to meaningfully solve their problems and attain spiritual growth.
I was visiting a lady who was a millionaire in New York City. It was one of her many homes where I was staying, and that lady, although she was in middle age, seemed to me like a little girl and I discovered why. She had been shielded from all her problems by a group of servants and a group of lawyers. She had never had problems to grow on and therefore she had not been growing as she should.
But I'll tell you the story of a lady who did grow because of a severe problem that she faced. It was pain. It was something in her back. I can still see her arranging the pillows behind her so it wouldn't hurt quite so much. She was very bitter about this. I tried to explain to her the wonderful purpose of problems in our lives. I tried to inspire her to think about God instead of about her problems and I must have been successful to some extent because one night she got to thinking about her problems and she got to thinking, "Just imagine, God regards me, this little grain of dust, to such an extent that he sends just the right problem for me to grow on." And she turned to God and she said, "Oh dear God, thank you for this pain through which I may grow closer to thee." And then the pain was gone and it has never returned. Perhaps that's what it means when it says, "In all things be thankful." So maybe more often we should pray the prayer of thankfulness. It's a very important prayer.
The second preparation has to do with bringing our lives into harmony with God's laws which are the same for all of us and which we can study together through our religious teachings, although we must individually apply them to our lives. Now I realize that created are not only the worlds and the beings but also the laws - both the physical laws and the spiritual laws which govern them. Obey those laws, your life is in harmony. Disobey those laws, you create difficulties for yourself by your disobedience.
Now I'll go a step further. If you're out of harmony through ignorance you suffer somewhat. If you know better and are still out of harmony you suffer a lot. You actually make things worse for yourself if you know and do not do. Let me give you an example of this. I asked two men the same question. They were both coughing their heads off and smoking one cigarette after another and I said to both of them, "Do you think perhaps it would ease your throat a little if you would stop smoking for awhile? The first was a big burly man who did heavy work and he said, "Why I always smoke when I have a cold. You know it kills disease germs." He will suffer only physical. The second was a college professor and he said, "I know this thing is bad for me in every way," and kept right on smoking. He will suffer not only physically but spiritually, because he knows and does not do.
I looked around me 35 years ago and I said, "Why, most human beings are their own worst enemy. I'm going to be my own best friend. I'm going to live all the good things I believe." And I got busy on it. I took them one by one. If I could think of one thing I was doing that I knew very well I should not be doing, I simply quit. And I had the good sense to make a quick relinquishment which is the easy way. You see tapering off is long and hard and usually never accomplished. And if I could think of anything I wasn't doing that I knew I should be doing I got busy on that. It took the living quite awhile to catch up with the believing, but finally it did. And when it did a process began which has never ended. As I lived up to the highest light I had, higher and higher light came to me.
The third preparation has to do with something which is unique for every human soul, something which you cannot learn from the outside. Something which you must perceive from the inside, because every one of us has a place in the Divine Plan. There's something we came to do. We have a job to do. The self-centered nature doesn't know what your job is, it's only the God-centered nature that knows what your job is. Therefore it needs to be awakened.
During my 15 year preparation period I had what I often call a time alone with God. It didn't take very long. An hour was the most it took. I would walk receptive and silent amidst the beauty of nature and wonderful insights would come to me as I prayed the prayer of receptive silence. It's a very important prayer. Most people seem to be more accustomed to the prayers that say, "Dear God, please give me this, dear God, please do that." But I never really knew what God should be doing and therefore I waited in receptive silence for God to tell me what I should be doing. And these wonderful insights would come to me. Many young folks these days talk to me about what are actually religious practices in some cultures. They talk to me about meditation techniques and breathing exercises. And I say to them, "Look what I got from my time alone with God. From the beauty around me, my inspiration. From the silent receptiveness, my meditation. And from the walking, not only my exercise but my breathing. Four things at once! I recommend that people make good use of their time.
Then I would put into practice the insights that came to me, and in that 15 year preparation period it wasn't one big thing I was called to do, it was many little things. I realize that in most lives it isn't one big thing but rather many little things. I also realize that the bread winner is customarily called into not an unusual, but a well recognized, useful task in society.
There is one more preparation and that is a simplification of life. To bring inner and outer well-being, spiritual and material well-being, into harmony in our life. This was made very easy for me because 35 years ago I made my vow of simplicity. "I shall not accept more than I need while others in the world have less than they need." That motivated me to bring my life down to need level for me.
Now I hope you don't feel I am deprived of anything. In my life what I want and what I need are exactly the same. You couldn't give me anything I don't need. I hope you don't think I feel insecure. I really don't know anybody who feels more secure than I do. After you have spiritual security you have no more need for material security. I hope you don't think I feel poor. I feel very rich. I have health, happiness, inner peace. These you couldn't buy if you were a billionaire. I'm not poor, I'm rich.
Some people don't realize this. I knew this man, I knew him very well. I knew his wife well. I had seen his children grow up and yet he couldn't fully understand. One day he was bemoaning my impoverished state. "What will you do in your old age," and so forth. I even knew his financial situation and so finally I said, "Even monetarily I am richer than you are. I have no debts!" At least I can start from scratch, you see, and I happened to know he had plenty of debts.
I have discovered this great truth, that unnecessary possessions are unnecessary burdens. I don't mean needs are all the same. There probably isn't one person in this room whose need level is my need level. Suppose for instance you have a family, obviously you need the stability of a family center for your children. You couldn't live as simply as I live. And of course there are needs beyond physical needs. All I'm saying is that anything you have but don't need tends to become a burden to you. If you have it you have to take care of it.
For instance, I met a lady about a month after her huge house in which she and her husband had been living alone since the children were grown had burned down. They had been out and they lost everything except the clothes they were wearing. Remembering how attached she had been to that big house, even though it had been a great burden to her to take care of, I started to say a few words of sympathy to her. And she said, "Don't sympathize with me. You could have the morning after but not now. Just think. I will never have to clear out that attic. I will never have to clean that basement. I will never have to clear out those clothes closets. Why I've never felt so free. I just feel I'm starting life all over again." Well don't wait for a house burning. Someone could use those extra things.
As soon as I had gotten my life down to need level for me, I began to feel this wonderful harmony in my life between inner and outer well being. And there is a great deal to be said about such harmony. Not only for an individual life, but also for the life of a society. Take a look at our poor, war weary world. What's the matter with us? We're so way off on the material side, even if we don't have it we desire it. And we're so way lacking on the spiritual side that when we discover nuclear energy and other technological advancements we're actually capable of putting those things into bombs and using them to kill people. This is because our spiritual well being lags so far behind. The valid research for the future is on the spiritual side. We need to bring these two into balance so we will know how to use well the material well being we already have.
Then there were some purifications required of me. The first purification was purification of the body, regarding the body as the temple of the spirit and treating it that way. I was staying with a lady who paid great attention to the kind of fuel she dumped the gasoline tank of her automobile but no attention whatsoever what kind of fuel that she dumped into her temple of the spirit and then she wondered why she was always sick.
Purification of the body has to do with sensible living habits, sensible eating habits. Obviously we should be eating to live. And yet I am acquainted with people who live to eat. And I know some who don't know when to stop eating. And sensible sleeping habits, also fresh air, sunshine, exercise, contact with nature. It seems so simple but in this culture it isn't necessarily the first purification we make. Although in some cultures it may be. I was very interested in a letter I received from a young man, a student in India. He said to me, "I am preparing to study under a guru," and in India a guru is a spiritual teacher, and said the young man, "I am now undergoing my seven year physical purification period before the guru will accept me as a student." Do you know why seven years? Every cell in your body changes in seven years. So in some cultures this evidently is one of the first things that is required.
Now the second purification I cannot stress too much because it is purification of thought. Your thoughts are so powerful that if you had any idea of their power you would never think a negative thought. And they can be a powerful influence for good when they're on the positive side. That's why I think about the best that could happen. The good things I want to see happen. Those are the things I want to emphasize. When your thoughts are on the negative side they can and often do make you physically ill.
I'll give you a couple examples of this. I knew a man who was 65 years old when I knew him. He was harboring symptoms of what was called a chronic physical illness. I saw that there was some bitterness in his life but I couldn't immediately put my finger on it because he was getting along well with his wife, he was getting along well with his grown children, and he was getting along well in his community. But I discovered that the bitterness was there just the same. He was harboring bitterness against his father who had been dead for many long years, because his father had educated his brother and not him. As soon as he was able to relinquish the bitterness he had been harboring against his dead father the so called chronic illness began to fade away and in a short time it was gone.
I knew a woman who was confined to her room. People thought a miracle had taken place in her life when her healing came. I remember going in to to see her. I took one look at her. You could tell by the lines in her face and the tenseness of her that this wasn't physical at all. And I don't think I had talked to her more than five minutes or so when she was telling me all about how mean her sister had been to her. The way she told it I realized she had told it again and again and that she mulled this bitterness against her sister over constantly in her mind. I found myself explaining to her that if she would forgive, ask forgiveness and make peace with her sister, then she could look for improvement in her health.
"Oh," she said, "I'd rather die. You have no idea how mean she was." So the thing just drifted for awhile, but early one morning she wrote a letter. And it turned out to be a good, inspired letter to her sister. I made a special trip into town to mail that letter as soon as she showed it to me before she could change her mind. And when I got back she had changed her mind. And she worried a little. Then by return mail came a letter from her sister, and her sister was so glad they were to be reconciled. The same day that letter from her sister arrived the woman was up and around and out of doors. The last I saw of her she was joyously off for a reconciliation with her sister. There's a very old but very wise saying that hate injures the hater, not the hated. It isn't enough just to do right things and say right things, you must also think right things before your life can come into harmony.
And then purification of desire. What are the things you are desiring? Are you desiring perfectly superficial things like pleasures or new items of wearing apparel or new items of household furnishings or new cars? You can come to the point of oneness of desire just to know and do God's will for you. And when you think about it is there anything else really important to desire?
And then one more purification. Purification of motive. Now here is a tricky thing. What is your motive for whatever you might be doing. I have never found a person with purely bad motives. I have rather found people with very mixed motives - good and bad motives all mixed together. I talked to a man in the business world. His motives in the business world were obviously not the highest. But mixed in with them I found good motives. Caring for his family, doing some good in his community. Mixed motives are very prevalent.
I talk to groups that are studying the most advanced spiritual teachings and they wonder why nothing is happening in their lives. Their motive is attainment of inner peace for themselves. Selfish motives. They will never find it that way. Your motive,if you are to find inner peace, must be an outgoing motive. Must be service of course, must be giving, not getting. In this world you are given as you give. I have met a few people who needed to change their jobs in order to change their lives, because of course you must be contributing constructively in order to be happy. But I have met many more people who merely had to change their motive to service in order to change their lives.
For instance, I knew a man who was an architect. The reason I noticed him is that he was following his calling. It was his calling to be an architect. He was therefore a good architect. But his motive was wrong. His motive was to make a lot of money and keep up or get ahead of the Joneses and he worked himself into a nervous breakdown. That's where I really talked to him about the joy of service and got him to do some little things to be of service, because once you learn the joy of service you can never go back into completely self centered living. I corresponded with him a little bit after that and on the third year of my pilgrimage route I walked through his home town. I was anxious to see how he was getting along and so I stopped in to see him. I hardly recognized him he was such a changed person. But he was still an architect. He was drawing a plan and he started talking about it. He said, "You see I'm designing it this way and this way to fit it into their budget and then I'm setting it this way on the plot of ground to make it look as nice as possible. His motive was to be of service to the people he was drawing plans for. He was a real transformed person. And incidently, his wife told me his business had increased leaps and bounds because everybody from miles around wanted him to draw their plans.
I was staying at the home of a woman who was a foremost real estate dealer in town and I soon found out why. She felt it was her calling to fit together the proper house and the proper family. When a family came to her and she didn't have a proper house for them she would call up the other real estate dealers to try to locate one, so even they couldn't say very hard words against her. And she was definitely the most popular real estate dealer in town because she was following her calling with a right motive.
Now the last are relinquishments and the first relinquishment, once you've made it you've found inner peace because it is the relinquishment of self will. Remember that self centered nature? But you can work on this. You work on it by refraining from doing any not good thing you may be motivated toward. But you do not suppress it. That would hurt you inside. And you do not express it. That would hurt you even more and create difficulties in your surrounding. You transform it. You use the energy somehow in a constructive way.
I'll tell you what a few of my friends did with this. One dear little lady, she seemed so gentle, but every once in awhile she would be motivated to do or say some mean thing and then she'd have terrible remorse about it. Well I talked to her about applying this method to her life and she did. I came in to see her one day and here was this dear little lady, very purposefully baking a batch of cookies. You could see there was something special about that batch of cookies. She told me she had learned a bit of gossip about one of her neighbors and as was her usual custom she was just rushing to the phone to spread it. Then she thought, "Oh no. This isn't the thing to do." Back she went and got out the ingredients and baked her neighbor a batch of cookies instead. In fact I was there when she took the cookies over and she discovered that the gossip wasn't even true. Wouldn't she have had remorse about that.
I knew another little lady that played the piano. She had a quick temper and a sharp tongue and every once in awhile she would be motivated to say something hurting to her husband or one of her teen age children and her household was in a constant uproar. She got the idea of taking it out on that piano and when they came home and discovered her busily playing piano in the midst of preparing dinner they left her alone. They knew there was a reason for it.
I know another lady who scrubs floors. I know another one who washes windows. I know a man who gets out the lawn mower and mows the lawn even though it's just been mowed. I know several who just take a walk. But I know one man, this man was about to lose his wife and two small children. They were going to leave him because he had such a really bad temper. He decided to something about this and whenever he felt a temper tantrum coming on instead of throwing things around the house which had been his previous custom, he got out there and jogged round and round the block until he was all out of breath and the temper was all gone and he saved his marriage. You know I talked to that man later and it's a very interesting thing. I discovered when I talked to him that he had not had a temper tantrum for a number of years. You see as soon as you start to do something about it your temper leaves. It's a very interesting thing that when you won't use it for destructive purposes you don't get these spells anymore. It really works.
Now the second relinquishment is the relinquishment of the feeling of separateness. Our world really needs this today. We judge things in the beginning as they relate to us as though we were the center of the universe. Then even after we know better intellectually we keep on judging things that way. In reality of course we are all cells in the same body of humanity. Every cell of equal worth, of equal importance in the eyes of God. When you know that you know what it is to love your neighbor as yourself. Yes, you know your neighbor is just as important as you are. No more important, no less important. Just as important as you are. You know that anything that hurts anybody, anywhere, really hurts all of us. And for you there becomes just one realistic way to work and that is for the good of the whole. Look what happens when you work for your selfish little self. You're just one cell against all those other cells, you're way out of harmony. But just as soon as you begin to work for the good of the whole you find yourself in harmony with God's purpose and with all of your fellow human beings. You see it's the easy, harmonious way to live.
And then relinquishment of all attachments. Material things must be put into their proper place. Material things are there for use but you must be able to use them without being attached to them so that you can relinquish them when they have outlived their usefulness. Because anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you. And in this materialistic age a great many of us, more or less, are possessed by our possessions. We are bound, we are tied, we are not free. I was concerned about an elderly lady who was working much too hard and I said to her, "Do you really need to work so hard? You have only yourself to support." And she said, "Well you see I have to pay rent on a five room house." "A five room house?" I said to her. "But you're alone in the world. Couldn't you live happily in one room?" "Oh yes," she said sadly. "But you see I have furniture for a five room house." Yes, she was working her fingers to the bone to provide a proper home for that furniture." It happens all the time. Just be sure it doesn't happen to you.
Then there's another kind of possession. You do not possess any other human being, no matter how closely related that other human being may be. No husband owns his wife. No wife owns her husband. No parents own their children. When we think we possess them there is a tendency to try to run their lives for them, out of which develops an extremely inharmonious situation. It is only when we realize we do not possess them, that they must live according to their own inner guidance, that we stop trying to run their lives for them. Then we discover that we are able to live in the most beautiful harmony with them.
The last is the relinquishment of all negative feelings. Now I want to mention just one negative feeling that the nicest people still experience and that negative feeling is worry. Do you know any worriers? Now worry is not concern. Concern is good. Concern leads you to do everything possible in the situation. Worry is the useless mulling over of things we can't change. It's a total waste of time and energy, not to speak of a lack of faith because of course if you are a praying person, it should be easy for you to just take what you are worrying about to God in prayer until you feel, "Now it's in God's hands. It's in the best possible hands." And then leave it there and go about other things. It's a spiritual law that what you hold onto through worry, you're holding in your own little finite hands. Higher powers only take over when you have had the faith to stop worrying.
Here's another technique. Live this present moment. You're very, very seldom worrying about this present moment. It's usually all right. If you're worrying you're either agonizing over the past which you should have forgotten long ago or you're apprehensive over the future which hasn't even come yet. We tend to skim right over the present moment. And since the present moment is the only moment God gives anyone to live and if you don't live the present moment you never really get around to living at all. If you do live the present moment you tend not to worry. You see for me every moment is a new and wonderful opportunity to be of service.
This is the last thing about negative feelings. It helped me very much at one time and it has helped many others - the realization that no outward thing, nothing, nobody from the outside could hurt me on the inside, could hurt me spiritually, could hurt me psychologically. I recognized that I could only be hurt spiritually by my own wrong actions which I have control over, we have free will. My own wrong reactions. Now reactions are tricky things but we have control over them too. Or by my inaction, in some situation that requires action of me. We used to call them sins of omission. When I recognized all this I just felt so free and I just stopped hurting myself. Now somebody could do the meanest thing to me. Why I would just feel the deepest compassion for this out of harmony person who is capable of doing mean things. I would pray for that person. I certainly wouldn't hurt myself by a wrong reaction of bitterness or anger. You see you have complete control over whether you will be hurt spiritually or not. And anytime you want to you can stop hurting yourself.
Those are the steps toward inner peace I wanted to share with you. There's nothing new about this. This is universal truth. And this same thread of universal truth you will discover runs through all of the really spiritual teachings. They are just differently expressed. I express them in every day words, in terms of my own personal experience with them and the experiences of some of my friends.
Now I am definitely an optimist. And I can't help being an optimist because I know that God's laws will bring us good as soon as we obey them. And I know that the divine spark within, the kingdom of God within, the indwelling Christ within every human life always makes us capable of obeying God's laws. But we do have free will about this, don't we? Therefore how soon we obey and thereby find harmony both within our lives and within our world is up to us. God bless you all.
(Continued on Part II)
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