The opening of the New Year has, from time immemorial, been synonymous with the formation of new resolutions, tending to the commencement, as it were, of conditions somewhat in advance of those which have previously existed, and in this light this season of the year commends itself to us as being a singularly appropriate time for commencing the New Life. Thus, to start the New Life, the Inner Spiritual Life—in direct contradistinction to the old outer materialistic life—with the New Year, seems to be particularly fitting, traditionally connected as this latter is with the dying out of pre-existing conditions, and the opening out of a period of wholesome and promising opportunity. This, then, establishes a connection, so to speak, between the time and the effort to be made, and there remains to us to examine a little into the nature of the New Life, to ascertain in what essentials it differs from the old.
Now, all men live to some extent in their thoughts, and in proportion as this dwelling place is more or less desirable so do their words and deeds bear to a greater or a lesser degree the stamp of goodness. Thus, we have for our starting point the determination of what line our thoughts are to take, in what direction they should be propelled, as it were: and we must also discover methods whereby they may be most easily induced to take the channels most conducive to a production of good results in word and action.
One of the greatest hindrances to helpful thought is impurity: no matter how good the intention of the beginner, the thoughts which seem most readily to arise are those which bear the undesirable impress of impurity. Strive against them how he will, they still persist, and in a good many cases result in complete discouragement, and in some in a total cessation of endeavor. The proper course to be taken for the eradication of impure thoughts is not that of active hostility, but of quiet and persistent replacement: whenever the thought arising is seen to be of an impure or undesirable nature, it should be immediately replaced by one with a tendency in a direction as far as possible opposite to that of the thought to be driven forth. This exercise is a very powerful one, and in a very short time is productive of the best results, inducing, as it does, a mental habit of accepting good thoughts, and throwing out those which are bad: this function, when once established, works quite involuntarily—automatically, as it were.
Perseverance in this practice is very essential: continued earnest effort should be expended to this purifying end, and if the progress made is slow, we may be sure that it is correspondingly deep-rooted. No real change for good has ever been brought about quickly: change in the direction of Spirituality is growth, and this growth must necessarily be gradual, to be permanently effective, for "Nature does not leap." Each step must be thorough, and each mental affinity formed the result of patient watchfulness and earnest meditation.
Here we have another great watchword in connection with Spiritual development—Meditation. As men retire more and more to the inner recesses of their being they there find that their old views of life were, in every way, narrow and stilted, overcast by darkening clouds of selfish motive: but here, in the peaceful recesses of Spiritual Goodness, they find the Light which illuminates, showing motive in its revealing colors which to the outer material sense were not apparent. Thus, when a man takes his actions and intentions, and meditatively seeks into his motives, there arises before his mental vision a varied kaleidoscopic array of color, revealing to him the selfish and the unselfish. This helps him again to a selection which will tend to an elimination of those motives which are needless and obstructive to Spiritual advancement.
Another aspect of Meditation is that which takes for its theme some good quality or other, considering it in the points of view which most readily commend themselves, and absorbing, as it were, all possible sustenance from the mental object thus formed. The direct result of this is a gradual enfoldment of the endeavorer by the quality concentrated upon, the mind becoming attuned, so to speak, to its vibrations. There also arises, in thus meditating, other points of view of the quality meditated upon than those which first presented themselves: a more complete understanding is thus obtained by this method of thought, than under the old conditions of indiscriminate thinking.
Thus it is found that, as a man, by purifying his thoughts, and directing them earnestly and purposefully to some desirable end, comes nearer and nearer to the True Self; in place of the old perverted and restricted pigs view of life, there arises before him the glorious possibility of the greater Life of the Spirit.
Says Mrs. Besant: "So long as we are in the vortex of the personality, so long as the storms of desires and appetites howl around us, so long as the waves of emotion toss us to and fro, so long the voice of the Higher Soul cannot reach our ears. Not in the fire or the whirlwind, not in the thunderclap or the storm, comes the mandate of the higher Ego: only when there has fallen the stillness of a silence that can be felt; only when the very air is motionless and the calm is profound; only when the man wraps his face in a mantle which closes his ears even to the silence that is of earth; then only sounds the voice that is stiller than the silence, the voice of his true Self."
Even beyond the idea. of personal betterment by thought, there is another aspect to be considered, in that all thought, good or bad, has like effects upon others: for, notwithstanding the fact that most people do not acknowledge the transmissibility of thought, still there is created by mental activity an influencing atmosphere, which more or less tends to produce similar activities in other mental bodies. Therefore, from this point of view also, it behooves us to purify and control our thoughts, that we may, in some measure, cleanse this influencing atmosphere, and thus, probably, render help to some who are mentally oppressed.
This, then, is the True, Inner Life: here, having risen above all disturbing influences, man finds perfect rest. He approaches nearer and nearer the Divinity within, establishing a more and more direct communication with the Inner Truth, until, finally, there radiates from his every action and word, the Divine Love which constitutes his being.
Let us therefore make of our hearts a dwelling place of Peace and Security: let us not look on the past with its memories of pain; let us not concern our thoughts with speculation as to the future; rather let us give due Spiritual regard to the present, and in time we will become directly conscious of the glorious Potentiality within us: something which is not mere outward seeming, but which lies far down in our Inner Being, where earthly winds and storms disturb not, and Love inestimable liveth forever.