had a power of overcoming trouble, a power of triumphing over the
“prince of this world,” which was unique in the history of mankind. All
will agree to this, even the skeptics and agnostics and those of alien
faiths. And He promised that He would leave us this power: “Most
assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he
will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to
My Father” (John 14:12).
Up to now His professed
followers have failed, as a whole, to experience the power He said He
was going to leave with us. The question that is left unanswered is,
What is this power, and where shall we find it?
Having convinced myself that
Jesus meant us to take Him absolutely at His word when He said we would
do even greater works than He did, I determined to study until I had
answered this question. And this is what I found—that Jesus’ attitude
toward life was one of converting everything He saw and touched into
He stood on this earth as a
symbol of a greater world. He gripped the issues of life as mere symbols
of eternal and heavenly realities.
Petty problems and sorrows
and disasters He converted into beautiful symbols of eternal and
infinite goodness. Thus nothing was petty, nothing was trivial, nothing
was without meaning in Jesus’ world, for all things combined to reveal
the kingdom—the kingdom of heaven in which He lived and moved and had
“All these things Jesus spoke
to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to
them” (Matt. 13:34). Jesus never let His lips say what His mind and
heart did not authorize. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth
speaks” (Matt. 12:34).
If Jesus talked in parables,
He thought in parables; if He thought in parables, He felt in parables.
The parable point of view of the universe was at the heart of His being.
From somewhere about the beginning of His ministry He adopted this
parabolic method of looking at the universe and never departed from it.
There is something
tremendously significant in this fact. It reveals that this method of
thinking and talking about life for Jesus was not a halfway method. He
did not use it occasionally as a means to an end, but continuously,
exclusively, utterly. Perhaps no teacher in all history has so
completely given himself to one particular method as Jesus did to this.
To me this was the greatest
discovery of my life. It took its rank beside Newton’s and Watt’s
discoveries that apples fall downward and steam pushes outward.
And I am firmly convinced
that when the religious world awakes to the full significance of these
simple words the result will be just as transforming to its spiritual
life as the discoveries of gravitation and steam power have been to its
scientific and material life. For just as the discoveries of Watt and of
Newton awakened man to the presence of a new world of physical and
material forces outside him, so the discovery of Jesus’ way of looking
at life will awaken man to the presence of a new world of spiritual
forces within him.
It was not till I made the
discovery I have just referred to that there came to me a realization of
the close association of cause and effect that existed between the
parables and the miracles of our Lord. For in Jesus’ parabolic
interpretation of life lay the secret of the signs and wonders that
signalized His healing and teaching ministry.
If all this is implied in
Jesus’ parabolic view of life, it behooves us to consider carefully just
what manner of thing this mystery is that we call a parable—this thing
that is so filled with moral and spiritual dynamite.
“A parable,” says the
dictionary at my hand, “is an allegorical relation of something real.”
There we have it: A parable deals first of all with reality. Second, it
translates this reality in terms of the imagination.
Jesus looked at reality
through the lens of the divine imagination. By means of that fact
troubles vanished around Him, obstacles fell away, the lost became
found, the sick became well, sinners became redeemed, and rough places
became smooth. Moreover, He promised that those who followed Him and
used the way He used would have similar dominion over all things on
earth and that greater works than He did they would be able to do also.
The imagination is the power
we all possess of seeing harmonies, unities and beauties in things where
the nonimaginative mind sees nothing but discords, separations,
ugliness. It is the tool of the mind with which we build up our
affirmations –the “staff” of the shepherd psalm that comforts us when
all other faculties fail us.
To look at life
imaginatively, then, to see everything about us as a great parable full
of deep inner meanings—meanings of love, joy, wholeness, symmetry, and
perfection—is to see life truthfully, that is to say, spiritually. It
brings us into a condition of continuous prayer that is conducive, above
all else, to bringing into our lives those larger harmonies and unities
that to our physical eyes appear to be miracles.
The imagination is of all
qualities in man the most godlike—that which associates him most closely
with God. The first mention of man in the Bible is where he is spoken
of as an “image” (Gen. 1:26): “Let Us make man in Our image, according
to Our likeness.”
The only place where an image
can be conceived is in the imagination. Thus man, the highest creation
of God, was a creation of God’s imagination. The source and center of
all man’s creative power—the power that lifts him above the level of
brute creation and gives him dominion over all the fish of the sea, the
birds of the air, and the animals that move and creep on the earth—is
his power of making images, or the power of the imagination.
The imagination of man is but
the window or door which, when thrown open, lets the divine life stream
into our lives. When it is thus thrown open man is brought into a
condition of consciousness which, for want of a better word, is called
This heavenly inspiration is
what links man to the divine and brings into existence our poets,
composers, prophets, mystics, seers and saints. This is a power that
Jesus Christ had and that lifted Him above all other men—a power that
He, in His immeasurable compassion and infinite humility, wished to
bestow upon others and share with them, that greater works than He had
done they might do also.
These works—these mighty
works, these miracles, if you will—are the direct outcome of Jesus’
converting everything He saw into parables. And a parable, we find, is
merely “an allegorical relation of something real.”
Looked at from this angle,
the performing of a miracle is not such an impossible task. It consists
merely of looking at reality through the lens of the imagination and
then letting this parable, or imaginative way of looking at reality,
bring to pass what is spoken of as a miracle.
And what is reality? Reality,
in the eyes of the practical man, is made up of cold, hard facts. And
what are the cold, hard facts of life? As we look about us in this world
what we see all too frequently is quarreling, bickering, unhappiness,
unfaithfulness, treachery, covetousness and materialism.
These are facts of life. But
what are facts? Fact comes from the word factum, meaning something we do
or make. Are these facts of life identical with the realities of life?
Not according to Jesus. To
Him reality does not consist of that which is made, but of that which
eternally is. Love is—quarrels are made; joy is—unhappiness is made;
truth is—lies are made; loyalty is—betrayals are made; purity
is—impurity is made; life is—sickness is made.
So Jesus went through life
seeing no quarrels, no unhappiness, no lies, no impurity, no sickness.
Where they appeared to be, He turned the lens of His divinely inspired
imagination upon them; He converted them into parables, and behold, they
stood forth revealed as mere shadows or reflections—upside down—of the
reality. And every time that Jesus converted a fact into reality the
people exclaimed that a miracle had been wrought.
I do not mean to imply that
Jesus went about disregarding and overlooking the facts of life. Rather
He looked at them so much more steadily, so much more understandingly
than the rest of mankind that He looked straight through them into the
underlying reality of which they were the mere counterfeits or
reflections. This is what the parabolic point of view consists of.
He looked steadily at the
dead girl until He could utter with absolute conviction, based upon
perfectly clear understanding, this startling parable: “‘The girl is not
dead, but sleeping’” (Matt. 9:24). He looked through the palsied
sufferer until He could pronounce with conviction another parable,
“‘Your sins are forgiven you’’’ (v. 2).
For to Jesus a parable meant
simply the going behind the fact to the reality the fact represents. It
does not mean watering the leaf that is waving conspicuously in the
sunshine but watering the roots that no one can see. It does not mean
healing a man’s skin but healing his soul.
It does not mean dealing with
the seen, but with the unseen; not with the carnal, but with the
spiritual. Once perform the inner watering, the inner cleansing, and the
outer healing will follow as a matter of course. “‘Which is easier, to
say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or to say, “Arise and walk”?’” (v.
Now let me clear up a
misunderstanding about the imagination that may have cropped up in the
minds of many readers. Some have thought the imagination is something
that makes believe that which is not. This is fancy, not imagination.
Fancy converts what is real into pretense and sham; imagination enables
one to see through the appearance of a thing to what it really is.
We may ask, Did Jesus perform
a miracle when He said the leper was made whole? No, He merely
demonstrated it. Did He break a natural law when He said, “ ‘The girl is
not dead but sleeping’”? No, He merely demonstrated that life is the
reality, and death is the shadow or counterfeit of Life.
Then can we create miracles?
Yes, we can, if we use our imaginations and look steadfastly through the
appearances of things to the reality behind them. We cannot create
miracles by our fancy—by trying to make believe we see things that we do
not and cannot see because they do not exist. We can create miracles by
faith—by knowing the reality that exists behind the things that only
seem to exist. Faith will indeed move mountains.
And what is the greatest of
all realities, the reality around which all lesser realities revolve, as
it were? The great reality, the realization of which was at the core of
all Jesus’ miracles, was the truth that man is eternally united with
all that is good—in other words, with God and His kingdom—and eternally
separated from all that is bad. Merely to see this reality and see it
clearly as Jesus did will make the sick whole, the sorrowful happy, the
sinful redeemed and the lost found.
(1882-1956) was the founder and director of Camps Farthest Out, a
movement to help believers integrate body, mind and spirit in God. He
was also the author of more than 50 books, including The Soul’s Sincere Desire.