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The Power of Gladness

Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength. —Nehemiah viii. 10.

We cannot play the chords of "success" upon an instrument relaxed by disappointment and discouragement, nor with the harp-strings held at nervous tension by anxiety and fear. Doubt and longing are destructive of all harmonies. Only a masterful confidence in the universal Life and in ourselves as its expression can strike the notes of power and produce the clear, full tones in which true purpose finds complete accomplishment.

"Be happy and you will be good" is a very wise injunction. We may also add, "Through happiness you will be successful." It is the nature of happiness to radiate and enlarge its expression by finding others with whom it can share its joys. Goodness and happiness are really interchangeable terms. When we have succeeded in obtaining happiness for ourselves or others we may be sure we have been gaining and bestowing both goodness and power.

The only trouble with many people is stagnation through depression. Their chief lack is momentum. A little more forceful motion would take them altogether away from their difficulties and diseases. They wear their yokes like oxen, because they do not realize the power in themselves. Let their realization be awakened, and their spiritual will aroused and applied with its tremendous energy, and all bonds and obstructions will easily fall away from them.

There is no force that can accomplish this more quickly than the thrill of joy and gladness. There is no stimulant that is more speedy or thorough in its action. It is a natural tonic, and the entire system responds to its exhilarating vibrations. Anything that arouses confidence in life, with a larger sense of its use and beauty, increases human energy and prepares the best conditions of success in all its undertakings. It is even better to build castles in the air than to dwell in caves of gloom. The imagination is more worthily employed in picturing pleasant things than in brooding fears and entertaining dark forebodings. It is better to "whistle going through the woods” than to look for hobgoblins in every shadow.

We are never left in life with an entirely empty cupboard. There is always some little portion of fat to eat and sweet to drink, if we will only go our way and look about us and not allow the leanness of our grief to absorb our thoughts, or our tears to blind our eyes and fill every cup with bitterness. Simple life is very sweet and pleasant to a normal nature, even when stripped of everything that most consider necessary to happiness.

If one has awakened to an understanding of the real and a power of discernment of the artificial—if he has developed the creative instincts of the soul—he is no longer swept away by tides and currents he cannot control. In joy he finds his strength, and no change in externals can deprive him of the gladness of today. What have I to do with the yesterdays or the tomorrows of my life? My responsibility lies strictly in the present. Why should I scatter and weaken my thought-forces by regretful recollections of the imperfect yesterday or anxious anticipation of the uncertain morrow? I will concentrate all my energies upon the passing hour, and thus will atonement be made for the past and grace developed for the future. Today—today I live. The grief of yesterday is past. Today I triumph. Tomorrow shall find me still a victor.

Let us not look at the shadows that lie behind us, but rather at the sunbeams that fall across our paths; for " every shadow points to the sun." We can easily lift our feet over the pebbles that lie in our road today, but we must let our thought dwell with the spirit that guides us,—not with the feet or the pebble. We are so ready to magnify every trouble. We take life much too seriously. At a point a little farther on we will find that the most tragic conditions of the present have vanished like the mists of the morning when the sun has climbed to its meridian, and we will hardly be able to recollect even the cause of our happiness—so expansive is the nature of existence.

True life is an ever-present opportunity. It is not concerned with past or future. It is in the lowlands only that we suffer from the malaria of memory and fear, and our spiritual perceptions are bedimmed and paralyzed. We have become like the sleepers in the enchanted palace. Then comes the Deliverer; the Messiah—the joy of the Christmas morning—the awakening of the spiritual nature; and we enter upon the road that leads from Bethlehem to Paradise.

One does not need a battlefield on which to prove his heroism. The opportunity is offered daily in the home, the shop, the office, and the factory. Great souls need never be beggars of "circumstance" to manifest their quality. They are masters of all conditions, and respond with equal cheerfulness to all demands of daily living.

We cannot inventory the resources of our life. Its unexpected opportunities continually surprise us. They are not limited to any age, condition, or place. Our boldest demands and expectations are but paltry when compared with what an awakened spirit soon makes actual.

We too often hasten through the passing days with but scanty enjoyment or stolid endurance, looking hazily to some distant time for the fulfillment of desire. The best conditions for future happiness lie in the largest possible appreciation of the present. This is a truth we all admit; yet we spend our lives in following happiness as a phantom and blinding ourselves to present good. There are wells of water in the dreariest desert; yet many travelers have perished chasing a mirage.

If we wish to develop unlimited power we must make no conditions to right conduct. We must not insist upon the fulfillment of our personal wishes before we will consent to happiness or faith. We must cheerfully accept all surroundings, all "circumstances" of the present hour, as the best possible for our unfoldment. We must cooperate heartily with every difficulty or seeming obstacle, with entire confidence in the rule of the Eternal Equities, believing also that —

“That which is good
Doth pass to better—best."

We should never contend with a fear. It is a waste of time and effort, and as useless as to argue with hysteria. We need to establish firmly in our minds the thought of our own sovereignty. We never fear that which we know we can control, and we are here for the purpose of learning the mastery of what we call Fate. Let us snap our fingers at all the "Devils" of the ages—the formulated fears of humankind. Get thee behind me, thou Devil of Theosophy —" Karma;" thou Devil of Astrology—"planetary influence;" thou spiritualistic Devil—"obsession; "and thou Devil of Christian Science—"malicious magnetism"! Get thee behind me also thou great Dragon of Science—“heredity!" In comparison with these, one could almost welcome back again the old orthodox Devil—“Satan." I will not be bullied by the threat of malicious magnetism from the stars, from other persons, or from my own dead past of former incarnations.

Are we to forget that in the manger of our spiritual nature lies the “Prince of Peace," who is to put all things under his feet? If we turn to the contemplation of the divine power we embody, all our fears will pass away like the shadows of the night. Fear is a mental mirage. It is an optical illusion—a refraction of certain lines and angles due to our mental atmospheric conditions and to false lights that result in grotesque distortion of the real.

Strong armies have the least fighting to do to gain their ends. Heavily massed forces do not follow the guerilla methods. Their strength is so evident that the weaker foe retires before their advance, with but faint demonstration of resistance. It is the feeble and broken ranks that are always the most harassed with conflict, and a retreat is almost sure to be disastrous.

All this is true in our daily experience. The only direction in which we can safely move is forward. Success is determined by our force of character and strength of resolution. When life is disturbed by perpetual conflict we may know that our method of campaigning is at fault. We have failed to bring our reserves to the front and to mass and direct our forces wisely. We have not understood and tested the resources upon which we could have drawn; else our advance would have been less difficult.

There is no greater source of weakness than to dwell upon the power of an adversary until our courage has been undermined. General Grant prepared for battle by assuring himself that the commanders of the opposing forces were quite as much afraid of him as he could possibly be of them. Many men persist courageously in the conviction of their inability. It is the only thing in which they fully believe, and every obstacle they meet is magnified by their erratic fancy and their feeble will. This is the worst possible form of self-conceit. It is the rankest kind of atheism.

Let us snatch the trumpet from the lifeless hands of the dead self—defeated and slain on the field of battle, or sorely wounded with disappointment and grief. Let us raise it again to our lips and sound anew the brave notes of the charge. Let the bugle-tones ring out across the field, stirring every pulse to a forward movement, though we ourselves be faint and weary. Let the blasts be clear, and strong, with no uncertain sound, and many a wavering one shall be thrilled with a new life and confidence, and aroused to seize the spiritual victory that is assured to every determined soul. We will never sound the recall. Let us turn away from the grave of every disappointed hope, not with a dirge, but with a cheerful quickstep and triumphant march, like soldiers returning from the burial of a comrade—ready with brave hearts for the fresh conflict of the morrow.

In the study of vocal music the singer does not stop discouraged if he fails to touch immediately the high note struck upon the instrument. He tries again and again until he learns to reach and hold it with his voice; and then he tries a higher key and enters upon fresh efforts. At first when we sound the note of truth, the voice breaks in trying to give expression to it in our lives. Shall we therefore chide ourselves or one another, or shall we possess our souls in patience and keep to the score until we have trained ourselves to compass the high notes easily? We can learn to “live the life." It is not beyond the power of any one. We may choose our own time and methods; let us allow to others the same freedom.

The keenest pleasure we receive through our sense life is but the faintest suggestion of the gladness of the spirit. Instead of distrusting and condemning the sensuous nature, and strangling its expressions, we should understand its spiritual correspondence. Spirit is altogether sensibility and knowledge.

Infinite peace and power are developed through the recognition of unlimited possessions. In this there is no fever of unrest—no eagerness of desire—because there is no sense of time or space, nor fear of loss.

Many persons have never yet been more than half born into their material forms. They are but sadly imperfect expressions of the spiritual beauty, power, and freedom that belong to them. We need not be afraid of too much happiness. Our most ecstatic glimpses have been but as moonbeams of an Arctic night compared with the broad noon of an eternal day.

Sleep and death are as the entrances of tunnels into darkness, from which we emerge to sunny landscapes of pleasant valleys, breezy table-lands, and mountain-peaks. In the enjoyment of the new experience we think no more of the shadows through which we passed to reach it. The dark tunnel was but a brief incident in a long and delightful journey.

So are many of the experiences from which we shrink and in which we can see no necessity of the suffering that comes to ourselves and others. If we could perceive the vistas that are opened through these tunnel-days and the landscapes that lie beyond, we could find causes of gladness even in the shadows and feel no hardships in the journey.

To overcome disease or difficulty we must strike a vibration higher or lower than the one prevailing on the plane of its manifestation. It is useless to attack it on its own ground. This is like playing "tug of war" in which contending parties pull in opposite directions, and alternately gain and lose because their strength is evenly matched.

A nervous tension needs to be relaxed by striking a lower keynote. A depressed condition can be stimulated by a higher.

The everlasting problem is to maintain the balance between positive and negative conditions.

If the eagle's wings were unequal in length or power he could not direct his flight with certainty, or follow the guidance of his will and eye.

Mind and matter are the wings upon which we rise to higher conditions through the guidance of the will. These factors must be balanced and adjusted to each other. They are not essentially at variance. We regard them as on unfriendly terms. We undertake to ignore or neutralize one or the other. The materialist is afraid to study spiritual conditions. The spiritual-minded person is often fearful of his own material and sense nature.

We cannot poise ourselves upon one wing alone. We are compelled to recognize and respect equally the animal and spiritual natures before we can progress in direct lines. A bird with a broken wing, a boat with a broken oar, will move but in a circle.

Freedom involves complete command of both body and mind by the awakened spirit.

As long as we hold any fear of what we call our lower or our higher nature we have not been emancipated.

We are often afraid of the largeness of the liberty we profess to seek, else why should we shrink from death, which we imagine will divest us of all influence of matter? We have lived in so narrow a horizon and so dim a light that we find our vision is but feeble when we lift our eyes to the sun.

We are still cave-dwellers, though we excavate our caves a little higher up the mountains where formerly we dug them in the valleys.

There are metaphysical as well as sensual caverns. The difference between the cliff-dweller and the mound-builder is only a matter of altitude. They are very much alike in the furnishings of their abodes. We have not yet learned how to build houses without hands eternal in the heavens.

Our petty theories, whether materialistic or metaphysical, we will not find available for building-stones in spiritual mansions. Theories will change and crumble. Only principles remain unalterable. No principle can ever fail, though man may fail to hold himself in right relation to it.

There can never be such a thing as " a principle at stake." It is impossible to make an "extreme statement" of a principle. The extremes of truth are too far off for us ever to get within sight of them in our present state of objective being.

Our capacity for enjoyment is not sufficiently developed to expose us to any danger of excess of gladness. We very soon find that we have to catch and cook our own fish in life or go without our supper. If the fish are small and the cooking underdone we cannot blame anyone but ourselves. This is the severe logic of evolution.

Search as diligently as we may, we will not discover in material things the key to satisfaction or the answer to our perplexities. Spirit alone can solve our riddles, for the reason that we are spiritual beings.

Eighteen hundred years ago a man stood by the banks of the Jordan preaching to the multitudes.

"I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness,
The kingdom of heaven is at hand."

He stood in the wilderness of Judea. The spot was a fit type of the dreary waste which had been made by Roman tyranny and Hebrew superstition. Church and state had combined to lay heavy burdens on men's shoulders and take all the joy and gladness out of life by their exactions. The wonderful civilization of that day had resulted through its selfishness, corruption, tyranny, and greed in making life itself a wilderness.

Into this desert came a voice of hope, a voice of praise, a voice proclaiming a kingdom mightier than that of Rome; a power greater than the Jewish priesthood. The kingdom of heaven was at hand, with its message of deliverance, the opening of prison doors and promise of liberty to the captive.

In this nineteenth century we hear again the voice of truth commanding that the oppressed go free. It finds humanity in a wilderness as dreary as that of Judea, enmeshed in an artificial civilization as grievous and burdensome as that of Rome, tyrannized by false religions as empty in their ceremonials and exactions as the creeds of ancient Judaism. And the voice arouses us to a new confidence in life, for it proclaims that the kingdom for which we have waited so long is the kingdom of man's own royal self-hood; that it is open to him whenever he chooses to ascend the throne. It declares that the only bondage to which he ever really bows is the tyranny of his own mistaken thought. Why should not the oppressed go free?

The world is recovering today from the depression of a chronic hysteria into which it has been plunged by the religious teachings of the past and to which the mental tonics of new thought are being most successfully applied.

It is indeed true that the soul can create for itself a world into which pain and sorrow cannot enter. Is not this the only heaven we shall ever know? We may enjoy it today if we assent. The dogma of election is true, but it is we who elect ourselves to everlasting life or make ourselves liable (in the words of the Westminster Catechism) "to all miseries in this life—to death itself and to the pains of hell."

The soul continually pleads, “Come, ye, blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."

We scarcely realize the hold that superstition has on us—in the way in which we regard life and death. Long after our intellectual assent has been withdrawn and we have begun to protest against the irrational views which were impressed upon us in our early years by the traditions of the elders, we are unconsciously dominated by those first impressions.

Under these influences we still regard with great solemnity all the little incidents and trials of our daily living.

We exaggerate their importance and give them a fictitious significance.

When we resent and resist our difficulties we provide the most favorable mental soil for their rooting and growth. The germ which would have easily passed over us harmlessly finds lodgment and nurture in our minds and rapidly externalizes itself upon our bodies. We suffer only because we fail to transmit the harmonies which crowd continually upon us and would have their passage through us if we would permit. We insist upon holding to the bass notes when we ought to let them go.

We could change the vulgar noise of our environment to heavenly music by opening our ears to the strains of the invisible choirs. Exaggerated seriousness is worse than much frivolity.

Serious natures are in danger of excessive tensity. This is the first symptom of disease.

The tree of close fiber is snapped by the hurricane that passes harmlessly over yielding plants which bend easily to the wind. Nothing from without can hurt us when we have learned the independence of true life. Nor can we suffer from the want of anything beyond our own resources.

When the soul is insulated from all outward conditions it manifests interior power.

It does not need to practice the musical scores of others or blend itself with any artificial keynote of legend or tradition. Its own utterances are musical as the flowing of waters or the song of birds.

Nothing outside itself is authoritative to the true life. No vows of obedience are necessary except to the higher self. When we move forward with the will and the step of the conqueror we leave far behind us all the hosts of difficulty that seemed to compass us about.

When we dwell upon the severity of law we forget that its inexorable action proves the infinite tenderness of the love which it fulfils.

Life is a succession of wonderful transformation scenes, producing marvelous results in their unexpected combinations.

Thought is the scene-shifter and stage carpenter. Nothing is beyond its skill and power in the moments of its highest concentration.

When we allow ourselves to move on railroad tracks of habit the rails get smooth, and the wheels turn without friction in the habitual direction.

If they do not carry us through a pleasant country we must relay the track of thought, and learn to apply our brakes and switches, for the thinker himself is the engineer.

If we will change the hungering to receive to a hungering to give we will close the avenues of pain, and become receptive to a higher good, which will find in us the expression it is always seeking.

There is great danger in constant dissatisfaction.

Sooner or later it will involve the health or finances, or both, for it destroys the mental balance, and impairs the judgment.

If we indulge ourselves in sadness or impatience we may be always sure our sin will find us out.

Impatience opens the door to hysteria, anger, and insanity, which mark regular stages in the loss of self-control.

If we will brush the dust of selfishness from the lenses through which we look at life, we will find illumination for every emergency. Our spiritual vision will never be dimmed.

Out of the blackness of our night a star shines forth. It comes as a new thought suggesting a new confidence. We follow its glimmer, only to discover that it is the same star that the "wise men " of old saw in the East. Across the desert trail of our life it leads to a new Bethlehem. Its light grows stronger as it brings us to the birthplace of the Christ within ourselves. The spiritual man is the Emmanuel who embodies all the potencies of life. When we once have recognized this royal self and given it dominion over us we find and tread the way of power. In every life the personal man is crucified, that the Divine may manifest its glory in the resurrection; and in the day of his awakening he knows that he has received —

"Beauty for ashes;
The oil of joy for mourning;
The garments of praise
For the spirit of heaviness."

The powers of will and concentration are shown in vice and disease as well as in virtue and health.

They manifest perversion of force and not failure.

Ifs, Buts, and Ands are always links in our thought fetters.

Concentration is poise of mind rather than forced action.

Repose of spirit is absolutely essential to the highest expression of power.

We should neither dream through the day nor wake through the night; in both these ways we scatter force.

The higher self knows no fear and sees no obstacles.

It passes everywhere unhurt. All difficulties change into walls of defense behind it.

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Charles B. Newcomb

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