"Stronger than woe is will." —Edwin Arnold
Be it unto thee even as thou wilt. —Jesus
All power is most effectually applied through concentration.
In mechanics we bring the tempered steel to a fine point to pierce the solid substance or to an edge for cutting.
Thought can both pierce and cut, but it must have point and edge and be applied by the energy of will. The difficulty is not in our tools, but in the want of skill with which we handle them.
They are too often turned upon ourselves or used on others so maliciously that they react with painful consequences. Railroad tracks and prison bars are both made of steel. Upon the one we speed across a continent; the other holds a man a captive.
Some men make fetters for themselves out of the same conditions that are used by others in gaining greater freedom.
Obstinacy is the mark of a weak will. It asserts itself in an emphatic and abnormal way, because distrustful of its power.
Continual self-assertion shows a sense of weakness and a lack of balance. The true spiritual will is always confident of its power and is never made impatient by delay or hindrances. A fine point pierces easily. A sharp edge cuts with very little pressure.
The potencies of will cannot be stated in dynamic terms. They are incalculable. Intelligent will is imbued with all the occult forces of the universe and draws from the universal energies.
All spiritual dominion is based upon the recognition of its powers. We do not need continually to affirm, "I will breathe;" "I will walk;" "I will see." Such assertions would surely indicate essential weakness. We easily recognize our freedom and ability to do these things at pleasure. When we have no doubt of our capabilities all effort is forgotten in their natural expression and activity brings satisfaction. We then adjust ourselves easily to all conditions and find greater delight in employing our strength for the help of others than in a careful consideration of our own requirements. When resentment, grief, or disappointment make their demands upon us we choose between a selfish indulgence and a wise acceptance of the new conditions they involve. In one case we find our energies benumbed and paralyzed, in the other they are strengthened and developed through right action of will.
We build the sepulchers of our day-dreams. We entomb our shattered ideals and weep above their graves, or else we gain a clearer understanding of a life of progress, and with purified purpose and larger knowledge build more stately mansions for the soul. We enter upon more vigorous life. We embark on a fresh voyage of discovery and lay our course on a new tack. We find in every trouble a friendly fog-bell anchored above some reef of which it gives us kindly warning. Its tones no longer sound in our ears as moans of our wrecked hopes.
"Executive ability," when it becomes a matter of pride, is often the expression of a diseased will.
A normal purpose governs its own life and does not needlessly employ itself in directing the activities of others. Activity in externals is not infrequently the result and the excuse of spiritual indolence. A true life insists upon freedom for all and endeavors to protect another from feeling an undue influence of its own, in order to make the best conditions for development of character. It does not wish to dominate, but to free. A desire to govern others is invariably the mark of weakness in self-government.
Our modern homes are centers of all good things in the material life.
The telephone rings—we respond to the call and listen to the voice of our friend who may be a thousand miles away or under the same roof.
When night comes on we turn the key or press the button of an incandescent light, and our apartments are illuminated as if by magic.
The day grows cold. We open radiator valves, and soon have any degree of heat that we require.
We are thirsty, and the cool clear water flows through our pipes from the far-off spring in the hills.
In all these matters it is our own intelligence that discerns our wants and the action of our will that opens the sources of supply.
Our friend would call in vain if we refused to listen at the telephone. We could sit all the night long in darkness if we did not choose to turn on the lights. We might perish of cold or die of thirst if we declined to avail ourselves of the channels through which heat and water come to us. It would make no difference that we were on the circuit of the electric current, or that we had steam radiators, or that our dwelling was included in the water system which supplied our neighbors. The voice of our friend would be dumb to us, the lamp be dark, the radiator cold, the water-pipes dry, if we should elect to have them so.
These things have their correspondences. We can miss of nothing we desire in life, of light, heat, power, or song, except as we shut ourselves out from it through inactivity of will, as the result of indolence or fear.
Our spiritual abodes lack nothing that we need. But it is our will that attracts or drives away the pleasant and sweet things of life.
When we move smoothly through the country in a railway journey we do not realize the force of the engine that draws us on our way. It is only when we are thrown off the track and the power is shown in its destructive energy plowing up the ground and tearing its own road-bed that we begin to know the possibilities of its momentum.
A dynamo carried on the engine could transmit a force that would retard the train until the current were turned off. Such is the mental energy that guides and urges our life forward. When it is misapplied it works incalculable damage through thought currents turned upon ourselves, arresting progress and producing pain.
We stumble today among the ant hills of our troubles, and they seem to us like mountains. When we have more fully perceived the meaning and purpose of existence we will easily stride over the mountains of difficulty and they will appear to us as ant hills.
Our higher consciousness is as yet but very imperfectly developed. Even our sense life is in its infancy. We are not capable of experiencing pleasure or pain but to a very limited extent because of our shallow consciousness. The higher the scale of organization the wider is the range of its perceptions.
The sensations of a jelly-fish are doubtless very limited. As man grows in refinement he becomes constantly capable of deeper suffering or higher joy, and with larger capacity of pain and pleasure comes a larger power of endurance and control.
There is no point at which the vibrations of distress cannot be changed to satisfaction and gladness. There is no situation of discomfort possible to mortal life that is absolutely beyond remedy.
Our dominions can be more easily extended than we are ready to believe. While we continue as dwellers in the kingdom of fear we are fettered. But we have manacled ourselves. We can break the shackles, cross the borders, and possess our own.
The sovereignty of man is never realized till he has become obedient to the spiritual nature and vowed allegiance to his higher self, whose voice is always calling to him, "Friend, go up higher." It is only in such obedience that man gains knowledge of the "secret of the Most High."
The feeble flicker of purpose which most men designate their "will" is an impulse that is soon expended and accomplishes nothing beyond merely personal ends. Selfishness dissipates power. It scatters energy that, rightly concentrated and applied, would bring magnificent results. Egotism asserts itself as much in fear as vanity; as much in indolence as activity. Any anxious thought related to the personal self shows lack of true polarity of mind.
A sluggish mind refuses to accept a new idea that emphasizes personal responsibility, and calls for change of habit. Self-indulgence is the greatest obstacle to progress. Men do not wish to be awakened. They demand a deeper slumber and find their opiates in sensuality, until some hour of severer suffering arouses them to better things in order to escape from pain.
The law which has produced the pain demands their confidence and their complete surrender to its remedial action. It insists upon entire willingness to do or not to do whatever may be necessary to bring the sufferer into accord with his best impulses. He must cease to exert his ingenuity and will in building entrenchments of excuses behind which to defend himself. There is no trouble of body or environment; no anxiety or grief that walls one in without some door of escape into the realms of perfect peace.
Every fresh revelation of science is new demonstration of the marvelous and absolute precision of Nature's methods, tending always to perfection of its forms and purposes. We are turning the pages of Nature's primers now more rapidly than ever before, and find in every line the evidence of silent energies of an infinite power.
The master mind which built the great dome of St. Peter's showed itself also in the careful detail of form and color on the walls. Every delicate touch of brush or pencil was as necessary to the finished picture as that of the chisel to the columns and foundation stones. Muscle alone could never have raised this superb masonry. It is a monument to mind and will. The mind not only designed its architecture, paintings, and sculpture, but also the machinery which supplemented muscle, and made the whole achievement possible by raising each stone to its place under the direction of the will.
Imagine a pilgrim throwing his arms about one of the columns in the vain delusion that he was helping to support the roof! Such egotism we would call insanity. It is akin to that which prides itself upon its value to mankind in some private or public station of temporary responsibility, and dreams itself a pillar of society or church or government.
Again imagine our pilgrim sleeping in his rags amid the beauties of the temple, insensible to all the grandeur! Yet in such lethargy do many live so far as thought-life is concerned, and even think themselves intelligent. The very drowsiness of our ragged pilgrim is increased by the incense and the organ and the chanting of the choirs, and all those things which stir to very ecstasy a nobler and more developed mind.
It would be a very easy matter for Nature with her varied energies to put us all in full possession of the highest degree of health and opulence. The very gentlest application of her forces would quickly remove any obstruction in our circulation or surroundings.
And, indeed, she urges all this upon us in every possible way, and stands ever waiting patiently for our acceptance of her benefits.
The only power that is sufficient to divert or misdirect this energy is man's own mistaken thought. It is our privilege to hold ourselves in any uncomfortable attitude toward life our regal will may choose. We cannot break Nature's laws, but we may regulate our private relation to them.
We are like passengers in a railway train or on an ocean steamer. The carriage moves smoothly upon its rails. The ship sails steadily upon its course. The traveler may enjoy the scenes through which he passes: the beauty of the landscape or the glory of the waters. He may open wide his window and watch all the changing panorama as he speeds along, or he may draw his blinds and close his eyes, complaining bitterly of his surroundings, and inducing the greatest possible discomfort, so that the hours pass without pleasure or profit. Meanwhile the great engines carry him forward and the incidents of the journey are of consequence mainly to the traveler himself. His mental attitude has not hindered to the least degree the regular action of the powerful machinery. It has only made his own day miserable through infirmity of will.
When a man is wrecked upon an unknown island he goes to work to cultivate the soil and make the best of his resources as if the place were to be his residence for life.
Our disappointments and misfortunes often strand us where we find no opportunity to sail away. Our boats are all destroyed and nothing is left but to explore our undiscovered selves. Until we are cut off from the distractions of our usual occupations and sense lives, it is easy to neglect the richest opportunities which lie the closest to our hand. We mistake, perhaps, for desert soil that which contains the possibilities of largest fruitfulness.
If we are passing through what seems to be a wilderness let us go to work to fertilize a garden in the sand.
It will open to us a new field of spiritual botany and give us the satisfaction of discoverers.
It is better always to lose sight of our troubles as quickly as possible and let them die through neglect than to prolong their lives by careful nursing. We can easily find plenty of others if we wish at any time to fill their places, for "the woods are full of them."
Some people would be actually lonesome without the difficulties they have nursed so long and carefully. In many cases they are seriously disturbed if any attempt is made to show them that it is not necessary to extend a lengthened hospitality to trouble. Trouble will leave us when we decline to contribute to its support. If it has failed to arouse our highest will and only taught us lessons of endurance, it has not yet accomplished its full mission. Endurance should not be the aim of life. There is a higher gospel.
We often fancy ourselves spiritual when we are only weakly sentimental. Our emotions have perhaps been stirred and made us restless in our dream life. We have not been awakened to positive action, or the perception of real principle.
There are many "castles in Spain" which are patterned after metaphysical architecture. There are many who call themselves seekers after truth who are only following new lines of amusement without serious purpose.
The day will come to all of us when our work will be tried by fire and flood, and even Calvinistic hells may then seem mildly picturesque compared with the experiences through which we pass. When, after the storm, the day star has arisen above our horizon we may know that the night is really gone and the shadows can never again be quite as heavy as those that lie behind us. Whatever difficulties may henceforth await us, we will at least have daylight on our path.
The morning always brings strength and confidence, and we have seen the dawn.
Every athlete knows that it is the position that is oftenest taken that comes at last to be the easiest. In the higher training of the will we prove the same thing to be true. The constant holding of the best ideals results at last in their complete expression.
Every climb we make brings us to a point of greater elevation where we command a larger view with increased power to control conditions. If there is an uphill upon one part of the road we know that there is surely a down grade on the other side.
This is the compensating law of difficulty. Turn down this page, discouraged one, and close the book. Dwell awhile upon this truth, for much depends upon our recognition of it. It is a sufficient lesson for a day and night.
Tomorrow will bring a keener appetite and larger vision if this simple proposition has been truly learned. We can cheerfully climb the hill today with the full assurance that tomorrow we shall find the level. Today we need this training of the will in the ascent of the hill of difficulty. We will patiently cut our footsteps in the icy pass, if need be, like the Alpine traveler,—and with a brave smile on our faces we will go sturdily forward and not frighten ourselves by looking into the dizzy depths below. In the gloom it seems as if there were lions in our path, and by the uncertain light we do not see that they are chained.
If we are called to wrestle with them we will find that man in his divinity is far superior to mere brute force. We are here to learn to overcome, and this is our opportunity. To the victor will belong the strength of the slain. We will not flinch in the face of seeming danger, and often we will discover that it was only our fears that were confronting us.
A gamester does not spend his time regretting the hand that he held yesterday. He makes the best play he can with the cards that he holds today, and so in every game learns greater skill. How idle is it for us to weaken the will with sorrow for our yesterdays! The game of life demands our best attention for today and the full exercise of all our powers. Tomorrow doubtless will bring opportunities of its own for which we must now develop skill that we may be prepared to meet them. Let us give all our thought to the game in hand, though it be only a waiting game.
We need not for one instant entertain the thought that we have been forgotten among the players. We have our special score to play. None other can do it for us. Why not study well the cards we hold and lay them down with confidence and equanimity? There is sure sometime to be another deal. In the next cut we will get a better hand if we have proved ourselves entitled to it. Meanwhile the greatest skill may be shown by him who does not hold the highest cards.
It is the man of trained and fearless will that wins the honors in the game of life, although his real success may not be known to men. Strength of will is shown as much in renunciation as in conquest. The greatest victory is often in the yielding.
Thought-life is of higher importance than conduct. When we have gained control of thought right action is a consequence. We often dwell too much upon the matter of conduct and too little upon the mental cause behind it. When the will has been purified and strengthened the impulses will be symmetrical and true.
A wise man never quarrels with his troubles. Such indulgence will intensify and prolong the difficulty. All impatience proves the need of suffering.
Nature readily responds to every mood with which we greet her.
The heavens seem as brass to us when we look up to them with despair, or as the gates of Paradise when our feeling is one of gladness.
Dynamite and giant powder may be handled without suspicion of the fact that they are powerful explosives. There is nothing in their appearance to suggest their force or use. Under certain conditions they are wholly ineffective and may remain for years without indication of their latent power.
No chemical compound can compare with the energy of the will that brought its elements together. There is no conceivable ideal of power which the human mind cannot express. There is no such thing as “physical weakness" or “muscular force," as an eminent Harvard physicist has lately said. All power is expressed first through mind. All life is robust. Every man is stalwart. This is realized to just the degree in which we take our personal conceits "out of the paths of the divine circuits."
We demand continually that our senses shall be gratified with "demonstration," and all the time the soul is showing its power in the tranquil waiting to which we have compelled it, for it knows that in reality a thousand years are as a single day.
God is always at our service. The divine circuits flow perpetually. The path of life is always open and hides no obstacles nor hindrances. It is due to our distorted vision that we see “giants in Canaan," and in their sight we think we are as grasshoppers.
Disease is the result of hypnotism—the hypnotism of an idea imposed by one's own thought—auto-suggestion—or transmitted to it through the mind of another. This is true of any condition that holds us in bondage. Absolute freedom is our birthright. No one can deprive us of it without our consent, although we may have given that consent unconsciously.
We can throw off any undesirable condition when we have recognized the truth that we possess intelligence and power sufficient for all our needs. When we set the will in motion it will find effectual relief. But often we make it necessary that we should be stripped of all other possessions before we enter into self-possession.
It is a curious fact of hypnotism that the subject is generally deaf to all sounds but the voice of the operator who controls him.
A cannon fired close to the ear would not be noticed in the hypnotic trance if the operator chose to close the sense of hearing. Nevertheless, from out the silence at the same command the subject fancies that he hears sweet music, and he obeys readily the slightest whisper of the one who holds his senses captive. But even in hypnotism the will must first consent before it can be fettered, for if it once asserts its power none other can control it.
All impatience is an expression of fear. It is the mark of a defective will that has not gained self-control. "I am afraid" is a false note that we use daily on the most trivial occasions.
It is easy to exaggerate our troubles. An unwelcome demand is made upon our time. It may be a very modest and reluctant appeal, but to our inflamed mental vision it appears as a robber standing in our path demanding money or life. The few minutes or hours which would easily suffice for the required service seem a most unpleasant interruption to our usual and more desired occupations.
A call is made upon our purse.' We know at heart that we should view it as a privilege to make a prompt and glad response.
Our sense of duty will not permit us, perhaps, to pass it by, and we bestow a petty contribution grudgingly. Through failure of the will to obey its highest impulse the action has flowered without fragrance. We have robbed ourselves of spiritual enjoyment and missed an opportunity of growth.
How long shall we continue to indulge our lower nature and foster the delusions of loss and trouble for which we ourselves are responsible?
The flagellants of eastern countries, who torture themselves with the lash in their fanaticism, are no more cruel to their tender flesh than we in our impatience to the suffering soul. We worship our own selfishness with every hour of self-pity. Note the action of the law of retributive justice. When we have been crippled by illness, we remember in our helplessness that in our robust health we were parsimonious of time. When we have become bankrupt in purse, we recall many a timid appeal to which we wish we had given a more ready ear.
Thus we expiate our selfishness, compelled to listen to petitions we are powerless to answer, or to make appeals ourselves, in our own agony of need, from which others turn away.
It is necessary that each should get his lessons in the way that he himself shall choose. It often seems to us that some beloved one is choosing painful ways, but true love shows itself in a wise silence quite as often as in interference. It does not seek to control the attitude of others toward itself. It concerns itself only with its mental attitude toward others.
We should detach ourselves from the engrossing thought of self. It is of no less importance that we detach ourselves from the engrossing thought of others. We are bound alike by our affections and aversions. Too great intensity of thought will cramp and hinder us. Our affections should be widened and enlarged. As they become ennobled they grow less personal and eager. They bring more satisfaction and less suffering.
Aversions should be altogether rooted out, for only our baser nature feeds on them, and they bring nothing but perplexity and sorrow. They chain us to the things we most dislike, till we have learned our lesson of indifference and patience.
The disciple who seeks peace and power must climb above the plane of personality, beyond the surf of sensational life that breaks like turbulent billows on the shore laden with wreckage and debris.
If we recognize love as the real force of will we will apply it oftener in our social and domestic difficulties. It will save us from much useless "kicking against the pricks" which we compel ourselves to suffer through our willfulness. Love is never a goad. It is a vigorous tonic which corrects the circulation without leaving regret or lethargy behind. We need to remind ourselves sometimes that " love is not easily provoked," and that our friend who has erred is in greater need of true affection than before.
His error may alter our external relation to him, but if our love is really faithful it will guide us wisely, and enable us to give the silent help which only a loving will can render. Instead of striving to correct the outward manner of another, if we but hold a steady confidence in his spiritual nature we will find that, though the wonderful harp of a thousand strings be dumb to every other touch, it will awaken to the touch of love.
A truly forceful will is always gentle, though it carries a strong hand. Goodness and weakness do not belong together. Real righteousness is vigorous. It is not necessary to drop our own eyelids because our neighbor squints, or to go lame ourselves because he is a cripple.
Wise charity is never blind. It never lowers its standards, to adjust them to the weakness of another. The higher will is vitalized through love. Love makes no compromise with weakness, but demands that we shall rise to our full height. Love is not blind nor feeble. A loving will is truly masterful, but “seeketh not its own."
There is no habit strong enough to dominate a man against his will.
All forces make us suffer till we conquer them. Then they become our willing and obedient servants. When we work with certitude instead of hope we always arrive at positive results.
We attract to ourselves whatever influences we choose.
Thus we fasten clogs upon our feet, or grow the feathers for our wings.