At no previous time have the influence and potency of thought received such careful and discriminating investigation as is now being centered upon it. While a few seers of keen and intuitive perception have grasped the great fact that thought is the universal substance and basis of all things, never until the present era has this vital truth penetrated the more general consciousness.
The thought or volition of God is the basis of all phenomena; and man is now learning that his own thought-power is a force, the intensity and utility of which has been almost undreamed of. The intuitive comprehension of this truth is no longer limited to a Plato, Paul, or Emerson, but is grasped by many minds who are striving to give it articulation.
If man be the "offspring" of God, made "in His image," what more natural than that some thought correspondence should exist between them? The search-light of an intelligent and earnest desire for universal law—as a great harmonious unit—is being turned upon many problems which have been regarded as settled, and they are receiving a careful and scientific reconsideration such as heretofore has been impossible. Many dogmatic formulas and theories have been built up, and, when they have become hoary and respectable, it has been assumed that if any facts did not fit them, so much the worse for the facts. They were at once waived aside as unworthy of investigation. Whether or not it were possible, everything had to be bent to conform to what Authority thought truth ought to be. Shackles of tradition and intolerance are now loosened, and it is possible to make a full search not only for phenomena, but for the soul and causation which lie hidden back of them. The stiff and unyielding forms of antiquated and external institutions are softening, and responsiveness and receptivity to truth is the result.
Two great groups of forces are striving for mastery. On one side is ranged "realism," pessimism, and the Without; and against them, idealism, optimism, and the Within—a war of "Gog and Magog." From the dawn of human history, with a local and partial exception in the times of the primitive church, the forces of the Without have held sway; but now the legions of the Within and the Ideal are mustering in unparalleled power.
A general line of cleavage is running through religious denominations, therapeutic systems, governmental and economic theories, temperance, and ethics. The great opposing powers are not personalities, but thought-qualities, and therefore the warfare is located entirely within the confines of mind.
The kingdom over which human thought is the rightful sovereign is primarily subjective; but through its objective relations its reign is projected outward. Being a positive active force, it shapes and controls matter, which is only passive material, powerless and inert. As human thought traces, follows out, and harmonizes with the divine thought-pattern, it takes on wonderful potency. It becomes re-enforced and indorsed by that almighty power of the divine economy called Law.
In the human physical organism thought is at work, like a carpenter in a house, either building up or pulling down. Thought, or thought-quality, gives tone and character to all the chemical changes and transmutations which continually go on within the bodily structure. Materialism recognizes the mind as a bodily function, thinking as cerebration, and ideas as brain secretion. Were this a fact, mind could never exist apart from its physical base.
It is true that we do not consciously direct our digestion, assimilation, heart-action, or breathing; but we I must not forget that the consciousness which is on the surface is only the merest fraction of the great stored up sub-conscious deeps of the mental reservoir. The life-forces operate with supreme exactness and intelligence, and there can be no intelligence without mind. The wonderful complexity, accuracy, and delicacy of our deeper unappreciated mental operations would astound us, were we able to behold and analyze them. But though we cannot consciously explore our own mental recesses, we can trace and understand the laws which govern their courses and activities. The most fundamental of these laws relating to thought-sequence is, that the body is a general expression of the quality of past thinking, not merely of yesterday, last week, or last year, but of its composite for the past life.
This stored-up mental reservoir is a submerged personality which thinks, reasons, loves, fears, believes, accepts, and draws conclusions beneath and independent of consciousness. It is this, and not the matter of the body, that takes disease or contagion when the conscious ego is unaware of exposure. It is through this mind that medicines, and even poisons, produce their effect, instead of through chemical action, as is usually supposed. The absence of any such "chemical action" when these things are put into a "dead" body (body with mind removed) shows this conclusively. The usual sequential effects cannot come to the body directly, but must come through the pathway of mind. The hidden or great recognizes the quality or potency which general belief, and past subjective assent and consent to such belief, has linked to the so-called chemical agents or remedies, and it therefore responds.
This deeper or trans-conscious mind can only be gradually changed, and that by means of a stream of changed conscious thinking, which must be poured in for a considerable time. It may be compared to a cistern into which a small stream of turbid water has been flowing for a long period, until the process has rendered the whole contents turbid. Now begin to turn in a stream of pure sparkling water, and gradually the character of the whole aggregation will be changed. Just so by a controlled thinking power we can now begin to rectify the reservoir of mind by turning in a stream of pure wholesome thought, until the quality of the whole is purified. When this has been thoroughly accomplished the deeper ego will not accept or fear disease and contagion, but will go among them unscathed. Realizing the importance of a rectification, we should each lose no time in turning such a sparkling rill of positive thought into the submerged mentality, as will make it grow clearer and stronger, so that when disorder or inharmony knocks at its door, it will respond: Depart; I never knew you! The recognition of man's two differing minds, and a reasonable discrimination between their provinces and operations, explains a great mass of phenomena otherwise unintelligible.
The idealism of today is entirely different from that of the past. It was formerly speculative, capricious, and unreliable, because of the general non-recognition of law. This was largely the case even so recently as the days of Bishop Berkeley, and, to quite a degree, even in the times of our own Emerson. But under the reign of the ascertained Order it becomes exact and scientific. Utility is the watchword of the present age. What is idealism good for? Does it lift up humanity and restore weak minds and disordered bodies?
We find that the great force called thought has scientific relations, correlations, and transmutations; that its vibrations project themselves in waves through the ether, regardless of distance and other sensuous limitations; that they strike unisons in other minds and make them vibrant; that they relate themselves to like and are repelled by the unlike; that their silent though forceful impact makes a distinct impression ; in fact, that they are substantial entities, in comparison with which gold, silver, and iron are as evanescent as the morning dew.
When we learn the laws which govern any force, we tame and harness it for service. Electricity has been waiting to serve us since the days of the pre-Adamites, but until now it has waited in vain, because of the entire lack of the scientific application of law. Every conceivable force and phenomenon, when traced back, has for its original basis, Mind in operation; and this activity is regular, orderly, and to be relied upon.
Turning more directly to thought-power as both the producer and healer of disease, the recognition of its laws of operation have a striking correspondence, in their newly discovered utility, to those of electricity. While prevailing conventionalism welcomes the service of the cruder force, it looks with suspicion upon the higher, being but dimly aware of its great possibilities.
Thought always seeks embodiment. The thought of the engineer materializes in the completed engine, and that of the architect in the finished building. Both of these thought-forms will outlast their external expression, because they are built of more durable material.
Medical annals are crowded with examples of the disastrous effects upon the human organism of fear, anger, envy, jealousy, worry, hate, and other abnormal passions and emotions. No fact is better understood than that these qualities of thought pull down, disintegrate and paralyze the physical forces and nerve centers. Even false philosophies, mediaeval theologies, false conceptions of God, and especially the belief of the general doctrine of endless vindictive punishment, make their unwholesome influence felt in every bodily tissue. Pride, ambition, selfishness, and pessimism tend to the disturbance of many delicate physical processes, which finally result in chronic and even acute disorders. Anger suspends digestion, acidulates the blood, and dries up the secretions.
It is said that Swedenborg, when under inspirational conditions, could see that the deviating quality of thought changed the action of the lungs, the heart, the stomach, the liver, and kidneys with kaleidoscopic quickness and in exact correspondence. Man often has fear stamped upon him before his entrance into the outer world; he is reared in fear; all his life is passed in bondage to fear of sickness and death, and thus his whole mentality becomes cramped, limited, and depressed, and his body follows its shrunken pattern and specification.
What could be expected after generations of chronic sinful, fearful, antagonistic, selfish thought, clouded still more deeply by mental pictures of an angry God and endless hell, authoritatively proclaimed as solemn and terrible realities? Think of the millions of sensitive and responsive souls among our ancestors who have been under the dominion of such a perpetual nightmare! Is it not surprising that health exists at all? Nothing but the boundless divine love, exuberance, and vitality, constantly poured in, even though unconsciously to us, could in some degree neutralize such an ocean of morbidity.
Notwithstanding the well-understood power of abnormal thought in disintegrating the human organism, the corresponding opposite seems to have been ignored by the regular schools. It is logical and natural to look for opposite results from opposite causes. It further seems to have been assumed that humanity has no control over its thinking; that the thought-motor drifts like a helpless craft on every current and eddy, and that it must necessarily take aboard all the rubbish that floats in the vicinity. It is only ignorance and weak self-limitation in man that gives the reins to thought, and allows it to carry him as a captive into all the morbid negations and inversions that open to his distorted gaze. Perverted thought so abuses its sacred office that it goes out of its way to seek out the bitter, the misshapen, and the abominable. It almost revels in the unnatural and chaotic. It builds its subjective structures from its ruling consciousness, and subjectivity and objectivity act and react each upon the other. It often feeds upon "realistic" and debasing fiction, under the delusion that it is "artistic." It entertains sensuous mental pictures, though worldly policy and outward respectability may restrain their external expression. The bitter fruit of such thinking does not come immediately, but,
Yet they grind exceeding small.
—From Retribution by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The seed sown brings forth its own kind. The "day of judgment" comes on apace. Not a great general assize, where sentence is arbitrary and from without, but a self-imposed hellish condition within, which beneficently punishes to prevent man from going on to the length of self-destruction. Perverted thought makes a saving and indispensable education and evolution severe in attainment and dear in price.
Good seed no less certainly will produce a crop of its own quality. If bad thought will pull down, good thought will harmonize and build up; in fact, the good is infinitely more powerful, for it has the divine basis of reality. Perverted thought, though subjectively real, is only a distortion and a delusion. It may temporarily fill the mental horizon, but it has no abiding basis. All the real forces in the universe are working for good. The sequential pain-penalty of perverted thought, though intense, is kindly, because it is not vindictive, and possesses only a corrective significance.
We should think just as though our thoughts were visible to all about us. Real character is not outward conduct, but quality of thinking. The teaching of the Great Exemplar on this point was positive, but the world has ignored its scientific exactness. If bad thinking be so disastrous to the mental and physical organism, it is a question of supreme importance how it may be improved and reformed.
Thought is not now under perfect control because of past bad thinking habits. While to some extent thought-pictures unbidden, and even unwelcome, may thrust themselves before the mind's eye, we need not sit still and passively gaze upon them. If we have been drifting, we must grasp the helm, man the oars, and drift no longer. If positive and wholesome occupants take up their abode in the mental chambers, those of unwholesome quality will vacate. Every cherished ideal adds a tinge of its own hue and quality. There is no more of the element of chance in the outcome than in the solution of a mathematical problem.
High, healthful, pure thinking can be encouraged, promoted, and strengthened. Its current can be turned upon grand ideals until it forms a habit and wears a channel. By means of such discipline the mental horizon can be flooded with the sunshine of beauty, wholeness, and harmony. To inaugurate pure and lofty thinking may at first seem difficult, even almost mechanical, but perseverance will at length render it easy, then pleasant, and finally delightful.
The soul's real world is that which it has built of its thoughts, mental states, and imaginations. Our divine heritage of creative energy gives us the power to invoke and uprear a mental structure either symmetrical or deformed. If we will, we can turn our backs upon the lower and sensuous plane, and lift ourselves into the realm of the spiritual and Real, and there "gain a residence." The assumption of states of expectancy and receptivity will attract spiritual sunshine, and it will flow in as naturally as air inclines to a vacuum.
We must refuse mental standing-room to discord, and by right thinking call into existence a wholesome and inspiring environment. Think no evil, and have eyes only for the good. Optimism is of God, and it stimulates and attracts its possessor along the upward road towards the ideal and the perfect. Pessimism creates and multiplies unwholesome conditions, and galvanizes them into apparent life.
Not only thought-exercises, usually classed as sinful, are to be displaced, but concepts of disorder, deformity, and mortality should also be barred out. The mental photography of crime, evil, and disease presented in bold head-lines by the sensational press should receive a discriminating and righteous condemnation.
Disease primarily is only a mental specter, but it constantly inclines to bring forth an outward and visible progeny. A conscious fear of any particular disorder is not necessary to its production, but the general acceptance of disease as an entity, together with unconscious fear—hereditary, or taken on from environment—puts us on its general plane, and then it may embody any one of its many forms. It is not a creation of God, but a product of false and inverted human thought. It has only that power with which traditional theories, beliefs, and fears have crowned it. It is an inheritance built up of falsities and delusions; a cumulative structure of morbid impressions seen in the illusive atmosphere of ignorance and sensuousness. It owes its existence entirely to abnormal usurpation. Man must free himself from "the law of sin and death," by grasping his higher and spiritual selfhood; and this is no impossible or chimerical attainment.
While during this generation none may fully attain the pure ideal, on account of the great ocean of surrounding materialism in which all are immersed, yet even now enough is practical to prove the mathematical exactness of the principle, and that health and wholeness are teachable and have an absolute educational and scientific basis. Past thought has limited us in all directions. We have tethered ourselves to self-imposed posts by imaginary cords.
But the general thought-atmosphere is growing purer, and the increasing number of those who live in the higher consciousness will render ideal attainment less difficult in the future. It is morally certain that during the twentieth century the dark clouds of sin, disease, and death will be dispelled to an amazing degree.
It is better to study health than abnormity, because all thought-pictures press for outward expression. To advertise and emphasize disease by dividing, subdividing, and multiplying its phenomena, and by giving it formidable and scientific (?) names, is the mistake of the ages. No sculptor or architect would ever make any progress towards perfection were he to spend his whole time in a study of imperfect and deformed models. The quality of thought sent out by pathology only adds to the burdens which already press heavy upon humanity. It is a well-known fact that medical students are often subject to attacks of the special diseases which they are studying. A formal diagnosis often stamps its unwholesome verdict upon the patient. He sees the specification, accepts it, embodies it, and thus fully fills its outline. One feels a little palpitation of the heart. A formal and solemn diagnosis suggests probable heart-disease, and at every turn he is cautioned—to beware! A current of fear and abnormal thought is turned upon the aortal organ, and the very prognostication further deranges its action. Such a heartless procedure, though "regular," deserves thorough condemnation. Even when friends are informed and the patient kept in ignorance, the mischief is not much lessened, because the very thought atmosphere is diseased. To announce to a sensitive patient that a fever is likely, at once raises the pulse, and there it is—by appointment. Even to name the disease to an invalid, especially if it be designated by a high-sounding scientific (?) or Latin term, gives it not only character, but standing.
The individual ideal, as also that of the true healer, is to wash the mind clean of all specters of abnormity, and fill it with pictures of health, beauty, symmetry, strength, purity, and earnest aspiration towards perfection. Like all truth, they will press towards outward symmetrical embodiment.
The most thorough and impartial investigation proves that thought is the veritable organizer of all physical conditions. To add to the vitality of our material tabernacle, we must radiate true thought from its inner potential fountain, until it thrills the whole organism. Thus the spiritual Innermost of man, the Christ which is "The Word," is made flesh, or comes into externals. Thus the Word is "spoken," for from thought within it becomes articulate without. But it must be unmixed with doubt, fear, and faithlessness; therefore, "speak the word only, and thy servant shall be healed."
The whole product of God's creative thought was pronounced good. In the measure that man proceeds on the divine plan he not only will "think no evil," but will specify and uprear the good, the true, and the beautiful.