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Personal Liberty Includes Personal Responsibility

Two tendencies in Man demonstrate in the realm of mind the same action and reaction, the same balance, that we find in the mechanical forces. And since Thought is Power we must find every so-called natural, mechanical and chemical law, to be merely laws of Mind. We shall see them exemplified in the thoughts and actions of mankind, as we have heretofore found them in the cruder vibrations, termed matter.

Since we deal with Thought as a form of Eternal Energy we look for its Laws and its directive power in Man only, where it is manifest. We study the laws of mechanics in machines; of chemistry in chemicals; of gravity in the forms about us. In like manner we are to study the laws of Thought in ourselves. When I say "ourselves," I mean that I must study myself, and you must study yourself. The only way to arrive at truth is to study in the present tense, indicative mode, the personal pronoun "I." The teacher of "NOW" PHILOSOPHY teaches this way. He reasons from these Affirmations: I AM THOUGHT. I STUDY THOUGHT WHEN I STUDY MYSELF. I KNOW ONLY MYSELF. IN STUDYING MYSELF I AM STUDYING ALL THAT IS. WHEN I KNOW MYSELF I KNOW ALL THAT IS.

Only those who understand and live in this thought have arrived at Self-Control. Those who live after this Philosophy have conquered Fate.

The boasted personal liberty of which we hear so much, is at present largely a myth, a dream. When it comes, it comes through a study of Eternal Energy. As long as one studies external forces only, he finds them power, and thinking he must, he submits to them. But deeper study teaches that there is a force in Man, that can, through direction, control external forces. Circumstances control him who does not know how to control them.

Here we have the thought, and the word the world is seeking CHOICE. Can we choose in any degree? Certainly. Each person realizes and exercises very early in life the power of choice. Is it limited? By what? If limited, I am not free and personal liberty is a myth; I am like plant and bird subject to Law and am in the hands of a Fate inexorable and merciless. If choice is not limited, then I am free to the extent that I exercise that choice. Nay, if choice is limitless, can I avoid its exercise?

One or the other of these positions each one must take. The masses do claim limitations. They prate of independence, personal liberty and individuality, but they do this from the narrow thought of freedom from governmental, priestly or industrial and personal interference. They carry not the thought into the real realm of Cause; into the real world of Power. They stop in the world of effects as manifest in civil and social laws; business and economic methods. This is no more liberty, than the condition of the freed Russian serf is liberty. These serfs are still clamoring for liberty.

My writings under name of "Soul Culture" and "Now Philosophy," are written from the affirmation that each individual is absolutely free to choose, and is because of this freedom, absolutely responsible for his life. No circumstance or person, or power, is responsible for his health, happiness or success, but himself. I know this is denied consciously constantly by the great majority, and this is the main reason why I proclaim it. That it is also denied unconsciously in practice, denied by many who hold to it in theory, I also know. Few even of New Thought teachers have reached the point of sticking to the freedom they affirm.

This cry for liberty, this boast of independence, is the cry of the Unfolding Soul for larger expression. The excuse, reason, or apology for not manifesting our desire is Nature's ratchet, which holds us from slipping back when we have in liberty gained a notch. But are we to stop where we are? Restlessness and pain of circumstances soon send us forward a notch because we CHOOSE to go on, rather than to suffer under limitations. What Man wills not to endure, he cures. Choosing, he moves in the line of least resistance and ever toward liberty. Liberty, the only possible liberty, is opportunity to express that which he chooses to express. Through such expression he unfolds into consciousness of himself; into consciousness of his power to be and to do.

Man excuses his failures in any line by laying it to some circumstance, person, law, lack, or place. Some excuse is found, and rarely is the true one given. This fact I would deeply impress on the mind of my reader, Never as long as a person gives an excuse for not doing will he ever find the power to do. An excuse is the recognition of a Power somewhere manifesting in circumstances, which is more powerful than the person, and to which he must submit. To say, "I could not because circumstances would not admit," or "Because I could not conquer circumstances," is to say, "I am slave. I am not powerful enough to do as I choose." But the fact is one always does as he chooses to do. He chose to submit. Choice he cannot avoid. He chose to be a slave because he thinks there is a power too strong to conquer. It is easier to submit than to contend. The true reason one should give himself for any lack of expression is "I realized that I had not developed my consciousness of power so as to overcome at this time, and simply retired to learn more of myself as the overcoming power!" No one thought is more needed today than this of a personal realization of the connection between the individual and the Universal, which leads one to hold self responsible for conduct.

The realization that "each person is an inlet to the Divine mind and to the whole of that mind" is the key to Power. The only reason for unhappiness and the failure it produces, is that one does not choose to exercise this power, which he is by Divine right. "I can't!" is the prison of millions. Self-hypnotized through the Auto-Suggestion of a belief in Power outside themselves; by the fear of and submission to circumstances.

There is but One Power and each person is IT. This desire to excuse oneself for submission to an external power that is greater than interior power, leads to the creation of the gods and devils in all theologies; leads to philosophies that weaken and encourage the non-doing of millions; giving them excuses to languish in conditions they could throw off, would they affirm Power, and thus enjoy the blessing of liberty.

But a caution here. Your business is NOT to direct or save your neighbor; is not to go out and reform the world; is not revolution. You are to recognize within yourself the power to direct your own life; to make through your thought a personal evolution; that others seeing what you do for yourself, may learn also to do for themselves.

Personal gods and personal devils have disappeared from the thought of liberal teachers and thinkers, but the Principle which created them still remains, in the desire and tendency to lay blame for conditions and conduct on some external cause. This tendency finds expression even among some of our foremost New Thought teachers. Humanity has not yet reached the plane of Self-Reliance. No teaching is more needed today than self-assertion. Beyond all other books, in the great mass of New Thought literature, is Emerson's essay on "Self-Reliance," in its power to awaken the individual to a consciousness of personal power and of personal responsibility. "Never strike sail to a fear!" is one of his strong and needed admonitions. Out of our fears all limitations come. Fear shapes all the devils, and creates all the evils.

The disappearance of devils has given us much that is worse, because it is more subtle, and is the creation of a more developed intellect.

Devils have become "evil spirits," millions of individuals where once one only was prowling about, and obsession is an excuse for lack of personal expression, lack of self-control. Evil spirits however were too crude for many so we have this modified into "malignant magnetism." This is the excuse among a large class of people who repeat "All is good! There is no evil!" Such have not reached the place where they accept personal responsibility; must have some scape-goat for their illness and failures. We have another still more subtle excuse and one that because of the fact of telepathy is harder to remove. That is "Evil thoughts!" So convenient is it, to excuse any ill doing by saying, "Somebody sent me an evil thought! A friend saw a lady slip on the ice one morning. Several days later he met her and asked, "Did it hurt you when you slipped the other morning?" He was startled by the reply, "O, I knew some one sent me an evil thought." Another large class of believers have a standing excuse when they suffer any ill condition in this expression: "I am working out my Karma!" A thought far more repulsive to a freeman and thinker, than the old excuse, "The devil made me do it!" Very many of our New Thought books otherwise very fine, are so vitiated with this negative and self-destructive thought, that I cannot recommend them. What, I a child of the Divine limited to re-birth after rebirth and suffering in one incarnation for what I did long ages ago? Too puerile, and would make one laugh if the consequences did not make one weep. Self-respect, self-reliance and self-conquest are impossible under such a thought. No wonder India has submitted to English tyranny under this dominion. The American people would never rise from control of trusts and monopolies did they believe in Karma; a theory of a primitive and early people who carried with it also the thought of transmigration of souls, which seems too repugnant to a twentieth century theosophist to teach. The sense of self-responsibility, the present most needed development, is hindered by all these theories, which are used as excuses for lack of self-control.

Out of this desire, belief and fear arises the cry against hypnotism. Strange is the fact, that otherwise fine teachers along New Thought lines, both in journals and books, are warning their readers against hypnotism. They repeat statements like these, "To yield your will to another is dangerous!" "To give up one's self to the control of another is an evil!" Such statements tend to keep alive this old thought of excuse and to increase the old fears and weakness. Such statements are not Truth. They are born in the old thought. No one who has ever experimented with Suggestion, no one who feels it his sacred duty to his fellows to teach only what he knows by personal experience, will ever repeat the folly of teaching "the possibility of yielding the control of one's life or one's thought to another;" will ever talk of "putting a person under control of another's will." Only the will of the individual can influence his life. I can obey my will. Another's will can become mine only by my choice. I can make it mine, or I can refuse. (See p. 24.) I have the same power of choice in regard to every person that the miss has to accept or decline a proposal of marriage. Nowadays she often claims she was hypnotized.

She acted, as every person always does, under her own choice. She decided, and all the influence any person can possibly have over another and no more, the young man ad over her, and that is, he presented inducements, and she equally influenced him.

Recently a young doctor used to bet on a horse race the money entrusted to him by a friend, and lost; he then claimed he was influenced to do so by two sharpers. The excuse is worse than the loss of money, because it is an admission of lack of manhood; tells us that he has not developed power of self-control. Loss of money, or friends, or anything is not equal to this cowardice.

The operator has no power to will his subjects. Hypnotism is no excuse for any action. In Kansas I had a fine subject, and one evening when he was taking from a glass of water anything I suggested, I said, "There is beer in the glass;" he would not touch it. When I insisted he woke with a start as though he had been hit. I tried to make some good subjects pick some pockets. Three refused, saying, "I won't steal;" I could not make them. The fourth took the watch from the man's pocket, and when fully awake I asked him what he did and he replied: "I took the watch!" Why? "Because you told me to, and I knew it was only a trick!" He was under control of the thought, but not unconscious. Dr. Albert Moll of Berlin, one of the best of European authorities, when in this country said in an interview published in the Kansas City, Mo., Star: "It is doubtful if any serious crime was ever done while under this influence. The weight of authority is against it!" Later students deny its possibility.

Certainly were it one thousandth part as baneful as even some New Thought teachers think, were there a shadow of fact that would warrant the charge of evil, it would be easy to prove its harmfulness. There are those who say it would be an evil were one to yield himself to the will of another. True! But can one so yield? Does one ever so yield?

Have you any cases of such yielding? Not one. In his work upon "Suggestive Therapeutics," Dr. Schrenck-Notzing of Germany, gives the results of his investigations among the hospitals of Europe, and though he reports the results of many thousand experiments, he has never found a single case of the harmfulness of Suggestion, even when carried to hypnosis (which is merely sleep under Suggestion) even when it is many times practiced upon the same individual. It will be noticed that among the authorities he quotes as thinking "it possible" that it may be used for harm, he gives not one instance where it has so been used. All positive evidence is to its safety. Any evil effects are hypothetical; merely "may be"; are but opinions, and not demonstrations.

That Suggestion, even to complete hypnosis, ever wrought harm to a single person, is yet to be proved. There has never yet been such a case reported. The conscious use of this power, cannot work evil. On the contrary every person should learn voluntarily and consciously to receive Suggestions, as this is the only road to Self-Control. Till one can do this, he, or she, is liable to receive Suggestions from the outside and accept them as his own, unconscious of their origin. New Thought teachers who are so afraid of Hypnotism, are themselves working under the one phase of Suggestion which is dangerous to happiness, i. e., Self-Suggestion of fear and ignorance, which imposes limitations upon the Human Soul and is the one danger to avoid. Suggestion is an ever present factor in life. Hypnosis is but one of millions of phenomena resulting from Suggestion; it is but sleep under the influence of the Suggestion of sleep. There is but one guard against any evil effects through Suggestions whether one is sleeping or waking, and that guard is CONSCIENCE. What is right, is the decision of the reasoning faculties from experience of training.

Conscience says, "DO RIGHT!" Only the individual himself can violate conscience and because he wills to do so.

Who is false to conscience is never safe anywhere. Who is true to conscience, who always does what he considers right, can never be led astray. There is absolutely no possibility of any person doing wrong save under his, or her, own Auto-Suggestion. Note this well No one ever does anything save under his own Auto-Suggestion and he can receive no Suggestion to convert into an Auto-Suggestion, which is antagonistic to Conscience, for Conscience is not amenable either to reason or will. It is "The Voice of God in the Soul." We can will ourselves to accept for a time a thought that is not reasonable at the request of another, but can never accept a thought that is repellent to conscience. Every New Thought teacher and healer should know this. Experience should teach them, that till Conscience assents to their instruction, there is no action, no recovery.

That it is impossible to cause a person, even in the deepest hypnosis, to violate his conscience, or to do that against which he has set his will, is demonstrated in the experience of every practical hypnotist.

All experts tell us this. Teachers who fear the influence of Hypnotism, are as far off their base as are the clergy who prate of the evils of the theater, having never seen one. Not knowing the real evils, imaginary ones are preached against. Men of straw are built up and pulled down by them. They see evils of hypnotism where there are none, and the real dangers of the involuntary, unconscious hypnotism of authority, personal influence, money, dress, fashion, public opinion and fear are ignored.

I have so many times come up against the will, or the moral standard of a subject, that without hesitation, I declare that under no circumstance can one person so influence another that he will do anything he thinks is wrong, or against which he has willed.

Unity of wills is an absolute necessity to the success of the Suggestionist. He is compelled to move in the line of the moral standard of his subject. The evils of false education are laid at the door of Circumstances. Parents and teachers neglect to fix moral Principles in a child; he goes out into the world without Principle. He has had a lot of "dont's," and a lot of arbitrary rules, but no fixed Principle of Right. He is taught in many cases what to do, but is not taught Self-Control, which alone is temperance, and when he becomes drunk it is laid to the saloon keeper. It is as easy to do right as it is to do wrong to one who has been taught to hold himself to blame; who has been taught that he HAS POWER to say, "NO!"

False are all the reports in the press of hypnotized persons coming to evil. Hypnotism cannot become the scapegoat for the weak. The criminal cannot excuse himself by claiming he was hypnotized. These are subterfuges and when accepted destroy character. What is done is in line with one's moral development, or it would never have been done. He wished to.

This doctrine is not relished by society. But it is Truth. The philosophy I teach allows no person to shirk the responsibility of Character; of controlling by choice his own life. "Thou art the man!" thunders "Soul Culture!" You can! You will whatever you do! You ARE POWER to will, and to do, whatever you desire to will and to do. From a long experience I assert that a knowledge of Suggestion and its power is the ONE knowledge that will bring redemption from the tyranny of so-called evil. Freedom comes alone when one FEELS, that he or she, is superior to any and all conditions of life.

I have dealt with these questions on pp 31, 32, of this book. Because of the widespread report in the daily press of the evils of hypnotism, I use this space in this new edition to emphasize what I have already said. I will give a few more authorities and incidents.

Prof. A. E. Carpenter told me that one of his best subjects would not remove his coat one evening. He made repeated trials and failed. After the entertainment was over, he asked the young man why he would not remove his coat.

The reply was, "I had no time to change my shirt before I came to the hall. My over-shirt was torn and I decided that I would not take my coat off and show the red flannel shirt through the tears!" Professor Carpenter has probably as extensive experience as any living person; he says in his "Plain Instructions,"—"The operator should remember that it is the subject's condition that determines the success of the experiment, and not any peculiar magnetic or cult power that he, the operator, possesses. That is, if the sitter is in a subjective condition he will respond to the suggestion, and further, that the sitter goes into this condition himself, the operator does not put him into it." Dr. Schrenck-Notzing in speaking of the results of his investigations among the practitioners of Europe, gives his opinion in the following extracts:

"The evidence mentioned is augmented by the wide experience of Forel, Moll and numerous other experimenters, all of which leads to the conclusion that with proper individualization of hypnotism for therapeutic purposes it is devoid of any disadvantage."

He gives this conclusion as the result of his investigations in the "Introduction" to his work on "Suggestive Therapeutics," quoting these authorities:

"Ringer says, after reviewing 210 cases in his practice, that he has never seen hypnosis have an injurious effect. "Van Renterghem and Von Eeden, whose clinic I visited, likewise testify to the innocuousness of therapeutic hypnosis, and were able to add nearly 1,000 cases to the 414 cases cited.

"Wetterstrand, according to his work, has subjected 3,200 persons to hypnotic procedure, and induced hypnosis 60,000 times without observing any injurious results. "Von Corval gives from his own, as well as from the experience of others in general, his conclusion that hypnosis, correctly employed, is unaccompanied by any danger.

"Minde thinks all dangers may be avoided by proper care. "Craft-Ebing says: Treatment by hypnotic suggestion is innocuous when it is scientifically employed.'

"Preyer says:'It can have no injurious effect when skillfully used.'

"Liebeault of Nancy, who during thirty years has hypnotized 10,000 persons, some of them more than 100 times, says with proper precautions he has never observed untoward effects follow hypnotism.

"Professor Bernheim, from his observations on several thousand patients, has lately expressed himself as follows:

'Suggestion often cures; when it does not cure it ameliorates; and if it does not benefit it is still harmless.' "Grossman found the legend of its dangers unconfirmed. "Professor Hirt of Breslau, made in eight months, experiments for therapeutic purposes on 598 persons. More than 4,000 sittings have proven to him that hypnosis is never accompanied by harmful effects, even when frequently induced in the same individual."

Von Notzing himself in his "Introduction" says: "Observations of hypnotism on more than 300 persons, of whom many were hypnotized more than 100 times and some 200 or 300 times, leads me to believe in the harmlessness of therapeutic suggestion."

And in the body of his book, he says:

"If other means are not successful, then failure to use suggestive therapeutics out of prejudice and ignorance must be regarded as inexcusable negligence on the part of the physician toward his patients."

At the International Medical Congress held at Moscow, Russia, in August, 1897, Prof. Lombroso, of Turin, read a paper that created great enthusiasm. In it he declared that:

"We ought to study carefully all physical states, including hypnosis, for discoveries which this may lead to are incalculable in their importance, and the benefits to the human race beyond our power to foresee or imagine."

I condense some statements of Bernheim, one of Europe's leading scientists, along psychical lines: He says he has seen Hypnotic Suggestion used in the same case for several years, seances and treatments being given each successive day and no harm resulting; on the contrary, he found that each and every case had greatly improved during that long and constant subjection to Hypnotism. Hypnotic Suggestion has been very successfully used for years in the alms houses, orphan asylums and penal institutions of France in correction of diseases and habits in adults and the vices and habits of children. There is the best evidence and greatest need in the world for the use of Hypnotism and suggestion in the capacity of curative, moral and educational agents.

Prof. T. J. Hudsen, author of "The Law of Psychic Phenomena" in a magazine article said:

"That hypnotism and its chief hand-maiden, suggestion, have been proved to be an unalloyed blessing to millions of the human race cannot be successfully controverted. No intelligent observer of the subject who has made an honest and unprejudiced investigation of it will deny its value as a therapeutic agent or gainsay the fact that it has been the means of restoring to health untold numbers of otherwise incurable sufferers from physical and mental maladies. Its value as an anesthetic in surgery has been demonstrated by the profession in many notable instances, and it is thought that when its laws are better understood it will be found to be an agent of universal application for the inhibition of pain in surgical operations. Its value as a means for the eradication of habits of drunkenness, as well as of many other habits equally destructive to health and reason, no one who has given the subject the slightest attention will seriously question. Its availability as an auxiliary to the usual process of education is rapidly becoming known throughout the world. And so is its value as a means of training children to correct habits of mind and body, and above all of eradicating from the human mind the tendency to immorality and crime."

It would be easy to extend this list of authorities many pages, but to one who has gripped its Principle of Suggestion as laid down in this book, there is little need, and I will close with some paragraphs from expert authority: the article in the Encyclopedia Americana, written by Hamilton Osgood, M. D. See how closely his thought, printed in 1905, tallies with that of this book, printed two years before:

"The word hypnotism is generally and largely misunderstood and misused. For example, if a person seems to be wholly influenced by another, it is commonly said that he has been hypnotized. This is a great error. The word hypnotism means putting a person to sleep and means nothing else. If an individual seems to be subjected to another in the waking state it should be said that he is unduly influenced. He is not hypnotized. That would mean that he was asleep. The means by which hypnotism is used is "suggestion." A person may be influenced by suggestion in the waking state, for suggestion is a great force in daily life. As connected with hypnotism, however, suggestion is the expression of an idea or combination of ideas which becomes impressed upon the mind of the somnolent subject to whom it is addressed. Conscious or unconscious results are sure to follow. This explanation sums up the meaning, use, and results of suggestion as applied to hypnotism and the hypnotic state. If a subject be awake he can, according to the strength of his will and desire, control to a greater or lesser degree the effect of a suggestion which he has received.

"In the popular mind exists the belief that this form of treatment is attended by danger, that the patient once hypnotized is thereafter under control of the operator, even at a distance, that the will is weakened, etc. This is all a mistake. No person can be hypnotized unless he is willing. No person can be hypnotized at a distance, unless by telephone, or if he be a good and willing subject, by letter; and the patient must first have been hypnotized by the operator at some previous time. Otherwise the operator cannot influence him at a distance in the slightest degree.

The will is not only not weakened, but there is no other existing treatment which can so strengthen the will as can hypnotic suggestion.

"It is an absolutely safe and beneficent form of aid. It may not always bring relief, but never in the hands of a competent operator has it done harm. The patient will always choose the operator as he would choose a surgeon. The object of all reliable operators in the use of hypnotic suggestion is the relief of the patient, and to the operator the treatment is a sacred thing.

"The hypnotic sleep is a natural sleep. Those who claim that it is not natural are not intelligent in the matter, and their opinions are based upon pure and uninformed theory. "As has been shown by scores of thousands of cases, treated by brilliant and educated physicians, the treatment is absolutely innocuous. It either relieves or produces a neutral effect, and is useful in a multitude of ailments which baffle ordinary means of relief."

This testimony of Dr. Osgood should be sufficient to settle the matter, and to more than balance, in an unprejudiced mind, all possible negative testimony. But I will add the testimony of the greatest medical authority in the United States, Dr. William Osier, formerly of the John Hopkins Medical School and now of Oxford, England. In the article on "Medicine" in the "Encyclopedia Americana," after enumerating ameliorating influences upon health, he says: "To these might be added a fourth, which in some sense is the most natural of all; for it has been practiced in ages more remote by many thousands of years, than the suspicion of either of the others, and by savages almost at the bottom of the human scale; that is, some form of suggestion or hypnosis. Yet after all, the psychical method has always played an important though unrecognized part in therapeutics. It is from faith, which buoys up the spirits, sets the nerves playing their parts without disturbance, that a large part of all cures arise. Despondency, or lack of faith, will often sink the stoutest constitution almost to death's door; faith will enable a bread-pill or a spoonful of clear water to do almost miracles of healing, when the best medicines have been given over in despair. The basis of the entire profession of medicine is faith in the doctor and his drugs and his methods. "Its (hypnotism) possibilities have been greatly exaggerated, not so much by the claims of persons using it, as by the eager credulity of the public. It seems not to create a new condition of sensitiveness to suggestion, as to increase what normally exists. Its great service has been found to be in various affections which may all be classed as of the nervous system: Hysteria, spasmodic functional complaints, children's vicious habits, and the victims of the drug and alcohol habits; occasionally in childbirth and surgery."

I feel that my purpose in this book which is to show the student that there are no occult or hidden or mysterious powers in all these phenomena has been accomplished. That the one Law of Suggestion is at work in them all. That the old ideas and theories of hypnotism are false. It is not Hypnotism but Suggestion that is cause. We are through this Law learning to control our fate. This knowledge will bless mankind by removing from it the fear which now prevents the universal application of Suggestion and Hypnosis for the cure of all ills of "body, mind and estate."

Knowing that this book has not only instructed but has stimulated and given courage to thousands already for the overcoming of Life's unpleasant conditions, I gladly send forth this new edition to continue the good work its predecessors have begun. This consciousness that I have a place in the thought and love of so many encourages me still to write and work. In Love and Truth I am your friend,

HENRY HARRISON BROWN.

San Francisco, March 15th, 1906.

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Henry Harrison Brown

  • Born in 1840
  • An early leader in the New Thought movement
  • Published NOW magazine which was "...a Monthly Journal of Positive Affirmations, devoted to Mental Science and the Art of Living."
  • Unitarian Minister
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