He who has truth is always self-possessed. Hurry and excitement, anxiety and fear have no place in the purified mind and the true life. Self-conquest results in perpetual calm. Calmness is the radiant light which adds a luster to all the virtues. Like the nimbus round the head of the saint, it surrounds virtue with its shining halo. Without calmness a man's greatest strength is but a kind of exaggerated weakness. Where is a man's spiritual strength—where indeed, is his ordinary manly strength—who loses his balance with almost every petty disturbance from without? And what enduring influence can a man have who forgets himself in sinful abandonment or unseemly rage in the hour of temptation and crisis?
The virtuous put a check upon themselves, and set a watch upon their passions and emotions. In this way they gain possession of the mind, and gradually acquire calmness. And as they acquire calmness, they acquire influence, power, greatness, abiding joy, and fullness and completeness of life.
Those who do not put a check upon themselves, whose emotions and passions are their masters, who crave excitement and race after unholy pleasures—these are not yet fit for a life of joyful victory, and can neither appreciate nor receive the beautiful jewel of calmness. Such may pray for peace with their lips, but they do not desire it in their hearts; or the word "peace" may only mean to them another kind of periodic pleasure which they desire to enjoy.
In the life of calm there are no fitful periods of sinful excitement followed by reactionary hours of sorrow and remorse. There are no foolish elations followed by equally foolish depressions; no degrading actions followed by misery and loss of self-respect. All these things are put away, and what remains is Truth, and Truth is forever encircled with peace. The calm life is new unbroken bliss. Duties which are irksome to the ungoverned are things of joy to the calm man. Indeed, in the calm life, the word "duty" receives a new meaning. It is no longer opposed to happiness, but it is one with happiness. The calm man, the right-seeing man, cannot separate joy from duty. Such separation belongs to the mind and life of the pleasure-hunter and lover of excitement.
Calmness is difficult to attain because men cling blindly to the lower disturbances of the mind for the passing pleasure which these disturbances afford. Even sorrow is sometimes selfishly gloated over as a kind of occasional luxury. But though difficult to attain, the way which leads to its attainment is simple. It consists of abandoning all those excitements and disturbances which are opposed to it, and fortifying one's self in these steadfast virtues, which do not change with changing events and circumstances, which have no violent reactions, and which therefore bestow perpetual satisfaction and abiding peace.
He only finds peace who conquers himself, who strives, day by day, after self-possession, greater self-control, and greater calmness of mind. One can only be a joy to himself and a blessing to others in the measure that he has command of himself; and such self-command is gained only by persistent practice. A man must conquer his weaknesses by daily effort. He must understand them and study how to eliminate them from his character. If he continues to strive, not giving way, he will gradually become victorious. Each little victory gained (though there is a sense in which no victory can be called little) will be so much more calmness acquired and added to his character as an eternal possession.
He will thus make himself strong, capable, and blessed, fit to perform his duties faultlessly, and to meet all events with an untroubled spirit. But even if he does not, in this life, reach that supreme calm which no shock can disturb, he will become sufficiently self-possessed and pure to enable him to fight the battle of life fearlessly, and to leave the world a little richer for having known the goodness of his presence.
By constantly overcoming self, a man gains a knowledge of the subtle intricacies of his mind; and it is this divine knowledge which enables him to become established in calmness. Without self-knowledge there can be no abiding peace of mind, and those who are carried away by tempestuous passions cannot approach the holy place where calmness reigns. The weak man is like one who, having mounted a fiery steed, allows it to run away with him, and carry him withersoever it wills. The strong man is like one who, having mounted the steed, governs it with a masterly hand, and makes it go in whatever direction, and at whatever speed he commands.
Calmness is the crowning beauty of a character that has become, or is becoming, divine, and is restful and peace-giving to all who come in contact with it. Those who are still in their weakness and doubt, find the presence of the calm mind restful to their troubled minds, inspiring to their faltering feet, and rich with healing and comfort in the hour of sorrow. For he who is strong to overcome self is strong to help others. He who has conquered soul-weariness is strong to help the weary on the way. That calmness of mind, which is not disturbed or overthrown by trials and emergencies, or by the accusations, slanders, and misrepresentations of others, is born of great spiritual strength. It is the true indication of an enlightened and wise understanding. The calm mind is the exalted mind. Divinely gentle and externally strong is that man who does not lose his serenity, nor forget his peace when falsehoods and indignities are heaped upon him. Such calmness is the perfect flower of self-control. It has been slowly and laboriously gained, by patiently passing through the fires of suffering, by subjecting the mind to a long process of purification.
The calm man has discovered the spring of both happiness and knowledge within himself, and it is a spring than can never run dry. His powers are at his full command, and there is no limit to his resources. In whatever direction he employs his energies; he will manifest originality and power. And this is so because he deals with things as they are, and not with mere opinions about things, If he has any opinions left, he is no longer enamored of them, but sees them as they are—mere opinions, and therefore of no intrinsic value. He has abolished egotism, and, by obedience to law, has become one with the power in nature and the universe. His resources are untrammeled by selfishness; his energies unhindered by pride.
There is a sense in which he has ceased to regard anything as his own. Even his virtues belong to Truth, and not exclusively to his person. He has become a conscious principle of Cosmic Power, and is no longer a mean, dwarfed thing, seeking petty personal ends. And having put away self, he has put away the greed, the misery, the troubles and fears which belong to self. He acts calmly, and accepts all consequences with equal calmness. He is efficient and accurate, and perceives all that is involved in any undertaking. He does not work blindly; he knows that there is no chance of favor.
The mind of the calm man is like the surface of a still lake; it reflects life and the things of life truly. Whereas, the troubled mind, like the troubled surface of the lake, gives back a distorted image of all things which fall upon it. Gazing into the serene depths within him, the self-conquered man sees a just reflection of the universe. He sees the Cosmic Perfection; sees the equity in his own lot. Even those things which are regarded by the world as unjust and grievous (and which formerly appeared so to him) are now known to be the effects of his own past deeds, and are therefore joyfully accepted as portions of the perfect whole. Thus his calmness remains with him with its illimitable fund of resource in joy and enlightenment.
The calm man succeeds where the disturbed man fails. He is fit to deal with any external difficulty, who has successfully grappled with the most intricate difficulties and problems within his own heart. He who has succeeded in governing the within is best equipped to govern the without. The calm mind perceives a difficulty in all its bearings and understands best how to meet it. The disturbed mind is the lost mind. It has become blind, seeing not whither to go, but only feeling its own unhappiness and fear.
The resources of the calm man are superior to all incidents which may befall him. Nothing can alarm him, nothing can find him unprepared, nothing can shake his strong and steadfast mind. Wheresoever duty may call him, there will his strength manifest itself; there will his mind, free from the frictions of self, exhibit its silent and patient power. Whether he be engaged in things worldly or things spiritual, he will do his work with concentrated vigor and penetrating insight.
Calmness means that the mind is harmoniously adjusted, perfectly poised. All its extremes once so antagonistic and painful are reconciled, merged into one grand central principle with which the mind has identified itself. It means that the runaway passions are tamed and subjected, the intellect is purified, and the will is merged into the Cosmic Will. That is, it is no longer centered upon narrow personal ends, but is concerned with the good of all.
A man is not wholly victorious until he is perpetually calm. While passing things disturb him, his understanding is unripe, his heart is not altogether pure. A man cannot advance in the triumph of life while he flatters and deceives himself. He must awake, and be fully alive to the fact that his sins, sorrows, and troubles are of his own making, and belong to his own imperfect condition. He must understand that his miseries have their root in his own sins, and not in the sins of others. He must strive after calmness as the covetous man strives after riches; and he must not rest satisfied with any partial attainment. He will thus grow in grace and wisdom, in strength and peace, and calmness will descend upon his spirit as the refreshing dew descends upon the flowers.
Where the calm mind is, there is strength and rest, there is love and wisdom. There is one who has fought successfully innumerable battles against self, who, after long toil in secret against his own failings, has triumphed at last.
More from 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.