What is this understanding on the getting of which depends so much? Is it intellectual lore, obtained from delving deep into books of other men's making? Is it knowledge obtained from studying rocks (geology) or stars (astronomy) or even the human body (physiology)?
Nay, verily, for when did such knowledge ever ensure life and health and peace, ways of pleasantness, with riches and honor?
Understanding is a spiritual birth, a revelation of God within the heart of man. Jesus touched the root of the matter when, after having asked the apostles a question that was answered variously, according to the intellectual perception of the men, he asked another question to which Peter gave a reply not based on external reasoning, but on intuition.
He said to Peter, "Blessed are you, Simon Son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven" (Mt. 16:17).
You may have an intellectual perception of Truth. You may easily grasp with the mind the statement that God is the giver of all good gifts—life, health, love—just as people have for centuries grasped it. Or you may go further, and intellectually see that God is not only the giver, but the gift itself; that He is life, health, love, in us. But unless Truth is "revealed ... to you" by "my Father in heaven," it is of no practical benefit to you or to anyone else.
This revelation of Truth to the consciousness of a person is spiritual understanding.
You may say to yourself or another may say silently to you, over and over again, that you are well and wise and happy. On the mental plane, a certain "cure" is effected, and for a time you will feel well and wise and happy. This is simply a form of hypnotism, or mind cure. But until, down in the depths of your being, you are conscious of your oneness with the Father, until you know within yourself that the spring of all wisdom and health and joy is within your own being, ready at any moment to leap forth at the call of your need, you will not have spiritual understanding.
All the teachings of Jesus were for the purpose of leading men into this consciousness of their oneness with the Father. He had to begin at the external man—because people then as now were living mostly in external things-and teach him to love his enemies, to do good to others, and so forth. These were external steps for them to take-a sort of lopping off of the ends of the branches; but they were steps that led on up to the place of desire and attainment where finally the Master said, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. (Jn. 16:12).
He told them of the Comforter that was in them, and which would teach them all things, revealing the "depths of God" (I Cor. 2:10) to them, showing them things to come. In other words, he told them how they might find the kingdom of heaven within themselves—the kingdom of love, of power, of life.
The coming of the Comforter to their hearts and lives, giving them power over every form of sin, sickness, sorrow, and over even death itself, is exactly what we mean by understanding or realization. The power that this consciousness of the indwelling Father gives is for us today as much as it was for those to whom the Nazarene spoke. Aye, more: for did he not say, "The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these. (Jn. 14:12)?
All the foregoing lessons have been steppingstones leading up to the point where man may realize the ever-abiding inner presence of the Most High, God. "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?" (1 Cor. 6:19)
I cannot reveal God to you. You cannot reveal God to another. If I have learned, I may tell you, and you may tell another how to seek and find God, each within himself. But the new birth into the consciousness of our spiritual faculties and possibilities is indeed like the wind that "blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. (Jn. 3:8). The new birth takes place in the silence, in the invisible.
Intellectual lore can be bought and sold: understanding, or realization, cannot. A man, Simon by name, once attempted to buy the power that spiritual understanding gives from another who possessed it. "But Peter said to him, 'May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God's gift with money! You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God' " (Acts 8:20-21).
Nor will crying and beseeching bring spiritual understanding. Hundreds of people have tried this method and have not received that for which they earnestly but ignorantly sought. They have not received, because they did not know how to take that which God freely offered. Others have sought with selfish motives this spiritual understanding, or consciousness of the indwelling Father, because of the power it would give them. "You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures [or to serve selfish ends]" (Jas. 4:3).