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Mental and Physical Chemistry in the Human Economy

The human body is a chemical laboratory. The mind is the conscious or unconscious chemist, and exercises direct control in all the multiform physical processes. Its compounding is performed unintelligently, and often ignorantly, but the final product is always the natural outcome of past and present mental activity, in quality and degree. The subtle delicacy and complexity of the chemical transmutations which are ever succeeding each other in the physical organism are unparalleled in the most exhaustive experiments of the best-equipped external laboratories. The possible knowledge of the trained technical expert is but rudimentary in comparison with the marvelous skill of the invisible thought chemist, whose work, though carried on sub-consciously or in secret, is at length known and read of all men.

The growing interest in psychological research, or soul-study, especially in its relation to the body, is manifested not only in a general curiosity about phenomena as such, but in a laudable search for the underlying truth, and especially that which is practical and useful. There is, however, too much of a desire for what is merely strange and marvelous. In this practical age, whenever new theories are proposed, the first question should be, How much truth do they contain? and, second, How can this truth be best applied for the benefit of humanity? Does the thing offered promise, in any measure, to lessen prevailing infelicity, and to promote the welfare and upliftment of mankind?

The general interest in the dynamics of mind is also evident from the attention which is being bestowed upon the subject in colleges and universities. Psychology has now a well-established place in the curriculum of all the larger educational institutions. Several of these contain psycho-physical laboratories carefully equipped for experiment and research.

But it is uniformly the case that when any new truth is recognized, some old doctrines that have been accepted for truth must be displaced, or else given a new interpretation. The spirit of conventionalism tends to make existing institutions extremely conservative, and often rather intolerant of new advances in human thought. That which is, is usually self-sufficient, so that new truth meets with some friction before finding its thorough assimilation. This is seen in the tardy recognition given by established systems to the practical possibilities of mental and spiritual science. Every great advance in its early aspects has seemed like a strange, and often unwelcome, intruder. But all truth which the world needs will be restless, and even aggressive, until it glides into its rightful place and finds application. The broadened scope of modern scientific research is shown in the expanding curricula of many colleges and universities which now include a department which is known as psycho-physics. Among the most original, unique, and significant of recent studies and experiments are those of Professor Elmer Gates, whose extensive laboratory is located in Washington, D.C. Though one of the most thorough psychologists in the country, and also eminent in the departments of chemistry, electricity, and biology, we understand that Professor Gates' point of view is that of a scientist and physicist. In view of these facts, the outcome of many of his experiments has a marvelous significance to all earnest seekers after truth. His researches seem to confirm the basic claims of metaphysicians. His specialty is described as "the newest of the sciences," and he deals with matters which hitherto have been regarded as beyond the field of exact investigation. The whole trend of modern psychology, as an art and a science, seems to be away from former materialism toward the more subtle, immaterial, and spiritual basis of life and being. There are strong indications that the causative power of emotion, thought, and consciousness will soon be recognized by science, and that all phenomena will be found to be expressive and resultant.

The fact has been demonstrated that there is a supremely important realm of psycho-physical law and truth that has been left unrecognized and unutilized, but which has recently been coming into distinct outline in the human understanding. It may be compared to an unexplored territory towards which adventurous explorers are approaching on different sides; or to a lofty mountain peak, towards which, by different routes and unseen by each other, various climbers are toiling up, to gain the broad outlook and secure a vantage ground from which there may be a clear view into a hitherto strange and undiscovered country.

This novel and unfamiliar realm is made up of the broad truth of mental causation and the formative power of thought as expressed in the physical chemistry of the human organism. The existence of this energy, the laws through which it operates, their utilization, wonderful adaptability and potency, all together make up the strange country—till recently the terra incognita of human attainment.

But looking upon another side, we find that a small but earnest band of noble souls, undeterred by the fear of unpopularity, undismayed by flippant criticism and scholastic satire, and impelled by a spiritual intuition which is an enigma to the world at large, had already scaled these heights of "Pisgah," and gained a clear view of the promised land. Guided by a keen inner perception, this brave and scattered minority, whose names are not enrolled upon the annals of science, reached the goal of high principle, and from their lofty vantage ground proclaim liberty to all the people.

They have interpreted and made known "the mystery of the ages," and brought into the light of noonday that ideal summum bonum of which the past has afforded only dim and uncertain glimpses. Its partial and occasional outcroppings as recorded in history, which have vaguely been regarded as capricious, supernatural, and super-reasonable, are being retranslated, and a misunderstood mass of chaotic phenomena brought into harmonious regularity.

But, as already indicated, the important development of the present time is that the advance pickets of physical science are coming up to the summit of truth, on another side and by a different route. Through the slower processes of intellectual logic and chemical demonstration, they have toiled up until their extreme advance is almost face to face with the metaphysical minority which for some time has occupied the ground. The supposed "weak things" of the world confounded the strong; for the quiet, silent climbers scaled these heights well in advance. The rigid forms of institutionalism are slow and clumsy in their adaptive conformity to human needs, for they only move forward with great friction.

But let us note more specifically the latest developments in this so-called newest department of science. The recently heralded discoveries tentatively approach a position already familiar to the few who first arrived by the lighter and easier intuitional path. These were able to penetrate the mists of materialism, and to perceive the desired goal and make directly for it. They, however, most cordially welcome their brethren who are arriving by the route of sensuous measurement. We give them hearty greetings; and now let us note their first impressions of this higher realm in their own language. It will be necessary to give quotations at some length, in order to convey their full import.

In a very carefully recorded statement recently made, Professor Gates gives some of the conclusions arrived at from his exhaustive and long-continued experiments. He says:—

"I have discovered that bad and unpleasant feelings create harmful chemical products in the body, which are physically injurious. Good, pleasant, benevolent, and cheerful feelings create beneficial chemical products which are physically healthful. These products may be detected by chemical analysis in the perspiration and secretions of the individual. I have detected more than forty of the bad, and as many of the good."

"Suppose half a dozen men in a room. One feels depressed, another remorseful, another ill-tempered, another jealous, another cheerful, and another benevolent. It is a warm day; they perspire. Samples of their perspiration are placed in the hands of the psycho-physicist. Under his examination they reveal all those emotional conditions distinctly and unmistakably."

"To sum it up, it is found that for each bad emotion there is a corresponding chemical change in the tissues of the body which is life-depressing and poisonous. Contrariwise, every good emotion makes a life-promoting change. A noble and generous action blesses the doer as well as the beneficiary. Every thought which enters the mind is registered in the brain by a change in the structure of its cells. The change is a physical change, more or less permanent."

"Anybody may go into the business of building his own mind. The thinking organ undergoes perpetual changes in cell-structure, and is never finished."

"Even in old age it is not too late. Let the esoteric mind builder systematically devote an hour each day to calling up pleasant ideas and memories. Let him summon those finer feelings of benevolence and unselfishness which are called up in ordinary life only now and then. Let him make this a regular exercise, like swinging dumbbells. Let him gradually increase the time devoted to these psychical gymnastics, giving them sixty or ninety minutes per diem."

"At the end of a month he will find the change in himself surprising. The alteration will be apparent in his actions and thoughts. It will have been registered in the cell-structure of his brain. Cells useful for good thinking will have been well developed, while others productive of evil will have shrunk. Morally speaking, the man will be a great improvement on his former self. Such training is most profitably conducted under the instruction of a skilled psychophysicist. One result will be to increase and quicken the power of original thinking. In other words, inventors can be made to order, and discovery can be promoted. Genius has been an accident hitherto; in the future it will be created systematically."

We have made the above quotations quite at length, to show somewhat in detail the latest conclusions of physical science as given by one of its most eminent exponents. It is interesting to note how strongly the trend is in the line of metaphysical thought and spiritual evolution. Professor Gates has no avowed sympathy with mental healing, as such; but in his recorded investigations as a physicist he has virtually demonstrated, through chemical analysis, its most fundamental claims. The sprinkling of unconventional souls who have been struggling to bring these great truths into general recognition have known them all along; but now science has actually demonstrated them by its own methods. They are found to have a positive chemical basis and proof.

It is therefore the deliberate and latest conclusion of institutional science, that for each morbid or unwholesome mental state there is a corresponding degeneration in the bodily tissues. The more intense the conditions, the more poisonous and life-depressing the natural product which logically follows. Contrariwise, every noble, pure, and lofty emotion actually adds to the life-promoting forces. Science has therefore come to the conclusion that it pays to think high, even for one's own physical welfare.

As stated in the quotations, different qualities of thought, besides weaving their quality into the whole physical organism, gradually index themselves in appropriate brain cells. High moral or spiritual thinking sets the blood to coursing towards the crown of the head. An activity is induced, which perceptibly raises the temperature of that section of the brain, so that it may be easily measured externally. When such activity habitually continues, new brain cells are formed and invigorated. The same rule holds good with other faculties which have their correspondences in different parts of the brain. The skull is therefore the outward index of the qualitative energy which the man is exercising inside.

Materialistic science from the very method of its researches has usually been color blind to mental and spiritual entities. It deals with matter, and with forces supposedly blind and unreasoning, and works only from a physical standpoint and hypothesis. Its measures, tests, and weights are applied to results rather than causes. Its diagnosis does not go deeper than symptoms. Even when admitting that thought has a kind of force, the opinion is still held among high authorities that mind is really automatic. Man is interpreted as a physical Instrument acted upon and swayed by sentient forces, rather than a divine soul or ego whose high vocation should be to grasp these energies and rule and wield them.

But signs of advancement multiply. The daily psycho-physical exercises recommended by Professor Gates are really mental healing and spiritual culture and unfoldment under a more high-sounding and scientific label. It is most encouraging to realize that the statements of so eminent and thorough a scientist will carry conviction in many quarters where metaphysical testimony to the same effect would be lightly regarded. But Professor Gates is far in advance of institutional teaching and textbooks in general, and the logical deductions from his experiments will but gradually find acceptance in scientific circles. The idea of a necessary physical basis and causation for all phenomena is so strongly rooted in the minds of men that facts are misinterpreted, spiritual vision blurred, and human emancipation from the lower nature postponed. Professional deductions are generally limited to such facts as can be tested by measurement, temperature, and physical energy. But inner consciousness and soul development elude even the most searching tests of the laboratory. From the low standpoint of physics nothing beyond its own realm can be discerned.

But it may be of interest to take some of the weighed and measured facts as shown by psychophysical research, and subject them to a higher and truer interpretation. For instance, we are aware that the human stomach is the most important chemical agency in the physical economy of man. When the digestive processes are badly performed, and a lack of assimilative energy causes a deterioration of the blood, the organ is generally subjected to medication, with the hope that through such treatment it will regain its normal efficiency. The mental state is not taken into account. But a deeper study shows that the mind is the governor. The digestive energy of the same stomach, with the same kind of nourishment, depends upon the mental state. If the important nerves which center in this leading organ are disturbed by anger, fear, grief, jealousy, or any other serious discord, there is a general suspension of functional activity. The difficulty, under usual conditions, is not with the food, nor with the stomach, nor even with the nerves, but with what is back of and above all these secondary agencies. The chemical condition of the human body, in quality and detail, is a mirror-like reflection of its mental chemistry in the past.

Says Amelia Barr, in one of her interesting tales: "For who takes cold or receives injury while the spirit has the upper hand? Men and women, driven by great enthusiasms, go through fire and water, and compass impossibilities. All our limitations are of the body; but in our diviner moments, when the soul takes command, it makes but small account of them."

Out of his rich spiritual perception Henry Ward Beecher said: "So out of that state of mind which was implied when Christ wrought healing, came the spiritual power that took on a physical result. "We do not yet know what the hidden power of the soul is. There are all around the world, breaking out in irregular ways, instances of the power of certain states of mind."

We are well aware that the laws of chemistry are absolutely exact, and always the same. To form a given product, the necessary proportion of the various ingredients must be known and carefully conformed to in every successful experiment. The chemist takes a just pride in the delicate accuracy of all his tests and measurements. He uses the most sensitive instruments, observing carefully every possible condition that may have the slightest bearing upon the result.

But in the higher chemistry of thought and spirit how little of such painstaking accuracy has been observed! But the law of chemical combination in mind is as exact and unvarying as in physics or the arts, and of what incomparable importance! The druggist filters and purifies his ingredients, and blends them with the utmost care, in order to produce a perfect compound. Sometimes a very slight variation in the proportion of substances will result in crystalline forms of the most diverse order.

There is good reason to believe that early in the twentieth century there will be truly scientific remedial formulas generally utilized from the chemistry of a higher and diviner realm. Psychological chemism embraces the deeper education of thought, and the scientific building of character. How crudely this work is conventionally carried on! What an attempted blending of insoluble elements, and what an unscientific method, with the vain hope of an ideal result!

Into the sensitive and responsive recesses of the child-mind is poured a mass of conglomerate material, well mixed with repression, limitation, and negation; and the result is termed "education." Little is educed, but much is learned that were better unlearned. A soul-structure to be symmetrical must be carefully and intelligently compounded. If the intellectual elements are destitute of any conserving and purifying mixture of intuitive and spiritual ingredients, the combination lacks vital power and proportion. The ego must select pure and wholesome materials, and blend them in normal and harmonious proportion. True education consists in training the thought to train itself. The imaging faculty, like the tongue, is an unruly member until it is tamed and brought into subjection, but rightly governed it becomes a most efficient instrument and restorative. The negative elements of selfishness, animalism, avarice, and envy in human character, will continually produce mould, acidity, fermentation, scum, and dregs, unless the rectifying agency of love be added, to blend and sweeten the otherwise refractory mixture. We must have the nourishment of vital spiritual dynamics rather than an infantile dependence upon externals.

Man cannot live by bread alone. We must unlearn much worldly wisdom, to make room for the higher education. Our curriculum must be as broad as humanity, and as high as divinity; but we must cultivate a child-like transparency and simplicity. By earnestly turning our gaze inward, we discover that the mind of man is the grandest force in existence, and that truth is its great complement. We must bore artesian wells through the stratified crust of human thought, from which shall spout up pure and life-giving water, which will quench the soul thirst of humanity. "We must discover the divine image and life within the soul, and give the logos articulate expression. Our brothers and sisters must be taken by the hand, and led up into the "Mount of Transfiguration," and Law and Prophecy be retranslated until they appear in the human consciousness clothed in garments white and glistering. Divine incarnations must be multiplied and perfected, until God shall find adequate expression in humanity.

The Rosicrucians made a careful search for a life-giving specific, and faithfully tried to heal human ills. But their search was not successful. Ponce de Leon thought he had discovered the fountain of perpetual youth in Florida, and very recently a modern scientist announced the finding of the veritable "elixir of life." But notwithstanding all these repeated disappointments, there is a true elixir vita. It is found in the divine spirit of wholeness, and lies above the zone of material distortions and negations. It comes not supernaturally, but normally, through the immutable law of attraction. It is ever waiting for human souls to attune their own vibrations into unison with its own supernal harmonies. When the human consciousness becomes filled with truth, there is no room for error; and the latter, having no other abiding place, becomes non-existent.

It is a hopeful sign of the times, that physics is becoming so refined and immaterial that it seems likely soon to dissolve into metaphysics.

In spite of the dark, ever-present shadow of materialism, there is great hope in the present attitude of institutional science. It is open to the logic of events as never before. It has been driven from its old earthworks, and is on the march, with destination undecided. Its present positions are tentative, its formulas are being recast, and its textbooks, not yet a score of years old, are being relegated to basement storage.

As in ages past polytheism was displaced by monotheism, so now the great variety of separate and independent forces long recognized by science have been reduced to one infinite primal energy. The unity of all things, and their close interrelation, are felt and admitted. All that is pure in religion and true in science are converging towards each other. Whatever is natural is sacred, because it is permeated with the divine life. Prophets and poets are becoming expert spiritual chemists, and the true constituents of the kingdom of heaven are scientifically recognized. The new dispensation will be ushered in, not with observation and external pomp, but silently, in its normal location—the sanctuary of soul. Browning thus voices this sublime sentiment:—

But, friends,
Truth is within ourselves: it takes no rise
From outward things, whate'er you may believe.
There is an inmost center in us all,
Where truth abides in fullness: and around
Wall upon wall the gross flesh hems it in
This perfect, clear perception—which is truth.
—Robert Browning

The chemistry of the future will include the scientific blending of spiritual and immaterial forces for definite ends: it will concern itself more with the internal, and less with the sensuous; more with cause, and less with effect. There will be an intelligent utilization of thought energy, and its values will be determined in the light of law. Just that nutrition and those ingredients that are able to satisfy the universal soul-hunger of humanity will be judiciously sought out, and their application intelligently provided for.

For ages the alchemist labored to discover some mysterious refining process through which the baser metals could be transmuted into gold. But modern science, with all its miracles, has failed to compass such a result. But a diviner and infinitely more valuable accomplishment has been realized. Scientific idealism is the expert alchemist whose invaluable services are freely at the command of every earnest soul. It can transmute the restless, chaotic forces of mankind into the golden harmony of human liberty and spiritual unfoldment.

There is a profusion of unmanifest health, strength, beauty, opulence, harmony, and courage waiting for appropriation. The higher unfoldment reveals the channel through which they may be assimilated, and the supply is endless.

The knowledge of the art of mental compounding is constantly expanding, so that with more consummate skill we work to purer ideals, and with more symmetrical models. Through positive formative thought we receive the title-deeds to invaluable possessions. With the wand of affirmation we project them into expression and actuality. The incarnation of truth is the transforming energy which rounds out and embellishes the soul-structure and its expressive physical instrument.

The ocean of life is boundless and shoreless, and we are consciously or unconsciously bathing in its crystalline waters. Vitality is pressing in upon us in the attempt to break through our false limitations.

The supernal chemistry which alone can combine those constituent elements which must mingle in order to the erection of normal human expression, is that which is divinely ordained through harmony with the One Mind or Oversoul. To vibrate in unison with the Universal Goodness introduces a consciousness of cosmic harmony.

The superficial and unintelligent belief in physical causation has been the racial stumbling-block, and nowhere has it been more pronounced than among the ranks of the devotees of so-called science. Keen institutional searchers peer into matter, expecting to discover its great secret through measures and tests. The laboratory methods of the modern physicist have so increased in delicacy, that through his psychological appliances, if he cannot actually weigh thought, he can at least determine its resulting intensity, volume, and continuity. Its intermittent energy may be tracked and followed among the brain cells, but it ever eludes pursuit.

The "conservation of energy" has been for some time accepted as an ascertained fact, if not already axiomatic in modern science. Stated in common terms, this comprises the doctrine that though the forms and qualities of energy may change, nothing is ever added to or subtracted from the sum-total. So even the most ideal mental activity cannot create any more spiritual energy, but it may through recognition embody and express more of the existing universal.

The formative power contained in imaging thought, as exercised in accord with law, has not been gained, or even recognized, upon any level below that of highly developed humanity. As man comes into an intelligent understanding of his equipment of creative power, he will grasp the scepter of his super sensuous sonship and kingship. So far as he had been "faithful over a few things," he will become "ruler over many." By faith he will be able to "remove mountains" of doubt and fear, and cast them into the sea of oblivion. Through a knowledge of the divine chemistry of being, he will subdue kingdoms and work righteousness.

We are sculptors, with tools in hand, sharp and keen; and around us is an endless quarry of unstained virgin marble, in which statues of beauty are confined, waiting for us to emancipate them. By skilful touch we may awaken them into animated expression. Life is everywhere hidden away, ready to flow into the manifestation of the sons of God. Truth, immortal and invisible, is waiting to spring forth into expressive embodiment.

Paul had a glimpse of the transcendent power of its supernal spiritual chemistry when he declared, "All things are yours;" and he actually attempted their enumeration. How little have we grasped the import of such a scientific declaration! With the power of thought, the resolvent of love, and the transforming energy of truth, Paul's aphorism is interpreted to be, not an empty figure of speech, but a possible and practicable accomplishment. The inexhaustible fountain of power is the divinity within; and as our limitations are found to be entirely self-imposed, all barriers are swept away, and man leaps forward into the fulfillment of his divine destiny.

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James Allen

James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.

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