Mr. Lincoln on faith, and fear, and our dark times

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Election Day. Another step closer to the abyss? A step back? Stay tuned.

I realized, writing to John King, that the stuff I have been given, this past year, is to a point. It was very clear – I lost it again – good thing it is in print, or on phosphors, or whatever.

Very stirred up, of course. Nothing to be done but vote – for whatever that is worth – and see. I have never felt so helpless at that level.

A good reminder, that – for I have never felt more in control. internally. We may have to write off political and economic “freedom” – and then? It can’t be seen, any more than Lincoln could see ahead.

Mr. Lincoln – thinking of you – what can you say to us in the 21st century?

You yourself are learning that when all else fails you, you find yourself dependent upon providence. It isn’t that you become dependent upon providence, it is that you realize it, if you didn’t realize it before, and you realize it more earnestly, more deeply, if you had. You have read the saying, “man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” You mustn’t think of it as God lying in wait ready to pounce, but as God waiting patiently for your life to bring you to the point where you see how small a thing any one man is and how great the overarching power that fashioned and maintains what you call the garden.

You are in dark times, and darker times are probably ahead for you. There are brighter futures and darker, but the chances are many times to one that you have yet to experience the worst. Now here let me use your own life as an example for people in general. You will remember times when you were caught in circumstances that seemed to grind you down, and the grinding went on for many years. It was only after you escaped these circumstances that you realized that even what you do not desire, what you can scarcely stand – has value to you. Every place is a particular window on the world, and perhaps one window is as valuable as another. If you are in a particular fix, at least explore it with diligence. It may be worth more to you than you know.

Now, you must understand, I have more sympathy with George Bush than you do, for I have been in his place. No one not in that place can know the reality of it. You would do better to pray for him than to revile him. Remember what you read of General Lee, who prayed for his enemies, including me, every night. That did not stop him from fighting with all his strength, but he did not fight from hatred.

Yet the thought of General Lee is instructive as well in another regard. His cause was wrong. Doubly wrong in that it was integrally bound with a giant evil, and in that it was founded on a bad theory that could not have maintained itself, but would have wrecked itself in short order. Is this not the case today? Your people – who of course are still my people, yet very different from the people I knew, very alien in beliefs, habits, thought, values – your people are dividing ever more cleanly on questions that boil down to love or fear, your Course in Miracles duality.

The people are dividing. Looking at it as a choice between love and fear, the division is cleaner within individuals but even there is not consistent. How much more confused and confusing, then, to look at the external results of so many individual civil wars.

If there were not so much fear, there would not be so much anger or fanaticism. If less anger, there would be less cheating in order to win at all costs. If less cheating, there would be more reliance on established procedures and traditions – leading to less fear, as the process reinforced itself. You move toward fear or away, continually. There is no standing still.

Do you think it coincidence that the country is so evenly divided between incompatible visions? It is the doing of providence, rather. This eliminates the possibility of a majority disregarding and squashing a minority – there are only minorities in play, neither set having a comfortable margin over the other.

The only way through it to transcend these differences. They cannot be forever papered over, and one will not prevail over the other without maiming the body politic. If the nation cannot survive half slave and half free – and it could not – how less likely that it will survive half fearful and half love-filled? Fear will conquer all, or love will. Can it be any other way?

Saying that love will conquer all is not unrealistic or mystical or absolutist. It is merely one way of saying that they that live in hope may spread their habit of thought, their way of being, so that it sets the tone for the entire country. Or – failing that – fear will drag everything down to the level of control.

What doomed the South, it might be said, is that slavery assured that those who ran society would act always from fear. The North, on the other hand, greatly hoped. It had its machinery, its trade, its vigorous new settlements and – except for the drag of slavery in it southern portion, which then threatened to become national in scope – it faced the future with optimism.

Now, in your time, your two cultural and political sides divide the hope and fear between them – which is why the long stalemate. The thing – the only thing – that will decisively tilt the balance is the issuance – or the non-issuance – within a certain time of an emancipation proclamation.

Joseph explained to you that the issues of states rights versus federal rights were morally balanced; the question of whether free government was possible if parts of it could secede at will was a vital question, but not a moral one. What made the Union cause predominate was that the emancipation proclamation threw into the balance the question of slavery or freedom.

So today you need to peer into the mists of so many issues contending. Find the moral issue that is at state. Throw that onto the pile and you will see the crisis resolve.

Notice I do not claim that it will resolve smoothly and evenly, nor necessarily without bloodshed. The Emancipation Proclamation did not prevent Chancellorsville and Gettysburg and Vicksburg and all the terrible fighting of 1864. But it made victory possible, and made it meaningful.

What principle, turned into practical reality, would make your struggles not only worthwhile but in fact a triumph for America as a whole and humanity in example? This is your puzzle to solve, but some thought should make it obvious enough.

My assumption is that it is a more profound definition of freedom, a clearer statement of the fact that

1) people are more important than abstractions,

2 governments are supposed to serve, not command.

3) “individuals” do not, cannot, exist in isolation but in community.

Yet this does not come clear. I feel like I need a key that I cannot find, though it is probably in front of my face.

Have you not been pursuing a deeper connection for the past 15 years? Can that not be a part of the new equation you are attempting to decipher?

Yes, this very communication process is part of it. And it has given me a different way of thinking about providence and our connection to the other side, which some think mere superstition and others think merely a matter of following orders.

Does not fear stem largely from the belief that you on the physical plane are alone and on your own? Does that not add desperation to the emotional makeup of the contenders?

It adds ruthlessness, for sure.

Churchill, Roosevelt, many of the armed forces leaders firmly believed in providence and believed that so long as they fought for good, they would be aided. It is a powerful assistance, and is not in any way illusion. Of course it carries with it a responsibility to continually examine you conduct to assure that you are doing the will of God, as best you can discern it, rather than merely your own.

This you see is the hidden dimension. This is why a God-fearing people have an advantage over those who do not value or perceive such a connection. It has nothing to do with God being pleased to be recognized, I believe. God doesn’t need our recognition. It has to do, rather, with men being able to put themselves into the right attitude to do the will of God – which will be the best for them. If they know it, they live in a very different world from those who do not.

And perhaps you can see that the question of a belief in divine providence is among the issues that have fueled your culture war. They that believe in God and seek to do his bidding as best they discern it may go very far astray in fact but as long as they seriously question and stoutly attempt to live their faith, they will have a strength denied those who attempt to live as if they were only humans with no greater, more transcendent, connection. Here is the fire that fueled what you call the religious right. They could have been easily countered had their adversaries believed, whatever the specifics of their belief.

One man connected to the other side (one might say) is as a mighty host, and one relying only on his own resources is puny by comparison even if his cause is objectively right.

That is as I see it.

Thank you, Mr. Lincoln. I will send this around – to many who will agree with little or none of it – and we will hope it reaches some who may profit by it.

2 thoughts on “Mr. Lincoln on faith, and fear, and our dark times

  1. For me, Abraham Lincoln stands right beside Viktor Frankyl in my heart. When I read “So today you need to peer into the mists of so many issues contending. Find the moral issue that is at state. Throw that onto the pile and you will see the crisis resolve.” – it made me think of the issue of people taking at another’s expense; taking pleasure, taking profit, taking promotion………..taking advantage. I see this everywhere in our society. If we could possibly qualify ourselves on what we do in our lives, ask the question “…is this at someone else’s expense, is this fair if it was turned around the other way??” then I wonder if that could be a start. But how to unprogram the population? Over many years, society at large has been taught to “swim with the sharks”, that it’s a “dog eat dog world out there”, and that “night is right”. Uggggh. It feels like one would have to find that awareness all by themselves….or perhaps not: if it became “trendy”……..hmm.
    ; )

    1. Its been a decade since Frank reported Joseph Smallwood saying that “hogism” was the challenge of our times. Since then, the hogs have certainly gotten fatter.

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