To scan and learn
In Nature's frame;
Till he well-nigh can tame
Brute mischiefs, and can touch
Invisible things, and turn
All warring ills to purposes of good.
He can control
And harmonize what seems amiss to flow.
—John Henry Newman (1801)
We are surrounded by mystery; yet we pay but little attention either to the mystery of form in the outer world or to the mystery of life in the inner. Our attention is directed only to those things that, because they are of uncommon occurrence, we believe to be remarkable. There is a love of the mysterious in man; yet he is prone to neglect the study of the ordinary circumstances surrounding him, regarding them as commonplace. The wonderful songs of the birds, the hues of the flowers, the geometrical formation of the crystals in the caverns of the earth, the growth of the trees—in fact, all Nature is one grand mystery, a mystery that will never be understood until man thoroughly understands himself. Then the knowledge will be disclosed to him that everything in the world without corresponds to something in the world within, and through the Spirit he will read the Word; for the whole visible universe is the word of God expressed in form and set forth in speech.
The mystery of man is the first to be disclosed; for, when man knows himself to be the image and likeness of his Creator, he will understand all else. Among his mental faculties, perhaps the most mysterious is that of memory. We are constantly receiving mental pictures from the world without and from that within; and these appear to us either as beautiful truths or as unpleasant, disagreeable evils. Some of these pictures we regard with indifference, while others absorb our most earnest attention.
Day by day we are writing the record of life's journey; day by day our minds are becoming filled with the pictures of life that are hourly occurring. Thoughts enter the mind and then seem to fade. But do they pass away? By no means. We have a great storehouse wherein all incidents, both great and small, are stored. They all go to complete the book of life. They are the accumulation of experiences through which, man eventually finds his way from earth to heaven—from the animal to the spiritual. Nothing is forgotten; everything, whether it be little or great, exerts some influence on our lives. Life is as truly made up of "little things" as of the so-called important events. The small incidents of life are treasured with greater ones. The kind word, the pleasant look—these are not forgotten. The harsh word and the angry frown likewise leave their impress.
In man's life all that he has—all that he can truly call his own—are the experiences through which he has passed and the knowledge acquired from them. He may not regard his body as his own; the time comes when the planet claims that which it has loaned for a season. The one thing that man can claim for his own is the knowledge acquired through experience; this can never be recalled from him, for it belongs to his spiritual nature. It is the knowledge of causes—not that which passes current in the world as knowledge—that fits him for true usefulness here and prepares him for the life to come.
We are writing the book of life daily—even hourly. The enduring things we write in it, which will last when this world shall be no more, are those of the greatest importance, both in the present and in the hereafter, when all the unrealities inscribed therein shall be erased. The tares and the thistles must disappear; they must be consumed by the fire that purifies. This shall be the harvest-time—when the true shall be separated from the false; when the sheep shall be divided from the goats; when all these unreal conditions of life shall be cast into "outer darkness," and the soul shall become purified.
Why should we so diligently sow the seed of tares and thistles instead of the good seed? Why should we seek to sow seed that in harvest time will bring us but pain and sorrow? We are the arbiters of our own destinies. God endowed us with qualities analogous to His own—qualities that if used aright will bring us nothing but eternal gain. Why should we build on a foundation of straw and stubble, and in the end see our work destroyed, while we ourselves go through the furnace that purifies? Why not take the foundation that cannot be shaken and build on it?
What is this immovable foundation? Simply, that life and intelligence are one; that we must all work for the good of life—not in part, but in all; that we must work with the forces of life, not against them; and that we must know that all God created is good, was good, and ever shall be good. We should remember also that the mind must ever dwell on the good that is in us all; that no matter what the outer seems to be, the inner good is ever there; that, no matter how perverted a course the life-force in a man may take, still it is the veritable power of God working in and through the race. It may be wrongly directed; yet all force is one—all power is a unit.
The life that reaches nearest to God and heaven is the life that sees good in all things—the life spent in doing for others. Selfish interests, hopes, and desires are the seeds that bring forth in the harvest-time the tares and the thistles. They are the things from which, in the present, we expect to derive much gain; but they always fail to bring either profit or happiness, because these conditions can only come as each part works for the good of the whole and of every other part.
All the little and all the great events that occur in life are so many pictures stored away in the subconscious mind. With the faculty of memory we have power to recall them into renewed activity. When we recall things good and true the whole action is good on both mind and body; when we recall things false and unreal they not only adversely affect the mind, filling it with gloomy forebodings, but also affect the body, weakening all its vital functions. If pictures associated with anger and hatred are recalled, they poison not only the mind but also the blood that flows through our veins—having thus a destructive effect on the body. True pictures build up the body: false pictures tear down. We cannot prevent the pictures that fill our mental gallery from entering the conscious mind; but we can see to it that these pictures shall be of so agreeable a nature that they will ever influence us for good, no matter how frequently they appear above the threshold of consciousness.
Anything that declares the power of evil to be greater than that of good should have no place in our thoughts; neither should anything that considers evil as a power, in and of itself, nor anything that shows forth discord and disease, find an abiding-place in the mind. In the book of life that we are constantly writing we should be careful not to inscribe those things that may eventually have to be cast aside. We should not, for instance, try to incorporate in our beings things false and unreal, which inevitably bring sorrow to mind and pain to body. We should build up an everlasting inheritance of things good and true.
We remember many things we would prefer to forget—our own anger toward others and their anger toward us, the unkind word, the envious and malicious thought, etc. We remember things done that should have been left undone; also, things left undone through our neglect. We would gladly forget all these unpleasant things; but memory has a way of recalling them, and they haunt us both day and night.
The Hindus believe thought to be a fine material substance, and that people in this life are making for themselves an environment that will assume the shape of their own thoughts, and before they can leave it they must outgrow all the unreal conditions they have formed. They must also be able to perceive their unreality before they can leave this environment. Whether this be true or not, there is no doubt that we are under the bondage or control of our own evil thoughts and desires; we are the servants and they have become the masters.
We have, first of all, to remember that all life is one. We must not willfully do anything that will retard the expression of life. We must work with all things tending toward perfection. We must be careful to picture in mind that which we know to be true; for we are picturing it not only for ourselves but for others; because what is in our own minds is continually affecting those of others. When we realize the effect of mind upon mind, then we see that we owe a duty not alone to ourselves but to all with whom we come in contact. Let us remember that our true thoughts are going to prove helpful to many persons and that our false thoughts will prove injurious; also, that life is more beautiful and more worth living when we act honestly, justly, mercifully, and lovingly toward all.
Through following this course we shall be storing in memory the things that, when recalled, will bring peace of mind and wholeness of body. Let us be sure that the seed we are sowing day by day is good seed, because the harvest will be after its kind. Men do not gather grapes from thorns nor figs from thistles; they gather according to the seed they have planted. Therefore, how important it is to allow no thought to dwell in the mind that will not bring forth good fruit! We must never harbor thoughts that bring with them a sense of shame, or that if expressed would work the slightest injury to any of God's creatures. It is not to be expected that we are going to regulate our actions in perfect conformity to law; but we should so wish to live in accord with all that is good and true that our desire will ripen into perfect fruition. We should not only know the Higher Will, but live it and be it. And through doing so we should realize more of the power and goodness of God in our own lives—and should recognize more of those qualities in the lives of those around us.
One Hand has sway.
To Him in wisdom turn.
More from Charles Brodie Patterson
- Canadian New Thought author
- Born in Nova Scotia in 1854 and died on June, 22nd 1917