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The Uses of Beauty

In starting a town here in Florida, we have but one object in view. This one object, however, is ulterior and circumferences many others. We want to work out our conceptions of the beautiful through it, and we want to see other people do the same. It is in the pursuit of beauty that the competitive spirit demonstrates its great worth. The competitive spirit appears to be a sordid, mean thing so long as its object is an unworthy one; but once let the object become noble, divine, and then the spirit of competition does, indeed, become the very life and breath of all great unfoldment.

Simply to see a flower bloom, has been incentive enough to get me out of bed at daylight morning after morning for a week; and oh! the swelling tide of life within me to behold the deepening tint and the advancing unfoldment of the beautiful thing from day to day. I am sure that a flower is more than a flower: it represents effort; and effort in a diviner way than effort expressed merely in bread getting.

The bread is a necessity not to be dispensed with; but bread is worthless, and the life it feeds is worthless, unless it is fed to an aim leading in the direction of beauty.

The evolvement of beauty is the divinest ambition that can ever actuate a human life. All uses are but preparatory steps leading to it. Uses must necessarily be supplied before the love of the beautiful which lives in each person's inmost thought can become unfurled. There can be no freedom for anyone until the uses of life are met and disposed of. With freedom secured, comes the diviner sense that starts on an endless search for the beautiful; or, rather, I should say—with freedom comes the artistic creativeness; and this artistic creativeness is the goal towards which all growth points.

The old woman who sits in the cabin door, piecing calico scraps into a quilt, is actuated and made happy by this slight expression of her ideas of beauty. It is an escape for her from the more sordid duties of her life. She fries the bacon and bakes the corn cake with more alacrity because her pleasant sewing beckons her on; and when the drudgery is done her very thought escapes into a new realm. The hollyhocks in the yard are another record of her protest against the sternness of eternal necessity; a breath of freedom lies where their roots are planted, and its fruitage is a "useless" blossom.

Think of calling a blossom useless! "A thing of beauty is a joy forever." It more than all the uses in the world—unlocks the storehouse of man's slumbering powers. In the process of evolution, a rose is worth more than a diamond; a butterfly or a humming bird outweighs a crown. Why? Because they stir man's latent poesy to its deepest depths; and poesy is the wings of the intellect.

Who wants to creep forever in the mire of an unfinished planet—a planet that will never be finished until we have first found our wings, and have also discovered the atmosphere in which they will float us? It is a mental atmosphere and is correlated to our unfoldment in the direction of the aesthetic, the divine, the beautiful.

I am so tired of the sordid; I am so tired of content with the merely necessary; I want the supernumerary; I want the fifth wheel to the wagon, though I will take it in a shape that will dispense with the other four wheels; a shape that will float the wagon in the air. I am tired of all things as they are, and look upon them as nothing more than a substantial foundation for something infinitely better. Above all things, I am tired of the feeling of satisfaction which some people have in present conditions. Of course, this feeling only belongs to those who have achieved a certain measure of affluence; and even among these—I am delighted to say—the new truth is pouring a strangely decomposing element that turns all things to ashes before their mental vision. There is no phrase upon the tongue of wealth, as it exists today in its awfully sordid expression, so frequent as that one little sentence which discloses the growing power of higher thought and aspiration, "is this all?"

Oh! the depths of discontent made manifest by these small words! The dream of a life has been realized by the accumulation of that which renders farther effort unnecessary; and the result is—what? Either a gradually deepening disappointment or a fierce, discordant gloom that makes all things seem unbearable. Many men die within a year or two after retiring from business; there is nothing more—on their plane—to live for, and so the end for them has come the very day they turn their faces from the work that has occupied them always; and as they walk away, they walk by the shortest possible route to their graves.

"Is this all?" These are the last words for all men who do not find an answer to them by stepping up into a higher plane of thought and action; and there is no higher plane in all this world, except that which is revealed by the truths of Mental Science. Wealth is a millstone around any man's neck, and is bound to sink him into the grave, unless he makes it a foundation or a platform from which to build higher up into the realm of the ideal, the beautiful, the divine.

I use the word "build" in full realization of its meaning. Every upward step a man takes in the realm of thought, the more he adds to the strength, the ability, the greatness of his own being, and the more firmly he establishes his position as a builder in the world of effects.

Heaven is not reached at a single bound;
But we build the ladder by which we rise

From the lowly ground to the vaulted skies,
And we mount to its summit round by round.
—Josiah Gilbert Holland in "Gradatim"

"Only in dreams is a ladder thrown from earth to sky." Yes, and the most unsubstantial of dreams, too; for it is a fact that the race has no help in its effort to ascend but the power it draws out of its own brain; that power which results from the acquisition of more wisdom, and which enables us to conquer more and more the obstacles we find in our path.

Do you know what an obstacle is? It is something to climb over; something to dissolve by that most powerful of all solvents—thought. It is a gymnasium bar which we break for the mere sport of testing our strength. Having broken it, we go on and break others of ten-fold resistance.

We are now standing face to face with .a stone wall that has for ages seemed to shut off our further advancement. That stone wall is the blended monuments of all the dead who have ever died; it is death itself, and disease, and every denial of our power that ever hemmed us in and made the earth a prison house of trembling, aspiring, but helpless beings; helpless because aspiration never ripened into effort for them, but lay down and died in view of the obstacles ahead.

I am now making a call upon those whose aspiration for something better than life has yet yielded, has conquered—not only their fears, but the race belief in the power of negative environment to hold them down to conditions they are heartily tired of. I am calling upon men and women to take the risk of losing something, in the hope of gaining other something that promises more. To me it appears to be an exchange of death for life; an exchange of the prison for freedom; of the charnel-house for the free airs and the flowers of Paradise.

To start untrammeled on an upper path in pursuit of freedom, happiness, all that the ideal brain suggests as most desirable—this is what we are doing. To test the power of man's creativeness on a higher plane of effort than has ever been done before—this is what we are doing. If there is no outlet to this undeveloped genius of the race, then we had better all die, never to be resurrected; for the development of individual genius is the only happiness there is, the only freedom there is, and the only possible progression. And without happiness, freedom and the power to progress, life is utterly worthless. I recognize present good, and I recognize the power of money and I enjoy its possession; but if I had millions of it I would give it all in exchange for one single new thought that held the promise of greater freedom than life has yet yielded. Is this recklessness? Not a bit of it; it is wisdom untrammeled by the caution whose further continuance will prove the curse of the race; it is exchanging a negative good for a positive good. It is exchanging conditions we do not like, but only tolerate, for the prospect of conditions that will be for us the realization of happiness—heaven.

But suppose one risks and loses? Loses what? That which ensnared him and made farther effort on his part unnecessary. I would rather be a tramp on the road today than to sit down in that security from want that would stultify the farther outgrowth of my capacity to create opulence. For I say that the pleasure is in creating it, and not in piling it up and sitting like a Watch dog beside it to keep others from getting part of it. The creative ability is what I prize; that which I create takes a back seat in my mind, or is forever abandoned, while I go on to more advanced creations; to a fuller development of my creativeness. And this is mind in constant expression. It is life in ever progressive unfoldment. It is the bridging of the chasm of death by the continuity of endeavor.

Endless growth admits of no cessation of the creative principle. To stop is to stagnate; to gather wealth is all right, but the chief right is in scattering it; to sit down by it converts it at once into trash; it becomes as the green scum that conceals the dead water of the standing pool; it hazes over all the bright energies of the brain, and at last the brain has lost its powers of action and become a useless thing.

In heaven's name, let me preserve the activity of my mind, even though I have but one meal a day.

And yet this suggestion is contradictory; for if I preserve the activity of my mind I shall never lack for what I want. Mental activity insures the fulfillment of every desire. Therefore, I must guard that power in myself which is capable of projecting new conditions, even though I never invest in four percent bonds, as my friend suggested.

I do not want four percent bonds; I want something to do that expresses me. I want to plant a hollyhock when I get the dishes washed and the beds made; I want to escape from necessity into the unconfined atmosphere of the "useless," the beautiful, the divine; that place which represents my highest ideas of freedom. And this is why we are here. We have planted our hollyhock here and are watching it grow. We are sure the growth of it will reveal untold tomes of wisdom to us; and we are fast approaching the day when wisdom will feed and clothe us; for wisdom circumferences all things; it yields us bread and houses and diamonds and everything opulent. To simply own the bread and houses and diamonds is no insurance against want, but to have wisdom is to be the master of all wealth, and to command it at will. This is the Law, and it never fails.

It is time someone started out to discover something better than the Heeling possessions that pass for wealth. Great mental strength, a complete sense of mastery, is what men need, and must have before they are fit for the conquest of the, as yet, unconquered world. The world lies before us with all its vast resources, and is ours for the taking; but only wisdom can reach it. We are poverty stricken because we lack the wisdom I am speaking of. Let us come here in peace and comfort, and with beautiful surroundings, for a part of each year, at least, and meet together often in that interchange of ideas that develops the highest thought. Who knows what great things may result from an effort like this?

The spirit of liberty lies at the bottom of our writing, and of our work here. We are not proposing cooperation in business matters, but only in the field of thought. All reform must begin with the individual. Given a community of individuals with correct standards, and the business relations of its members will be adjusted upon principles of justice and equity.

At this time the higher desires of humanity point toward the acquisition of knowledge that will raise men in the scale of humanity, and give people more individual power in the subjugation of everything in life, that is oppressive and demoralizing. We want the wisdom that will enable us to overcome disease, inharmony, old age and death; the wisdom that will develop out of our own organizations the good naturally inherent in us. As seed germs of endless growth, we have discovered that we are not evil, and that farther development will not make us evil or dangerous to each other; but that it will enlarge every faculty of our whole bodice, and bring forth other faculties that we do not now know of. Wisdom can only make us better; ignorance alone is the root of unhappiness, and wisdom is its corrective.

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Helen Wilmans

  • Born in 1831 and died in 1907
  • Studied under Emma Curtis Hopkins
  • Was a journalist and author
  • Was active in the Mental Science Movement
  • Was charged with postal fraud for healing through mail. Fighting this charged caused her lose most of her fortune.

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