The Light of Reason
Edited by James Allen
Vol. III. April 1st, 1903 No. 4
The expounding of the laws of being and the higher life.
The power to be alone and vote with God.
Will our readers and correspondents kindly note that the Editorial address is now at Ilfracombe, and that henceforth all matter intended for the Editor should be addressed, —The Editor, The Light of Reason, Ilfracombe.
The subject of Belief has recently been cropping up in various journals, and as it has also been touched upon by some of our correspondents both in their letters and the literary pieces submitted, we feel constrained to write upon it this month.
It has been said that a man's whole life and character is the outcome of his belief, and also that his belief has nothing whatever to do with his life. We have said both these things ourselves, and they are both true. The confusion and contradiction of these two statements are only apparent, and are quickly dispelled when it is remembered (as we have again and again pointed out) that there are two entirely distinct kinds of belief, namely, head-belief and heart-belief.
Head, or intellectual, belief is not fundamental and causative, but is superficial and consequent, and that it has no power in the molding of a man's character, the most superficial observer may easily see. Take, for instance, half-a-dozen men from any creed. They not only hold the same theological belief; but confess the same articles of faith in every particular, and yet their characters are vastly different. One will be just as noble as another is ignoble; one will be mild and gentle, another coarse and irascible; one will be honest, another dishonest; one will indulge certain habits which another will rigidly abjure, and so on, plainly indicating that theological belief is not an influential factor in a man's life.
A man's theological belief is merely his intellectual opinion or view of the universe, God, the Bible, etc.; and behind and underneath this head-belief there lies, deeply rooted in his innermost being, the hidden, silent, secret belief of his heart, and it is this belief which moulds and makes his whole life. It is this which makes those six men who, whilst holding the same theology, are yet so vastly at variance in their deeds—they differ in the vital belief of the heart.
What, then, is this heart-belief? It is that which a man loves a clings to and fosters in his soul; for he thus loves and clings to and fosters certain things in his heart, because he believes in them, and, believing in them and loving them, he practices them; thus is his life the effect of his belief, but it has no relation to the particular creed which comprises his intellectual belief. One man clings to impure and immoral things because he believes in them; another does not cling to them because he has ceased to believe in them. A man cannot cling to anything unless he believes in it; belief always precedes action, therefore a man's deeds and life are the fruits of his belief.
The Priest and the Levite who passed by the injured and helpless man, held, no doubt, very strongly to the theological doctrines of their fathers—that was their intellectual belief—but in their hearts they did not believe in mercy, and so lived and acted accordingly. The Good Samaritan may or may not have had any theological beliefs, nor was it necessary that he should have; but in his heart he believed in mercy, and acted accordingly.
Strictly speaking, there are only two beliefs which vitally affect the life, and they are, belief in good and belief in evil. He who believes in all those things that are good will love them, and live in them; he who believes in those things that are impure and selfish will love them and cling to them. The tree is known by its fruits. A man's belief about God, Jesus, and the Bible are one thing; his life, as bound up in his actions, is another; therefore a man's theological belief is of no consequence; but the thoughts which he harbors, his attitude of mind towards others, and his actions, these, and these only, determine and demonstrate whether the belief of a man's heart is fixed in the false or the true.
By thought was wrought and built. If a man's mind
Hath evil thoughts, pain comes on him as comes
The wheel the ox behind.
All that we are is what we have thought and willed;
Our thoughts shape us and frame. If one endure
In purity of thought, joy follows him
As his own shadow—sure.
—Sir Edwin Arnold
More in this issue| Through the Gate of Good »
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.