There is a well known narrative in the older Scripture about a man in a den of lions; but the real significance back of the account is revealed by the story of an angel. On page 581 of Science and Health we read this definition of angels: "God's thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect; the inspiration of goodness, purity, and immortality, counteracting all evil, sensuality, and mortality."
It is helpful in reviewing the narrative of Daniel to keep this definition in mind. We are all familiar with the historic facts concerning the prophet; how he stood almost alone for God at a corrupt court in an idolatrous nation; how his spiritual wisdom and goodness had won him repeated recognition; and how finally he had been placed in the very highest positions of trust by three successive kings. We recall too that while peace and steadfastness abode with him in his daily round of responsible duties, there were far different mental companions dwelling with the sin-loving courtiers about him. To their sensual, idolatrous minds this simple, wise, spiritual man of many honors was no doubt a thorn in the flesh, and his humility and purity the source of much ridicule. Defrauded as they no doubt thought themselves by his exalted position, rebuked by his goodness, their mental companions were jealousy, hatred, and intrigue. So before long there happened what always happens when evil thoughts are entertained,—they ripened into action.
These princes therefore plotted against Daniel, plotted to reach him through what they regarded as his weakest, point,—namely, his loyalty to his God. We all know what followed; how Daniel's one friend, the king, mentally asleep, signed the decree making illegal, under penalty of the lions' den, any prayer offered to a god instead of himself; how Daniel went quietly about the Father's business, communing as usual thrice daily with his God; and how enemies, spying upon him, reported him to the now awakened king.
To judge by human sense, error was working unchecked, for in spite of the king's efforts and the prophet's prayers, deliverance came not; and the man of God found himself in the sealed den of lions. From a human standpoint it was indeed a terrible situation. The long night was before Daniel and about him were the voracious beasts, the embodiments of ferocity and destruction,—the outward manifestation of the malicious force which had put him there.
Was time wasted in self-pity or in self-condemnation, in rebellion or in hate? Was there any yielding to the terrifying arguments which stood ready to invade his peace? It is quite supposable, on the contrary, that the whole experience continued to be as nothing to Daniel's exalted thought. If fears did throng upon him, it is certain that they were steadily banished with the realization of God's presence. His was, moreover, no quick release; morning found him still there, the conditions seemingly aggravated by the increased hunger of the lions. Yet in the continued presence of these most destructive beliefs the prophet remained unscathed. Though not saved from the sting of hatred and the operation of malice, he was saved from their effects.
Then in the dawn came that impressive scene of dread versus calmness and doubt versus faith. The king's wavering trust in "Daniel's God" (not his own) had deserted him, and by early morning fear carried him in haste to his beloved prophet; but the voice was "lamentable" which doubtingly cried, "Is thy God ... able to deliver thee from the lions?" We can imagine his fear as he awaited the reply. But there was neither fear nor haste in the answer, and the calm voice remembered even the customary oriental salutation: "O king, live forever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me: and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt."
Here then was the reason of his deliverance: the angel of God was with him through the long night watches,—with this man in whom innocency was found and who had done no hurt,—and simultaneously with the coming of the angel's presence the lions' mouths were shut. What was this angel? What indeed but one of "God's thoughts passing to man;" what but the outward flow of divine Truth, which found no hindrance of hate or even fear in the loving consciousness of the innocent prophet.
"So," we read, "Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God." So long, then, as the reflected presence of infinite power remained with the lions, so long were their seemingly ferocious natures transformed to be as harmless as the lamb. Love had illumined mortal darkness and hate was dispelled. Then for those who had eyes to see was enacted another lesson as Daniel's enemies were cast by the angry king into the selfsame den. Destructive thought then met destructive thought, and the pitiful scene which followed evidences the only power which hatred has, that is, the annihilation of itself.
It is indeed a wonderful example of courage and faith that the prophet has given us. Not only to his countrymen came that spiritual awakening which always follows every great victory over error, but from that day to this, to millions of readers, this simple account has been a rock of strength and an inspiration for independent right action and supporting faith. Daniel's protection, we may be certain, was due wholly to his right thinking. The angel dwelt with Daniel because Daniel dwelt with the angel. It was his own receptivity to the truth, his soaring mentality which reached the spiritual intuition that constituted the angel. Through his constant faithfulness and love he had opened wide his mental windows to this heavenly visitant and in this hour of dire extremity it abode with him, proving with glorious evidence that animal magnetism under its highest pressure is but a mortal illusion, a powerless nothing.
Moreover, the prophet's stand during the entire experience was one of absolute reliance upon Principle. Just as outside the den he had refused to adopt a human policy, to conciliate his opponents, or to become in any way the servant of error for his own physical preservation, so within the den he looked wholly away from every human alleviation, straight to God. He was not therefore depending on any release from the presence of the vicious animals for his deliverance, but rather on destroying through spiritual understanding the bestial qualities they manifested. Thus he made no attempt to fight either his enemies or the lions with carnal weapons, but lifted his thought to know man's true nature, lifted it to that very consciousness of omnipresence which is deliverance, where all God's creatures are "as the angels," having neither the capacity to destroy nor to be destroyed.
In like manner today, we as Christian Scientists are learning to look for a change of conditions by changing our thought about conditions. Daniel was as safe in the den as out of it, for he knew that protection is not in place or circumstance but in man's unity with God. If like the prophet we look to God with unswerving faith, like him we shall find that the angel presence is not outside awaiting us. Divine Love is with us in the den, covering us with His feathers and surely, though it may seem slowly, lifting us out. As we lay hold of spiritual ideas we lay hold of indestructibility; and according to the thoughts we choose or reject, we choose or reject the angels.
One of the hardest things which the human mind has to do is to learn to love its enemies, and when we realize that the prophet's consciousness must have been filled not only with remarkable courage and faith but also with exalted love, we realize that it was indeed an abiding place for angels. Surely Daniel's companions in those weary days of intrigue and persecution were neither envious courtiers nor starving lions, but, to use our Leader's words (Poems, p. 12), "a white-winged angel throng" were all about him.
The radiation of love was no small part of Daniel's demonstration. His was no lethargic mental attitude, no turning his back on the situation until time should wear away the cruel pressure of personal attack. It was the positive, active operation in his consciousness of the law of Love, the complete displacement of all thoughts of hate. There is no doubt whatever that, anticipating Jesus' words, Daniel had loved his enemies, blessed them that cursed him, and prayed for them that persecuted him. As we too keep our thought ready for a clear, constant reflection of the Love that knows no enemies, no persecution, we too shall see perilous situations vanish into nothingness, for the angel presence—that ever waiting law of protection—will be there. It is there now, if we but rise to see it, operating to our entire saving and well-being.
There are mighty lessons for us in Daniel, lessons of courage, loyalty, faith, and love. As we take them into our mentality, into that purifying, spiritualizing process which goes on day by day, they will lead us too to that hallowed consciousness where God's thoughts are forever with us; and wherever God's thoughts are, where God is expressed, revealed, is sure deliverance and peace.