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Poverty as a Disease

Wisdom is better than rubies. —Solomon 
Truth alone makes rich and great. —Emerson

One of the most subtle fallacies of the day is the common belief that wealth is power. Wealth is not power; it is only an evidence of power. The ruby is a precious stone, but the wisdom that discovers and extracts it from its native rock is of incomparably greater value. The same wisdom can discover and produce other precious gems. The producer is always greater than the thing produced. Truth is the great producer, and is the first cause of all riches and greatness.

For many centuries King Solomon has stood as the type of wealth and wisdom. It is related of him that he was offered the choice of supreme good in any form he might desire. He simply asked for wisdom. In consequence of that possession, but not as a reward of merit, as has so long been taught, his wealth and power became truly fabulous. For centuries, also, we have read the teaching of the Nazarene: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." And again, in the words of the great apostle: "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." Yet we have continued to associate disease and poverty with godliness. We have ascribed them to the mysteries of a "Divine Providence," and even professed to believe them necessary to the evolution of righteousness.

We are only just beginning to open our eyes to the fact that poverty and disease spring from the same cause, and are subject to the same remedy. We are beginning to admit that both cause and remedy are within the individual himself, and proceed from a condition of mind. We have satisfied and excused ourselves with theories of "heredity" and "environment," and "circumstances" have often served as a scapegoat.

It is, perhaps, a bold and radical position to declare that poverty and disease are crimes, for which the sufferer is alone responsible; yet it is true that they are crimes,—of ignorance. We do not find the average mind willing to accept any imputed increase of responsibility, after a habit of dismissing it with the thought of "Providence," "fate," "destiny," or "accident." We have discovered in the study of the science of mind that the only real healing can be developed from the foundation of a teaching of personal responsibility, resulting from the absolute freedom of the individual. Man is free; hence he is responsible. Man is responsible; hence he must be free. In a logical philosophy of life, we cannot admit either proposition without the other. If man is free, then he must always have been free; else the responsibility would be lessened by every moment of bondage in the past which must to some degree have weakened him.

Mental Science claims that every disease is but thought externalized. It produces health by correcting the thought. Experience has certainly justified the theory. In the same way, it follows that a diseased or uncomfortable environment must also be mind externalized, and can be remedied only from within. This is contrary to the popular thought and method, which always attack externals and exhaust themselves in frantic endeavors to win fortune by grappling with material conditions. What are the results of such efforts? The large majority of men fail altogether, and disastrously. A few accumulate the fortune, but without the satisfaction that had been expected to accompany it. It is not actually possessed by its reputed owner, but rather possesses him. It proves to be a fickle master. "Fickle fortune" is the significant title of worldly riches. "Misfortune," perhaps, would as well define them, judging them by their fruits; for they are painfully gained, frequently at the sacrifice of health, honor, and affection, and retained through anxiety, or easily lost.

When we study nature we find ourselves impressed with a great power, not with a great effort. Nature accomplishes her aims easily; her processes are agreeable. Their results are always found in the evolution of better things and higher types. Nature shows a marvelous prodigality in all directions, and a fertility of resource which to our narrow minds seems incomprehensible. Opulence is her crown and scepter. She does not struggle to obtain or to hold it. It is her possession by divine right. It is not a gift, nor a reward, nor a wage. It is the keynote of her divine harmonies. Why, then, are we, in our humanity, so sadly out of tune? Is it not because we have not studied harmony? We have not learned the score. We have been cramped and mean in thought. We have been cowardly and selfish in spirit and action. We have reversed the teaching of the truth, and sought first the things we wished "added unto" us, promising ourselves that afterward we would "seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness." We have foolishly imagined that the "things" applied to this life and the "righteousness" to another. We have failed to comprehend the statement as a scientific law, and have dismissed it as a "moral" law, with which, perhaps, we were little concerned. We have postponed heaven as a factor of what we called eternity, and failed to realize that time and eternity are really one. In our silly definitions of life, we have overlooked life's unity.

Now, however, we are beginning to study the alphabet aright. We find that when we get into words of one syllable, past and present are merged into the "now;" that cause and result are in ourselves, and that reward and punishment are only synonyms for consequences. Loss and gain are impossible to those who possess all things in truth. Finally we discover that environment and fortune are simply indications of our state of mind. These can be changed by setting up for ourselves new standards, and making fresh statements of the principles of life. Discord cannot result from the right interpretation of the notes of a master in harmony. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. Disease and poverty are not expressions of an enlightened mind. We cannot associate either with an infinite goodness, nor conceive of a supreme power without opulence. The attempt to do this is the source of all skepticism and atheism. The nobility of the human mind revolts at so unworthy a conception of Deity.

Can we wonder at the failure of ecclesiasticism, after a struggle of eighteen centuries based upon a sterile and ascetic philosophy, with its grotesque idea of supreme good? The growing light of the present day exposes the veneering of religious systems which easily satisfied the twilight of the Dark Ages. We insist upon a larger interpretation of life. We are content no longer to creep through our earthly paradise like worms, or to crawl upon all-fours. We are not willing to prostrate ourselves before the idols of churchly superstition, and to debase ourselves before persons and places claiming to be holy. At last we have found our feet. We stand upright, with eyes uplifted to the sun and stars, ears attuned to the symphonies of the gods, and every sense open to the glories of the here and now. We recognize in ourselves the likeness of Divinity,—the God of health, freedom, and opulence. In wisdom we find independence and truth,—the royal road to health and power,—and know that comfort and success in life depend on spiritual perception.

"Ye are not bound; the soul of things is sweet;
The heart of Being is celestial rest.
Stronger than woe is will; that which is good
Doth pass to better—best."

To prepare ourselves for the best conditions for attracting opulence, we must first be rid of the eagerness of desire. A feverish mind is not a good magnet. The point of equilibrium is the beginning of success, for it is at that point we realize that material wealth is not in itself an element of happiness. Unhappiness comes always from a failure to discern the right relations of things. To the infantile mind it might appear that the object of kindergarten life was found in the accumulation of bright-colored toys; but later the toys stand as tools for teaching principles. To the undeveloped adult "riches" are often like the colored toys of the kindergarten,—mistaken as the aim of life, rather than understood as its tools and illustrations.

Unhappiness is of the mind, and is governed from within. When this lesson has been learned, we have reached a point of independence never known before. We have been demagnetized of the greed of gold. We are ready to find it but a simple instrument, and only one of many. We are confident that it has no influence upon ourselves. It cannot deflect us from the line of principle. We are polarized to truth. Wealth is now our servant, not our master; and what we draw to ourselves we cannot lose. We have learned that hope and fear are of the emotional, not the spiritual, plane. They cannot exist where spiritual growth has reached the plane of knowledge.

True knowledge is not subject to emotional vibrations, with their alternations of elation and depression. Every one of us, as Emerson says, is "dear to the heart of Being." Every one of us is God's chosen, and none of us is ever forgotten or overlooked. We are never denied anything we really crave. The power to wish and the power to execute are one and the same. All things are ours as soon as we recognize and appropriate from the universal life. This is done without cost or deprivation to our neighbor.

We need not beg or supplicate when we live in the midst of plenty. What are millions of money when we remember the teeming fecundity of life, and realize that as yet we have not begun to mine for the precious metals, but have only scratched the surface of one of the smallest planets of the system?

Those who pride themselves upon superiority in wealth or position have no better basis for their claims than the pebbles on the beach, which might be supposed to plume themselves on being better than their neighbors because of their larger size. Yet they will not endure longer, nor even take a higher polish, as the waves roll them around together. And how microscopically small do they appear when measured by the towering cliffs above them, of which they are only tiny fragments! Truly, to such pride we may say that "all is vanity."

We have no riches except in ourselves, no power except as we develop self-government. All else is illusion, like the tinsel of the stage. Every desire is its own prediction of fulfillment. Even those things that are hurtful are not kept beyond our reach. As Lowell wittily says: "It must be that the framework of the universe is fireproof, or the Almighty would not have left so many Lucifer matches lying around loose." "God" and "gold" are differentiated by one letter only, but the addition of that one letter shuts out God. We do not need the gold to make God possible. Yet "God," and "gold," and "good" are all closely allied, as expressions of one universal principle.

The remedy for suffering from either disease or poverty is to enter into the sweep of the great tides of life in their irresistible flow, knowing that their movement is one of perfect harmony. In their larger currents, all thought or care for the personal self and its illusions is carried away. Peace flows in wherever these tides govern. There can no longer be any thought of loss or gain, for the soul knows that all is well, and that life is simply Being. Its environment is not a real factor in its problems. Time and place are results, not causes; they are but tide-marks, having nothing whatever to do with the flowing of the waters.

Until a man has become wholly independent and careless of his environments, he has not learned to live. When he has reached that point of development, he finds that it is the point at which he absolutely controls and directs his own surroundings as the result of his spiritual progress. "He that findeth his life shall lose it." "He that loseth his life . . . shall find it." We first love it and lose it in the fashion of mortals, and thus we learn to "loose," or to let go of it, for truth's sake; thereby entering into newness of life, which can never be taken away from us. Adjustment of ourselves is the secret of happiness and opulence, not the adjustment of circumstances. The second is the result of the first; together they are cause and consequence.

Every man is his own destiny. No happiness is secure as long as it depends to the slightest degree upon anything or any person outside of ourselves. It is well worth the price, if we lose all we think we have possessed, and are thus awakened to the fact so often stated, that "the kingdom of God is within," while we have been always expecting it from without. There is no real possession possible until after we have attained self-possession. When this has been accomplished, we will know that we cannot fail to win or to hold anything belonging to us, and life will manifest affluence.

"The stars come nightly to the sky,
The tidal wave unto the sea;
Nor time, nor space, nor deep, nor high,
Can keep my own away from me."

As Emerson declares, in his essay on "Spiritual Laws:"

"What a man does, that he has. What has he to do with hope or fear? In himself is his might. Let him regard no good as solid but that which is in his nature, and which must grow out of him as long as he exists. The goods of fortune may come and go like summer leaves. Let him play with them and scatter them on every wind as the momentary signs of his infinite productiveness."

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Charles B. Newcomb

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