Buchman saw his thought to tackle 'Tutz', followed by his immediate meeting with him, as an intimation to him from God. Similarly, a decisive moment for Ray Purdy, who became one of his life-long colleagues, was at a student camp in September 1919, when Buchman received such an unexpected prompting, suddenly got up and hurried to a tent at the far end of the camp, where he found a man seriously ill with acute appendicitis. In later life, too, Buchman would talk of 'that arresting tick' which could intrude into a person's ordinary thinking with particular authority. But his concept of listening was not mainly composed of such occurrences. 'Listening means an unhurried time when God really can have a chance to imprint His thoughts in your mind,' he said at Kuling.2 'For me personally at five o'clock or an earlier hour, I am awake and conscious of the presence of God. Some days it is simply a series of luminous thoughts of things God wants me to do that day. Some days it is just a sense of peace and rest and one or two outstanding things. Other days it is a sense of need for intercession on behalf of certain people. It takes all the fret, strain and worry out of life.'*
(* The thoughts which arose in such times of seeking God's guidance in later years became known, in the verbal shorthand of Buchman and his friends, as 'guidance', although neither he nor they considered that all such thoughts came from God.)
Such communing with God has been the practice of saints down the ages. Buchman's belief was that this contact was also available to everyone and anyone. 'This listening to God is not the experience of a few men,' he told the Chinese. 'It's the most sane, normal, healthful thing a person can do ... You begin to realise your own nothingness.'
To Sam Shoemaker in 1920, Buchman wrote a seven-page foolscap letter, citing a formidable array of Biblical and theological authority for the practice. 'It is, of course, constant in all the books of the Scripture,' he wrote, 'and I am absolutely convinced from my clinical reactions both at Princeton and in other places, that it is possible for babes in Christ to have this experience. Someone once compared the Bible to a lake, in which lambs could walk and an elephant could swim. The same analogy holds ... I want to make it available to the masses who are hungry but unaware of this very simple truth …
'It is not a matter of temperament; much more of a willingness to become as little children. It is given to all alike if they will accept it in a childlike spirit. We have lived such poverty-stricken lives spiritually that the simple offends and seems peculiar. One of the reasons the truth did not flash upon me earlier was a lack of abandon on my part. It was my own stupidity in blundering so long.'