In considering the workings of Natural Law and the operations of consciousness, with the furtherance of our Spiritual development in view, a little thought upon the sequential nature of these is very profitable. Two propositions suggest themselves to us at the outset: first, "Nature works by harmonious sequence"; and second, "Sequential thought is helpful to Spiritual development." To properly connect these two, showing the dependence of the latter upon the foregoing, it becomes necessary to examine somewhat the subtler ideas, which the consideration of Nature's sequential methods beget in us. For the purpose of this present study, it is proposed to take as a basis of reasoning and examination the finer senses of man's constitution, sight and hearing, together with, of course, their necessary attendant, the thinking faculty.
Our first effort of reasoning must be to trace, if possible, what conditions of outer activity most deeply affect our consciousness through these finer senses, or, in other words, to deduce from the different effects produced in us by the reception of various impressions, the method of natural occurrence which awakes within us the greater and more lasting response.
Let us first consider the subject with reference to the sense of hearing. Sound, to us, is the impression formed in our consciousness by a certain set of impacts upon the delicate nerve terminals in the tympanum of the ear. This, though a psycho-physiological fact, leaves us unsatisfied, and suggests the inquiry, "How is it that different sounds produce in us pleasanter or less agreeable effects? "The most logical explanation confines itself to the character of the sound, and, though we may assume that certain conditions of the receiving consciousness may influence the character of the impression formed, its ultimate effect within us, the affirmation or disagreement of our "finer feelings" must depend upon the sequential nature of the sound itself. Thus, in simple sounds, consisting of a sequence of etheric waves, and in combined sounds, consisting of similar waves, and sequences of combining units, the effects upon us, agreeable or unpleasant, joyous or sad, harmonious or discordant, are all respectively resultant upon their sequential nature coinciding with, or running counter to, our Inner Nature. To instance: what bounty of joy is revealed in the simple, rippling cadences of Mozart Take Beethoven, how impressed we are by the majesty of his themes, abstruse and intricate, yet possessing peculiarly sequential characteristics. Handel's "Dead March" strikes upon our ears and hearts with a wailing similitude of minor chords; yet its minor character is not in its constituent chords, but in the method of their sequence. Chopin transmits to us a reflection of his own morbid, sorrowful nature, and Wagner's sequences bring vividly before our mental view the very actions and emotions of which they are reminiscent. Thus, in all truly inspired music, we find evidence of greater results following upon more orderly and purposeful sequence.
Before proceeding any further, it becomes necessary for us to examine a little into the relation existing between sequence and combination. These terms are generally accepted as being opposed one to the other, but a small amount of reflection will suffice to reveal the fallacy of this view. A combination of sound is a series of sound waves; and, in a like manner, a combination of color is a quicker sequence of similar etheric waves. Consider a production of art in the making: the necessary shades and gradations of color are not all simultaneously applied; yet the effect of this sequence in application is finally that of a combination. When the picture strikes the eye the various stages of its production are not separately evident, but the perception of the subject is the observation of a sequence of effects. We look at a portrait by any great artist, our consciousness perceives, perhaps, a beautiful face, then, probably, a subtle technicality of treating the eyes; the mouth is observed to be softened in a smile; then the color of the hair and its mode of arrangement are seen, and, summing up these separate observations, we have finally the thought that we are looking upon something artistically beautiful.
And as regards scenery, Nature's most delightful aspect; we are most strongly impressed when we look upon an orderly and delicate interblending of color. Look at our most beautiful landscapes and it will be seen that the greatest beauty consists in minute color gradations and imperceptible mergings of light into shade, no ugly chasm of contrast marring the beautiful harmony which is presented to our sight. Here, again, is evidence of the Law of Sequence.
And in Literature the same is found to obtain. Examine the works of our greatest poets, and we find that they abound in easy flowing, pleasant-sounding language; ideas flow into other ideas with a grace and ease delightful to contemplate; and, reading such, we are carried irresistibly along on a tide of fuller comprehension than were the case with the less sequential medium—prose. This demonstrates somewhat our first proposition; it remains to us to connect with it our second.
We have seen how the Spiritual Nature of man responds most readily to impacts possessing proper sequential properties, and it may be judged from this that thought, in purposeful, organized sequence, will similarly affect his Inner Nature. That is to say, if we establish mental habits whose tendency is sequential and constructive in calling forth these Inner responses, we ally ourselves with our better nature and make our development more certain. In considering this subject of mental sequence, our object will be better accomplished if we divide it into two parts, considering each, however briefly, in itself. These divisions are, first, the establishment of the habit of correct sequential thinking, and, secondly, the following of proper lines of thought.
Now, as to the first of these, the formation of the sequential thinking habit, it serves no purpose to give examples of the application of this, or to set down strict rules whereby the habit may be acquired, seeing that, what might be helpful to one might be of no use to others. The only thing we can do is to point out the road, and let each seeker take the direction indicated, at his own gait. The suggestions below, if practiced, will be found very helpful:—
- Think Exclusively— that is, select a subject, and confine the mental attention rigidly to it.
- Always work from a starting point in thought; that is, do not embrace a subject in one mental glance, but consider it step by step, examine it analytically, and weigh every point considered carefully.
- Encourage the tendency to foresee in thought effects from given causes.
- Exercise this tendency further, by constituting each effect arrived at, a cause in its turn, extending the mentality, as it were, beyond actual experience.
- Take everyday events, and endeavor to foresee mentally their probable future results; compare the mental prophesies with what actually happens.
Space forbids more, but these contain guidance enough to set the student on his road.
Then, as to the lines of thought most helpful in Spiritual development, the following suggestions, amongst others, commend themselves:—
- Exercise careful watchfulness as to the thoughts entering the mind, weeding out all but the really unselfish ones.
- Observe carefully the sequential trend of thoughts where possible.
- Choose and hold in the mind those thoughts whose extension tends in a Spiritual direction.
- Exercise the abstract reasoning power by following step by step the extension of these thoughts; endeavor to detect the Spark of Truth which exists throughout the train of reasoning.
- Meditate upon the Good Qualities constituting man's disposition, tracing in thought their workings in one's self and in others.
- Meditate on the goodness underlying all manifestation, considering the evidence of its existence.
Now, a few words as to the result in man of this method of thought and our task is done. Besides establishing in him a clearer and more potent thinking principle, fitting him for better service in his every-day living, a subtler benefit is conferred upon him; his mental body, by this manner of sequential working, coincides with the operation of the Law, and becomes a willing, unresisting receptacle for the promptings of the Real Inner Self. He, so to speak, casts himself on the current and is carried along on its bosom, ever achieving greater and better things; and, as shines the Sun, unsullied, through purest crystal, wakening it to dazzling scintillations, so works the Law, unresisted through him, vivifying, and calling into action his Innate Goodness.