It is safe to avoid all kinds of extremes. Dogmatism, whether ancient or modern, past or present, is unprofitable. It may appear in the form of negative positiveness as well as in that of positive positiveness. The uncolored truth, without fear or favor, is the most valuable of all possessions.
Doubtless some unnecessary prejudice against the principles of mental and spiritual healing is often aroused by extreme and unwarranted statements which are sincerely intended to be in its behalf. While ideally and potentially the half has not been told of its power and value, yet its deep truth is not visible from the superficial viewpoint of the ordinary observer. To him it simply is not true. Therefore hyper-enthusiasm in behalf of a new departure often has an influence just the reverse of what is intended. The public in general also lack that discrimination which is necessary to distinguish that which is pure and legitimate in any movement from accretions and imitations which really form no part of it. Its extremes are mistakenly taken to be truly representative.
When there is a seeming failure in the working of well-founded principles, the fault is not in them but in the field of their application. Some responsive receptivity in the subject is indispensable. Seed will not at once spring up in a stony and unprepared soil, and assuredly not where there is no soil at all. The germ of truth is likewise conditioned in its manifestation. Only a combination of seed and soil can cause the blade to put forth. "Mighty works," and even works in any degree are only possible in an organism where there is some vital faith and subjective hospitality.
Extremes always beget opposing extremes. High idealistic propositions are abstractly correct, and under favoring conditions in the future will be demonstrable. But to affirm them positively to one who does not understand idealism, without discriminative interpretation, is unwise, and often leads to disappointment. The greatest of human teachers voiced this sentiment in exact terms.
That the primary causes for physical conditions are inherently mental is true; but it does not follow that the body can be changed "while you wait" by a superficial change in the mind. Logic is good, but it is subject to abuse. Because a man can lift three hundred pounds, it does not follow that he can lift three thousand, even though the principle be the same. Idealistic statements, true in a certain sense and of great utility when understood, may be harmful and repulsive when made to a "realist," for to him they are false.
As a consequence of general erroneous impressions regarding the claims of the present evolution of psycho-therapeutics, there is probably hardly a writer or teacher of the principles of mental causation, as related to physical expression, who has not often had presented a supposed "poser" something as follows: "How about poisons, stimulants and contagions? and how about broken bones?"
The few suggestions here presented are designed for the benefit of extremists on both sides. Let the advocates of a practical idealism on their part remember that but few yet occupy their standpoint. Ideals are abstract realities now; but their outward actualization can be but gradual, and this should always be made clear. If Paul attained such a spiritual consciousness and control as to render the bite of a viper harmless, it does not follow that everyone who has started in the New Thought can or should cultivate the intimacy of such a reptile. Can every play-writer be a Shakespeare or every speaker a Demosthenes? The law of spiritual accomplishment may include perfect immunity from harmful viper bites; but only the rarely developed expert can grasp that law as an efficient weapon and wield it with perfect dexterity. But the degree to which each one can utilize it will ever grow toward his ideal, even though on the present plane of existence it may never reach it. Let one's responses to skeptical queries always be fitted to the questioner's own plane of observation.
Turning briefly to those observers who think that the well-known effects of poisons, stimulants and contagions, disprove the law of mental causation, and hold that the resulting phenomena are due to chemical or direct physical potency per se, let us reason together a little below the surface.
The physical body, one second after it has been laid aside by the conscious and subconscious man or mind (a process called death), is utterly unresponsive to poisons, stimulants and contagions. May it not be fairly inferred that former responsiveness came through the subconscious mind rather than merely by direct chemical contact? The principal in the case was clearly the seeming unconscious mental intermediary. While immediately after "death" all the physical constituents remain intact, that through which outside agencies—as occasions—gained their potency has been removed. In other words, the cause has gone. Causes and occasions must be discriminated. The former are always within, and expressed in a common term, may be called susceptibility. Occasions are from without, and are only convenient opportunities. They have no absolute power, as entities, and can only exert such an influence as susceptibility has conferred upon them. But to man's personal sense, susceptibility has installed itself as that which has laws of its own; and he is their subject and victim.
Suppose that ten persons are equally exposed to small-pox. Two respond to it, and eight do not. To the eight who did not "take it," it was not a contagion at all, but simply a non-entity. The two who presented a fertile and ready-made soil had unwittingly produced susceptibility. Through the subtle processes of the imaging faculty, man—for himself—is a creator. Disease, therefore, is his own contrivance. He has erected certain limits, which though not in the moral economy, he calls laws, and is obliged to do them homage. But they are not divine laws. This is illustrated in many places where the principle is never suspected.
A certain degree of immunity from smallpox doubtless comes from vaccination. In reality, the operation is a contrivance which tells upon the subconscious mind. There comes from it an abiding inner sense of protection from the disorder. Whenever the attention of the conscious mind is called to the subject, a spontaneous auto-suggestion of immunity wells up from within. It amounts to a kind of steady, hidden faith, and is re-enforced by surrounding belief and acceptance. The clay of the body is but the passive and expressive incident in the transaction. But the psychological elements are, of course, a terra incognita to the medical practitioner who performs the "operation." If water could be surreptitiously substituted, the inoculation would be much more safe and cleanly and perhaps equally effective.
Subjective laws of limitation are made personally and collectively with the same facility that legislative enactments are imposed by the State; but unlike the latter, so long as they are recognized, they enforce themselves.
To lessen general and even personal responsiveness to poisons, stimulants and contagions, is a gradual and seemingly very slow work, as we count time. It is entirely a question of degree or of susceptibility transformed by almost imperceptible stages. But, until the time does arrive when the widely subjective law of their potency is positively repealed, common sense would indicate that they be let alone. But many are repealing it, for themselves, to a degree not yet often recognized.
The germs of disease have no power per se, but an inviting and fertile soil on every hand confers local potency upon them. Quarantines are therefore necessary so long as the present state of collective consciousness regarding germ-causation continues. The foregoing hints may aid some inquirers in the way of an intelligent discrimination between real causes and frequent occasions, and show that strict metaphysical principles are thoroughly logical and in accord with common sense. Specific applications of the laws which have been outlined will suggest themselves in many forms. Let metaphysical leaders be clear and simple in their teachings, and much superficial and ignorant criticism may be avoided. If one be possessed of dogmatism he is in servitude, but truth when closely and sincerely followed never leads one astray.